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Facing the music
Senior reflects on a memorable trip to Mobile with the Marching 110 (part 1 of 2)

Jan. 12, 2007
By Natalia Lavric

It's the end of an era for me. Between high school and college, I've spent seven years being a band nerd: pointing my toes, keeping my horn up and "driving it," or always going above and beyond the expected effort. 

Natalia Lavric and friends. Photo by Natalia Lavric.So, for me, a 900-mile trip with the band to Mobile, Ala., for the GMAC Bowl means more than just getting to say "y'all" and trying some new foods. As a senior, it means learning to say goodbye to something that's been an integral part of who I am for almost half my life. You could say that after the Macy's parade, it's been like my "second experience of a lifetime."

This trip is like an entire season compacted into five days: an insane practice schedule, a parade, pep rallies, homecoming and the last game. Here's a look at what it's like to be a traveling member of the most exciting band in the land.

Tuesday, Jan. 2

While you were relaxing after New Year's Eve or, more likely for students, packing everything you own into a plastic tub, the 110 was back in Peden Stadium practicing in 30 degree weather. The bravest (and maybe craziest) guys in the band practice wearing only shorts and gloves, but most everyone else is bundled up in hats, band jackets and mittens. 

I'm out of shape, but I'm certainly not the only one. Being away from the field for five weeks means forgetting the toll marching takes on your body, and after two hours of practice, we remember what it feels like to be sore everywhere.

We're playing the Foo Fighters' "DOA" and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Hump De Bump" for pregame, and for halftime, we're playing Styx's "Mr. Roboto" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama."

"By the way," Richard Suk, our director, says as we run back to our spots to run the drill again, "this looks excellent." Not bad for being out and active for the first time in quite a while.

Thursday, Jan. 4

Photo by Luke PotterAfter classes are over, I run home and pack everything I can think of into three bags. While my roommate drives me to the stadium, I do a quick mental rundown: GMAC Bowl bag, garment bag, luggage, instrument, hat, backpack, textbooks and everything else on our 25-item checklist?  Check. Phone, MP3 player and digital camera?  Check. Snacks for the bus?  Check. I think I'm ready to go. 

We meet at 7 p.m., catching up with each other and comparing class schedules, and get on the bus shortly thereafter. With a DVD collection even the biggest of movie fans would envy, bus No. 2 is prepared for the 16-hour drive.

Sleeping on the bus is a challenge, and several people opt to sleep on the floor instead of in their seats. Though the ride is smooth, twists, turns and stops can make any ride significantly less comfortable. 

When we wake up to visit a rest stop somewhere in Tennessee, I check the time and my phone has changed time zones automatically. "Are we on Southern time?" one of the seniors wonders jokingly. 

Friday, Jan. 5

In Daphne, Ala., the palm trees are plentiful and the skies are just as blue as the song "Sweet Home Alabama" says they are. It's 70 degrees and sunny, and 28 of us wait in line outside an Olive Garden for lunch, ready to consume enough salad and breadsticks to feed a small army.

Our hostess looks a little shocked to see such a crowd when she peers out the front window. Shaking her head to compose herself, she unlocks the door. "We've reserved a whole room for y'all," she says, ushering us in. I'm a coffee addict, but for this trip, I've decided to try to be a real Southerner and drink the local beverage of choice. For many of us, the highlight of our lunch is the tea -- sweet but not too sugary -- that seems to be served everywhere we go. 

When we're finished with lunch and leave the restaurant (and a very relieved wait staff), we board the bus and head to practice at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School, Dr. Suk's alma mater. Dr. Suk grew up and began his career in music just outside of the city, and he's thrilled to "show us off" to his hometown. It's clear that he's happy to be home -- practice is short and to the point, even though it's incredibly hot and we don't exactly remember the dances we learned during the season.

I text my roommate and gloat about the nice weather, but he says it's nearly as warm in Athens!

Our hotel rooms are ready by the time we arrive; that's a rare feat for places that have to accommodate a group of 200. Each room is equipped with GMAC Bowl Survival Kits, or brown paper bags with Moon Pies and bottled water, provided by the staff.

We get dressed and head to the Mayor's Ball, which is apparently a big deal in Mobile. When we arrive, we see some familiar faces from home: the cheerleaders and Rufus are there with us, waiting to entertain the crowd. 

Photo by Luke PotterWhile we wait to play for the dignitaries and teams, we hurry up and wait -- it's like the Macy's parade all over again! -- in a "holding pen."  The University of Southern Mississippi band and their "Dancin' Dixies," or 34 girls in dresses, white gloves and go-go boots, cheer for us as we warm up and stretch.

Maybe it's the echo off the walls; maybe it's because there was a crowd or because we're excited to be there, but "Salvation is Created," the song we play at the end of every warm-up session, gives me goosebumps. The Southern Miss band shouts even more loudly when we finish.

When it's finally time, we march out and play "Stand Up and Cheer." The football team does just that, leading the rest of the crowd, and before we know it, there's about a thousand people clapping for us. The best part, though, is when we play "Long Train Runnin'" and "Cheer."  The lucky ones who sit closest to the band are treated to loud, eager college students, and several of them cover their ears. I love it.

When we're finished, we eat a seafood buffet at McGill-Toolen, and most everyone agrees that Ohio should adopt Southern cuisine. With all sorts of tastes to sample -- picture a spread including fried oysters, grilled shrimp and seafood fettuccini alfredo -- and tea (of course), we enjoy time together that doesn't involve running to spots, keeping our toes pointed and our feet up and playing instruments. 

Dr. Suk introduces his parents, his former high-school principal and his band director, and they're all "just so glad to see [us,]" as they tell us in Southern accents.

Back on the bus, we're stuffed, exhausted and ready to see what tomorrow has in store. The next two days will be busier than we can imagine.

Stay tuned for part 2...


Natalia Lavric is a member of the Marching 110 and a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.

 

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Published: Jan 3, 2007 9:35:38 AM
 
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