"And our last band in finals is the Hanford High School Falcon Marching Band and Colorguard, under the direction of Kevin Swisher and Chris Newbury. This year's show is called Stormscape. It features..."
I tune out the voice, glancing at Rain. Her expression mirrors mine: a mixture of excitement and terror. We're first in preliminaries! This show determines whether we win sweepstakes or first place!
Suddenly, the voice disappears, and I tear my gaze away from my best friend and focus on Swisher, standing on the podium, arms raised as if he is about to leap off the platform and soar over the field as we march. I smile, relaxing some. The point gap is too big for the others to fill. We'll win for sure.
After a rousing B flat tuning exercise, Swisher tells us to go find our dots. We disperse from the cloud form and head across the field. Finding my dot, I stand in it and wait. Finally, we are laying down, and not totally sucking at the ripple effect. I step forward and lay down on the visitor line, adjusting my position so I am as on-the-line as possible.
All I can see is the sky, as black as ink spilled across a paper of white. The stars have fled from the glare of the stadium lights. The crowd shifts, murmuring excitedly, or boredly, waiting for the excitement to start.
I lay on my back on the grass, my clarinet clenched so tightly in my fingers that the keys will leave circular indentations on each one. Kristen's shoe is touching my head, pressed against my temple. I take deep breaths to still my nerves. Where is the countoff? What are they doing?
Finally, my ears catch the faintest, "Dut...dut...dut, dut, dut, dut," and the show begins.
We start Cloudburst off with a trumpet solo: loud and clear among the not-so-silent crowd. Soon, others join. The field comes alive with dark, imaginary clouds rolling in. Or are they just notes, deep and alive, filling the night with their music? The time comes to stand up. I get to my feet, slowly bringing my clarinet to my lips, that low G resonating across the field.
Suddenly, I'm moving backward, smooth, even steps, up until the turnaround. Keep the spacing correct! I scream inside my head. We're moving faster, now. Marching swiftly across the field, we head toward the front. More notes echo, filling the stadium until it is overflowing. Finally, I stop, snapping my clarinet down.
We have no time to rest before Miss Gulch begins. Four small, fast-paced steps start us off, and then quick, fast-paced backward marching. I bring my feet together suddenly, trying not to trip. The rest doesn't last for long, though, and soon I am marching forward with the rest of my section. Rounding the corner, I turn around, and listen for the "Up!" I am sure Kristen will yell. Too late, I've missed the horn snap. I recover quickly, though, and am able to stop and do the butt thing in time.
I can never remember the first chord once we start to move again, so I rest and then play the second note, a crisp C sharp. Then come the drums, and the clarinet notes followed by the brass notes that keep my feet in time. "Dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun!" I sing, quietly imitating them. I do that whenever I cannot remember the counts.
The rest of the show passes in a blur, and soon, we are gathering off the field to play the final notes practically in the faces of the crowd. We stop as close to the stands as possible, playing as loud as we can, even reaching the level of fortississimo. As the final notes echo across the otherwise-silent stadium, the crowd erupts into a burst of applause, imitating the cloudbursts of our show. A simple realization falls over us before we can even move: we just won the show.
We quickly fall into line and into step, marching down the track and veering onto the field for retreat. They begin to call out the placements, and we all listen intently for our school's name… Finally, at the end of the placements, we hear those magical words: "And the sweepstakes winners are...the Hanford High School Marching Band with Stormscape!" We fight hard to keep our faces neutral and professional, each of us fighting the overwhelming urge to grin. For the second time in a row, and the second time in the Hanford Marching Band's history, we have won a competition!
I take a second to think back to last year's Harvest Festival, the first time Hanford won sweepstakes. It will forever remain in my memory as one of the most wonderful days of my life. This day almost tops it and just fuels the ever-growing joy rippling over our band. The joy stays with us for the rest of the night, even as we put away our instruments, change out of our uniforms, collect our much-deserved hot chocolate, and file back onto the busses. Riding with us, in the hands of our band director, is the 2013 Sweepstakes trophy.