The Leader of the Band is wired

With hip swings so enthusiastic they frequently landed her in detention at Our Lady of Angels High School, my mother loved playing her trumpet in the marching band. She passed on her trumpet loving genes to my sister Jenny, who, dressed in her bridesmaid gown, blew her horn at my long-ago wedding, and to my nephew Michael, who played the trumpet in his high school jazz band.

With a little encouragement from my dad, my mom would sashay through our family room, marching to music both measured and far away.

Imagine, then, my mom’s glee at being offered the opportunity to direct the UW Madison marching band during a Fifth Quarter song, thanks to a recent Mother’s Day gift from my brother Mike. Then, imagine her panic.

She marched every day between May 11 and this past Saturday, listening to band recordings and studying YouTube videos. She met with Appleton North High School Band Director Jim Thaldorf, who kindly practiced with her and gave her some excellent tips. She eagerly read emailed suggestions from her grandson Michael, the most recent marcher in the family.

She bought herself a baton.

By the time Saturday arrived, she had collected quite a creative assortment of what ifs.

“What if I get them all off beat?”

“What if I drop the baton?”

“What if I fall off the platform?”

A light rain fell at half-time and she watched world-famous band director Michael Leckrone ascend a surprisingly tall ladder.

“I can’t do this,” she said.

The funny thing about life, of course, is that our most challenging tasks are generally the most fun.

Certainly, this was the case with my mom Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall. She marched up that ladder like a pro, moved her baton with increasing confidence, and, eventually, swung her hips in the exact same way she used to vex OLA Principal Sister Therese de Lords all those years ago.

Then, she stayed on the field with the rest of the band and did a little Chicken Dance.

Aunt Doris and Uncle Steve
My mom had 19 family members in the crowd Saturday, including, from left, my sister Kathy, my Aunt Doris and Uncle Steve, Katherine, me and my brother in-law Keith.
A pre-fifth quarter pep talk
Here she is running through her routine in the tunnel before the big moment.
A warmup with baton
Warming up….
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And go!
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I’ll just let you enjoy these next few…
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On Wisconsin!
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Voila! Piece of cake!
A group of groupies
A little post-performance fun with more family…Kathy, my niece Erin, my sister Jenny, Keith, my nieces Olivia, Rachel and Hannah and my nephew Michael, who drove in from Butler for the occasion.
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Note her feet aren’t touching the ground…
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Serenaded by the band. “I wanna a know, would you be my girl?”
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Ahhh, the life of a celebrity. High-fiving fans in the tunnel.
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The sun shone on the group in this post-performance shot, missing Vince and John, who made their way out of the stadium through a different exit. Great, fun day with family!
The Leader of the Band. (Thank you to Jason Shultz of J&S Design for the cool editing help)

11 thoughts on “The Leader of the Band is wired

  1. I have come back and read this post a couple of times. It just makes me feel so happy for your mom and the whole family. What a fabulous experience. Thanks for sharing it. (I can’t stop laughing at the picture of her with both feet off the ground–and I don’t even know the lady!) 🙂

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