By Hannah Jones
“Please rise for the playing of a recording of the National Anthem.” No tingly feeling. No trumpet fanfare. No trombone solo. Instead I hold myself up in the stands, right hand across my heart, holding back my tears. “And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air,” the music blast through the stadium speakers, beautiful but each note is a stab in the gut. The crowds cheer, but we can’t be proud… for we haven’t even played a note. No longer can I express my fascination in the playing of the National Anthem through the notes that I perform.
Yes, it is sad that we as the band will no longer get to play the National Anthem at football games. Yes, it is sad that we won’t even get that adrenaline rush right before we march out onto the field. Yes, It is sad that no longer will crowds be overwhelmed by the beauty of our playing. But this is a start of a new chapter in the band. And in order for a chapter to end, somethings must change, and somethings must go. This time we have lost a long standing tradition. Something that has been a huge show of the bands Panther Pride. But this just means that there is an opening for us to make a new tradition. Will our tradition live up to playing the Star Spangled Banner, probably not. But the reason that we had to stop this tradition was not because we view band members as “second class citizens” who have to drop their constitutional rights at the PAB doors. It is not because we do not agree with the movement that has been spreading across this country fighting against police brutality and other racial injustices. It is because, just like in the United States, this movement created a divide, it created a barrier. A physical barrier, an emotional earthquake, that split our band apart at the seams.
I watched as my band family chose sides and started arguing, stating their claims and debating as if they were trying to beat the other team. But in a family, there should be no sides, no team vs. team debates. We are meant to work together to accomplish a common goal. But when that goal is no longer common, lines are drawn, teams are made, and family is broken. So you can get mad, it is your right to get mad. But at what cost will we choose sides? At what cost will we let this movement break our program?
This is what happens when a country is divided. It cuts deep and the symptoms are seen everywhere. You can’t go to a high school football game, the most American sport played, without feeling the effects. When will it end? Our divide came when a student lead incentive, with good intentions, started to plan a protest for the 2018 homecoming football game at Benicia High. The students involved were planning to kneel during the national anthem while playing with the band. The problem did not come because the band is against the movement or because we want to have control over everything but because we are performers. Our job is to go out onto the field, play the Star Spangled Banner to the best of our abilities and walk off. The divide started when we started to debate whether we thought this should be allowed. The decision was made, by Mr. Martin because he saw this divide and wanted to stop it at its roots. What good is a family that is divided? We can’t make good music if we can’t trust each other or love one another.
I want you to click on the video. I want to you to close your eyes and listen. Just listen. The music that you hear coming out of your speakers are the sounds of a family, a hard working team, working together to accomplish something. Now I want you to imagine that the family is no more. The teams have been set, the lines have been drawn. The trombones have chosen one side and the trumpets have the chosen the other. They attempt to make that same music in their divided groups. It doesn’t sound right though. The words aren’t all there, the melodies and countermelodies are missing. “At the twilight’s last gleaming,” the trumpets play, but without the trombones there will be no rockets, no bombs bursting. Just background music, elevator music, with no purpose but to fill the silence. Without the family, nothing can be accomplished. And that is why we have chosen to just stop. Why fight when we could just stop? Are we giving up? No we are simply choosing to fix the cracks before the whole structure fails. It is a good thing that we are stopping the national anthem. Yes it is a long standing tradition that has to come to an end, but the bands unity is more important.