Hundreds of musicians in fancy uniforms gathered at our high school’s stadium on Wednesday. Plumes bobbed, laughter rose above the chatter, and drummers beat out movement-inducing rhythms. My son’s high school was hosting five other schools, and together they were putting on a showcase of marching band performances.

I’d never been to a marching band showcase before. My son is a freshman, so I’m new to the marching scene. I have seen him perform his marching show—I’ve attended all the home football games this season. I will admit, I go for the halftime show. I used to be a football fan, in what feels like another life, but now it’s hard for me to watch people get pummeled on the field. Especially teens, who have a whole lifetime to feel the repercussions of those injuries.

So it was truly a pleasure to watch all these bands play, without the bookends of a violent football game. The schools cheered each other on. Everyone celebrated the free-form dancing of one band and the sharp marching of another. We all clapped along when one band encouraged us to accompany them, and bopped along when another played ‘70s and ‘80s tunes for us older folks. We even got to do the Time Warp.

After the show, three of the schools’ drum corps challenged each other to an impromptu drum off, which we all got to cheer.

That got me thinking about competition, and what it means, and how I feel about it. I’m not drawn to competition. I’m hurt when I lose, and uncomfortable when I win. And some part of me is always wondering, Why can’t we all just get along?

Of course, I understand that competition is natural and sometimes unavoidable. But I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the coming together of rival schools into a community of support and music-making and celebration.

It would be lovely to have more occasions like this one.

Did you ever play in a marching band?

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