Commitment, discipline

A member of the Hanahan High School band performs at halftime of their school game with Stall on Oct. 20.

Tyrone Walker

Marching band is unlike anything you'll ever experience.

Anyone who's ever roll stepped while recalling music notes from memory will tell you that.

But the truth is, students continue to use lessons learned in band long after they've laid down their horns and hung up their marching shoes.

Here are three life lessons many band members say they learned when they put on the uniform:

1. Not everything is about competition

Wando High School's marching band is no stranger to competition.

Always a force to be reckoned with, Wando is the only South Carolina band slated to perform Friday at the Bands of America Grand National Championships in Indianapolis.

The band made it all the way to the finals at the prestigious competition in 2009 and hopes to fare just as well this time around.

But according to Wando Director of Bands Scott Rush, it is the mastering of one's craft that truly matters, not the competition itself.

"What we do is artistic, so the competitive side is de-emphasized for us. ... If you play emotionally and you draw your audience into your story and you affect the people that are listening, then you've accomplished what you set out to accomplish," Rush said.

There's no denying the pangs of disappointment that come from failure. And in this instance, competition does serve its purpose so long as it is used as motivation to improve on a skill, not just to receive a trophy, Rush said.

"The message that we send to our students is that we want them to be as good as they can be, and we want them to do their very best. That's the only part of a performance they can control," Rush said.

2. Dedication is key

Not every experience in marching band is a pleasurable one: Band camp is torture.

Marching back and forth across a parking lot, the sun reflecting off the asphalt, sweat pouring from the heat of summer and the stress of 12-hour days. The experience is enough to make many a musician quit the very first week of the season.

While pushing through Wando's band camp, senior clarinet player Kristin Gerald, 17, said, if anything, marching will teach you discipline.

"It (marching band) definitely gives you discipline because of everything you have to go through. You're learning about music, but you also start to realize what your points are, like what makes you mad and how to control it, and what your strengths are. You kind of just find yourself," Kristin said.

One of Wando's three drum majors, Claire Bogdan, 16, said some are challenged in the initial stages of a band's season because the payoff comes only through perseverance.

"It's like there's a delayed sense of gratification. A lot of times, the results don't really show until later in the season, but the harder you work, the better you will be," Claire said.

The theme of Wando's show is "Daedalus and Icarus" based on the "Metamorphoses" poems by the Roman poet Ovid.

Rush said he thinks this year's show is one of the best in the band's history.

After months of practice, the band's visual coordinator, local artist Michael Gray, said he credits the students' dedication for allowing his vision to come to fruition.

"For me, it's (marching band) an exercise in communication. How do you make a child in the 21st century care about something larger than themselves? It's such a selfish world, so how do you get a kid to give up every day and come to rehearsal? To give up every weekend and go to a competition? ... They're dedicated because they love it. Kids will only do what they enjoy doing," Gray said.

3. Success comes with sacrifice

James Shealy said in his 31 years directing West Ashley high school bands he's noticed that one of the biggest challenges students face is commitment.

Commitment doesn't come without sacrifice, which is something Shealy said teenagers often struggle to do.

"I think that's the biggest problem with today's teenagers. They don't know how to manage their time. A lot of times they think, 'I'm going to do this, but only until something better comes along,' " said Shealy, who's at West Ashley High School.

"You have to split your time equally, because something's always going to come up. ... It's about responsibility. No matter what you do in life, you have to take the time and honor your commitments, even when those obstacles get in your way."

Through those sacrifices, Shealy said, band students can continue to grow and improve as musicians and as people.

"The better students in school are involved not just in marching band, but in any extracurricular. Those are the kids that are going to make the sacrifices to get where they want to go in life," Shealy said.

West Ashley recently competed at S.C. State Championships, something Shealy said the group was very proud of considering they were the only Charleston County band 1A-4A group to make it that far.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908.