Moss: The Glory of Small Towns and Marching Bands
For many years I had listened to the recitals and drills occurring in the distance, at the High School, just two blocks from my home. It was in the evenings, of course, after school, with the sun setting, glittering twilight fading into inky darkness, and the often chilly temperatures of early autumn descending upon the tormented students, marching stoically if not deliriously into the long night.
I heard the truncated blasts of the winds, the blares of the brass and the staccato of percussion, loud and abrupt, stopping and starting, shifting and adjusting in interminable reiterations, in some manic pursuit of an unattainable vision, to pluck the platonic ideal from the ethers, and magically transform this rabble into a silvery, mellifluous, marching band; it seemed a Sisyphean task from which no good could emerge, only frustration.
Above the din was a voice from Mt. Olympus, emanating from a Zeus-like figure, the director, ensconced upon a mechanical perch, as if upon some cloud encrusted peak, hurling flame and thunder, scolding, hectoring, commanding his young minions to hasten or slow, play louder or softer, demanding yet better performance from his weary foot soldiers in the quixotic quest of excellence.
I came to observe the maneuvers on many occasions, lured by the sound and fury, the evolving (and, yes, improving) renditions, the glorious misery of the students shivering in noble endeavor, with my two young children at the time, 10 years ago, convinced that I would never subject them to such chaos and tribulation, when they came of age.
I could not imagine then what possible reward could justify the prolonged agony, the incessant exercises, the competitions and recitals, the unending bus rides, the grand effort and machinery and force of numbers required to produce so elaborate a display. Little did I realize then that, as ineluctably as summer passes into fall, that, indeed, my young children would too blossom into adolescence and join the ranks of their storied colleagues, to participate in one of their town’s most historic and splendid institutions, one even serving as drum major for two years.
Or that my wife and I and two other young children, the same age more or less as their older siblings when I had foolishly indulged my knavish skepticism earlier on, would attend slavishly its every performance, fascinated, uplifted, now drawn to it, to marching band, awe-struck and rapturous, unable to resist its spell, deny its charm, more than an enthusiast or fan, rather a zealot or fanatic that simply could not get enough.
I too now found myself preparing burgers at district and football games like other band parents. I too involved myself in fundraisers. I too followed the progress of the band, the weekly report from the principal, the bombastic ruminations of its quirky but beloved leader (the band director), marking my calendar, and checking my schedule, my life no longer my own but an appendage of the marching band, to which I swore unflinching fealty.
I monitored the steady evolution of the program, the tightening and refinement of the execution, the wondrous integration of music, marching, and sparkling color guard, the ordered, frenetic, but poetic movements, the shimmering flags and leaping butterfly figurines, the exquisite and soothing musical interludes interwoven with triumphant crescendos, the ever changing contours of the marchers and guard, converging and reforming in dazzling shapes, angles, and textures, darting and dividing artfully, like black and gold estuaries merging and separating in perpetually evolving archipelagoes, resisting the entropic tendencies, and channeling the energy, sound, and motion, into a glorious synergy, a magnificent unity infinitely greater than the sum of its rapidly shifting parts. What exaltation!
Their performance at State was its best. I was convinced of their inevitable triumph. Then, I watched in despair when, in an inexcusable lapse, two judges on the field delivered unto our lions a fourth place rank, falling behind bands our team had defeated handily only a week before. The disappointment was profound. I had become identified with the band. Their unjust loss was my own, and, in truth, I am still in mourning.
Yet the memory of the season, the exhilaration of the band’s performances through the year, lingers. Indeed, I find myself reliving the moments through videos and photos, as if unable to relinquish it, almost wishing it could go on, despite my many other obligations. I no longer cared. Such had become my attachment to the hardships and travails of the band. I had come full circle.
There really is nothing like it. The effort required to render order, symmetry, and beauty from some 175 odd teen-age marching musicians and dancers, delivering some eight minutes of unparalleled joy, mixing magically the subtle and the flamboyant, the nuanced and the majestic, the lyrical and the resounding, is nothing less than inspirational.
Marching band brings forth the best of republican virtues: initiative, discipline, teamwork and devotion to a cause greater than oneself. It is from such high-minded pursuits that great citizens emerge. I applaud the Jasper Marching Band, its students, band-parents, staff and band directors.
It is, perhaps, in our small towns, tossed and scattered across the heartland, where we have our greatest opportunity to salvage the American republic. Here, we hold fast to the formerly mainstream verities of hearth and home, faith and family, God and country. Here, we cling to the customs and mores of a commercial republic, based on the principles of liberty, limited government, and private property rights. We uphold such quaint notions as sacrifice, dedication, and the pursuit of one’s dreams, all nurtured in an ambience steeped in the Judeo-Christian ethos, family, church, civic associations, and community.
We recoil from the sixty-year assault on our culture and civilization by the Left, and its noxious ideologies such as critical race theory, radical feminism, and transgenderism. We shudder at the horrendous damage and moral anarchy that has culminated in widespread illegitimacy, dysfunctional families, welfare dependency, drug addiction, and criminality. We are aghast at the relentless indoctrination of our youth in our entertainment, films, social media, and, especially, our schools and woke churches. Yet, there remains an appetite to stand athwart the cult-Marxist wave and preserve our way of life.
At the national level, it appears we are broken, hopelessly divided between two competing visions, but we may succeed on a local level, and, perhaps, at a state level, in certain red states. It is locally, though, where we can attend school board meetings, petition our county commissioners, and lobby our city councils. Locally, we are best positioned to defend our beliefs, and preserve the sanctities and traditions that bind a community and a society, and allow a people to thrive and flourish. Here, we can best defend American values and Western civilization, and begin the long march through our institutions – to retake them – or create new ones. The spiritual rot is deep, the chaos profound, and surely it begins at the head, but there remain shoots of life, sprigs and seedlings of truth, beauty, and goodness across the vast expanses of the continent, and, yes, they flourish in small towns like Jasper, Indiana.
Richard Moss, M.D., a surgeon practicing in Jasper, Indiana, was a candidate for Congress in 2016 and 2018. He has written “A Surgeon’s Odyssey” and “Matilda’s Triumph,” available on amazon.com. Contact him at richardmossmd.com or Richard Moss, M.D. on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.