No retreat

Leaving it on the field

No retreat
The Northwinds

Whether you're in a marching band or a drum and bugle corps, the final event of field show competition is called a retreat. All the groups gather on the field for an awards ceremony. That's the marching band I was with crossing the field in the picture. I don't remember if it's because we left that open spot you see and were heading off the field or if we're on our way to that open spot. Hell, I don't even remember every single band on that field. I can still name 2 of them though.

Although visually impressive to an audience, retreat can sometimes be frustratingly boring for those on the field, in my opinion of course. You stand there basically waiting for your drum major to go and collect your awards. If you get any. Then it's over and you go back to "work" in order to exit the field in a memorable fashion.

It wasn't until a bunch of us spent the summer "plumping out" a struggling drum and bugle corps that we found out how emotional it could be.

The first time I openly wept was hearing the men of the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps sing their signature song "You'll Never Walk Alone" a capella. I'm told they rehearse it as much as the music they play and it's a staple at retreat. Sometimes, to this day, if I feel I need to cry and I can't, I will go find a video of them and that song and let it all out.

The second reason a retreat can be moving is referred to in many circles as "aging out." You see, most marching organizations have an age cap. You can't just keep going. If the group is associated with a school, you usually leave when you graduate. In drum and bugle corps, you are done at 21.

There is generally a ceremony to go with the goodbye and it's simple but poignant. At the last show you march, as you leave the field for good, you leave your hat. I don't know if it's quite as meaningful for someone who has not marched or been associated with someone who has marched, but it's made me cry a couple of times. I should mention that while I have witnessed this, I did not get to do it myself. A year after I aged out, my sister got to participate.

As it was told to me, my sister and her fellow graduates left not only their hats but their shoes on the yardline and marched off Taylor Field in Regina, Saskatchewan in their sock feet. It's okay, since we were teenagers and our uniform code called for black socks, there's a better than good chance all those socks belonged to their dads or brothers. After they were done crying and taking pictures, the parents/band moms (and a couple of dads) raced to the field to collect the hats (expensive/hard to replace), grab the shoes, and run after the band.

I don't feel super bad about not getting to do it myself as my senior year in high school I broke my leg so I was only wearing one shoe at my final show and, because of the cast, would have had to get someone to help me with the remaining shoe and possibly hear something like "Are you nuts? Do you want to wreck your other foot, too?" But it would have been cool to see the bottom of my sister's socks. At least that's what I would have told her in order to hold back that tears.

high school
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Kerri Philpott
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