Truth in advertising requires me to inform you that I cannot play a musical instrument of any type and, if I could, I doubt I could do it while taking four steps back and three sideways without causing the musical equivalent of a train wreck.
I presumed the complexity factor increases from high school to college and after talking to Joseph Goldstein, I presumed correctly.
Joseph, 19, the son of Marietta City Councilman Philip Goldstein, is beginning his third year playing clarinet in the University of Georgia Redcoat Band. Prior to that, he spent four years with the Marietta High School marching band.
As with all things UGA, I love the Redcoat Band. My beloved scholar-athletes may get tripped up on the gridiron on rare occasions — as long as they continue to dominate the scholar-athletes at You-Know-Who Institute of Technology, they will have no complaints from me — but the university’s 400-member Redcoat Band is always a winner.
Joseph Goldstein is a soft-spoken young man who lights up when he talks about heading back to Athens and band camp next week. He says it takes a few days to get back in the routine with the marching and the music and then comes the hard work of getting ready for performing at the football games.
I asked him the biggest difference he has experienced between his high school bands and marching in a major college band. Start with the numbers. Marietta High School had roughly 100 members and Joseph is now in a band four times larger. The clarinet section alone is composed of 36 members. He also says the practices are more intense in college.
“On the weeks we have a game, the band practices two hours on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and then on the Saturday morning we practice another couple of hours before the game,” he says.
The Redcoat Band will have several routines they will work on before the season begins to perform at both Sanford Stadium and on the road. For all of the work they will put into the practice of their routines, they have a maximum of 10 minutes on the field to entertain the crowd because the other team’s band must have an equal opportunity to do their own musical thing.
But how do these 400 musicians and marchers know when to move on the field and where to go? With only 10 minutes to do a lot of complex moves, it is obvious that you must know your part perfectly. Young Goldstein says each individual band member is given a personalized instruction sheet. The clarinets don’t know what the trombone players are doing, nor do the trombone players know about the trumpets.
Joseph says he knows from the instruction sheet what is required of him and when and memorizes his individual instructions, as do the other band members.
Since I can’t even memorize my cellphone number, I would not do well in the Redcoat Band.
Is he nervous that he or someone else will have a temporary brain freeze and will hang a left at the 40-yard line when they should have been headed right and do it in front of 93,000 people?
“Maybe a little,” he admits, “but you get pumped when you get on the field and say, ‘I’ve got to do my best and not mess up’ and you forget about the crowd. That is why we practice so hard.”
Joseph Goldstein will be a senior at UGA this coming fall. He is majoring in business and looking at law school and one day, I presume, entering the family business. I asked him what he has learned from his participation in the band thus far.
“Discipline, teamwork and time management,” he says. Just as I thought: Marching bands are about more than music.
I am not sure that my wanton ways have qualified me for entry into heaven. If I don’t make it, I will gladly accept the alternative of Athens, Georgia, on a crisp, sunny Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium listening to the Redcoat Band play, “Glory, Glory to Old Georgia.” From my conversation with Joseph Goldstein, it sounds like he is in heaven already.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.