The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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July 2, 2014

Life lessons from marching band: How much is .1?

How much is .1?

A footstep? An inch? A wind-blown flag?

It’s marching band season around here, and I’ve got a couple kids who are exhausted because of the hundreds of hours they’ve spent perfecting their craft as members of the Mankato Area 77 Lancers.

Hey, wanna hear a good Lancer joke? The outgoing features editor of this fine section of the paper blessed me a Lancer joke before he left.

“How do you know if someone’s a Lancer?”

“I don’t know. How?”

“Oh, don’t worry, they’ll tell ya.”

LOL! Right?

Actually, it’s true. They will let you know. The structure of the group and the way they prepare is intense. They spend 12-hour days practicing and getting ready, and then spend a few weeks traveling around the state competing against other bands in what is an all-too brief season.

It creates a family. Do they all love each other. Heavens, no. But they all respect each other, and in the heat of competition they rally, lift each other up, do as a unit what they’d never be able to accomplish alone. When they win, they rejoice. When they don’t, they support each other, take pride in the work they did to get here, and move on.

Sometimes, though, a loss can cut particularly deep. Like a loss that was just about as close to a win as you can get.

In the world of marching bands, here’s how it works: Bands are judged by six men who analyze and critique every aspect of the band, from they way they march to the way they sound to they way they look. They judge the band members, the color guard (the ones who carry the colorful flags), the drum majors, etc. Each judge is looking for something specific. They issue scores which are added together for one final score.

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