LindseyAranson, Staff Reporter
Some of Chattahoochee’s hardest-working athletes are all part of the same team. From sweltering July to frigid November, they dedicate themselves to representing Hooch on the football field. This team, the epitome of the “Chattahoochee Way,” puts everything they have into what they do. They run drills over and over, spend hours exercising each week in practice and devote their weekends to competing in stadiums near and far—all while skillfully playing musical instruments and gracefully marching in time.
Marching band is as physically demanding, time-consuming and school-spirited as any other sport at Hooch; yet unlike football, basketball, lacrosse and other sports, marching band does not get the respect it deserves. Many Chattahoochee students dismiss marching band as a lame hobby because they are ignorant of the immense amount of physical, athletic work that goes into the band’s seven-minute show. Three-hour practices on Mondays and Wednesdays, seven-hour games on Fridays, and twelve-hour competitions on some Saturdays require the marching band to dedicate up to 25 hours per week to their sport: roughly ten hours more than varsity football, according to the team’s calendar.
By the end of the season, the marching band will have spent approximately 370 hours perfecting their show “To the Moon & Back,” but tuba section leader Jack Arndt (SR) doesn’t expect Hooch students to appreciate the band’s hard work. “Nobody really realizes that those seven glorious minutes have had a couple hundred hours go into them,” he says. When the band plays the last note of the show at their final competition, all of that work—all of the sunburns, blistered feet, pulled muscles and bruises— “all of that work is in that moment,” reflects percussionist Jared Cook (SR). “We made that show amazing.”
It’s absolutely awe-inspiring to watch as the band synchronizes to march in complex formations and the elegant color guard effortlessly catches their waving flags; yet most Chattahoochee students wouldn’t know because they would rather stand in line for snacks or talk under the bleachers during halftime instead of experience a beautiful performance. While hundreds of students come to Cougar Stadium to cheer on the football team on Friday nights, they ignore or complain about the marching band.
“Everyone’s all hyped about the football team, they’re standing up and they’re cheering,” explains Cook, “but as soon as it’s time for the marching band show, everyone just sits down.” Arndt confirms, “Most of the crowd…literally turn[s] away from the field during our shows…it [does] hurt a bit.”
Though they bleed blue and gold, the band was ignored even at the most school pride-oriented event of the year: Homecoming. On September 16, most of the audience had left by the time the band went on after the homecoming game, leaving plenty of room in the bleachers for proud band parents to watch a fantastic show. After the show, the horn line kept rehearsing on the field even as the stadium lights went out. Moreover, the band could not unwind at the homecoming dance the next day because it was carelessly scheduled at the same time the band would perform at the Fulton County Band Exhibition, a twelve-hour day of rehearsing and performing.
The marching band has even been blamed for the football team’s losses. “[When the team lost], they would turn around and say, ‘You guys [the band] were playing too loud. That must be why we lost, because you were distracting us,’” Arndt recalls of his sophomore year. Even when treated unfairly, “we [the band] would still come out, and we would still play for [the football team] every single game.”
Other than being wrongly blamed for football losses, sometimes the band is even laughed at by their peers. For instance, when tuba player Matt Page (SO) tripped over his instrument while marching backwards during a complicated segment of last year’s “Lion King,” Arndt says that “[the students] were just laughing at Matt, and he had just crushed his horn!” This disrespect from the audience is considered typical by Arndt: “We don’t get a lot of sympathy from the student section,” he shrugs. But the marching band deserves so much more than sympathy—they deserve the same respect, admiration and pride that Chattahoochee has for its football team.
Without the marching band, football games would be quiet and lackluster; rather than treat band members as scapegoats and outcasts, football fans should embrace the band as the core of the Hooch Family, because that’s exactly what marching band is: a family. “We all get along so well,” says Cook. “Some people are hardcore into [football], some people are hardcore into video games, and those people have their own little group to share that interest. Some people think that we’re ‘band geeks’—which we totally are—but this is what brings us together. This is what makes us friends.”