Obama and the Liberals are still following their progressive agenda of spreading the wealth, making things “equal” for everyone, eliminating all sense of competition. In their utopia, everyone will just feel so good. Everyone will be a winner. There will be no “losers”. Or more, to the point, everyone will be a loser, like in the Great Depression.
Well, here’s what’s wrong with that: The Bloomingdale Cornet Band has been participating in the N.J. Firemen’s Convention Parade for 27 years. In the early days, we had plenty of competition. We didn’t win first place in the beginning, but we were game for the competition for Best Senior Band. In fact, it took us a couple of years to get to first place.
The first year was rainy, wet, and very windy, just like this past weekend. I can’t recall whether we had jackets or not, but it didn’t matter; they got soaked through. We still had our old, long-sleeve shirts, of varying shades of faded blue. Yet, just as we got to the judging line, the sun came out and shone on us. When we learned we’d won second place, among quite a number of larger bands, we were ecstatic.
As we kept winning, our band grew and grew. At one point, we had 45 musicians, 20-some color guard, and our drum major. We were awesome. Those were the band’s glory days. Every year, we found something new that we could do better.
Good times never last for long, though. A couple of things happened. The other bands got tired of always coming in second-place and so they stopped coming to the parades. We were dismayed. As officers, we even tried to hint to the judges that it would be all right if they notched us down a little and let the other guy win. But they said they couldn’t do that; if we were the best band, then we were the best band.
Being the best band is no fun if you’re the only band on the street. Inevitably, politics also interfered. We began to lose musicians both to boredom with always winning in Wildwood with no competition and to infighting. Other people wanted to be officers and have the glory of leading the best band in New Jersey. One of the political battles was over giving participation money to the musicians in Wildwood, based on attendance, something I always maintained was a bad idea. The trouble began when a young high school musician demanded his attendance money even though he wouldn’t be going to Wildwood. The money was for the purpose of defraying the ancillary costs of going to Wildwood (gas, tolls, dinner, amusement park rides, arcade games and so forth). Technically, we are a volunteer, non-paying band.
Our musicians were getting older, too, and retiring. Young people weren’t as willing to play with a community marching band. The high school bands were having their own problems getting kids to buck the new counter-culture grain and learn traditional music. Some played with us for awhile during their high school years. But hardly any New Jersey students actually go to New Jersey colleges. Once they went off to school, they were gone for good.
Younger kids are no longer interested in serving on our band front, either. They’re too busy playing soccer where they earn free “participation awards.” The daughter of one of our musicians (musicians are invited to bring their families down to Wildwood), when the former band front advisor asked her if she’d like to carry a flag, haughtily told the woman, “I have better things to do than march with the band.” When the new officers took over, the kids on the front demanded new uniforms. They were literally wearing the uniforms their mothers wore. However, those uniforms were quite attractive; the new replacements, not so much. To young ladies, appearance is everything. The old uniforms, bright and colorful, attracted many new recruits to the front.
That’s the way the band was in the 1960s and it seems we’re back to those bad old days again, where we have barely enough musicians to put on the street. We’re really desperate for tuba players. Our most faithful tuba player is 75. He’s a youngish 75, but his ankles are starting to bother him and there’s no young tuba player to take over his spot, or at least help him out.
Finally, 9/11 affected us, in an indirect way. In the post-9/11 age, volunteer firefighters are required to take more training, which eats into their volunteer time. Between training and fighting actual fires, they have little time for fund-raising and parades. They can barely afford to hire us, even at a lower rate, much less host a full-scale parade. Many of the parades we used to do 30 years ago have been cancelled altogether. In any case, we don’t have enough musicians to cover an 18-parade schedule.
That’s what happens when you eliminate competition, give everyone a “participation award” (all marching units receive one in Wildwood), and try to “spread the wealth” around; it just doesn’t work. Manners go right out the window. The fresh little girl who denounced the idea of marching is no match in manners for her counterpart on the band front. In fact, she and her friends, also musicians’ daughters, as well their brothers, would benefit from the discipline our band front members learn out on the street. How to stand at attention, focus on what’s ahead and not be distracted; how to take orders; how to work as a team; how their individual contributions adds to the group’s spirit; how to respect the American flag and how to respect others as well.
Whatever it is those spoiled little boys and girls learn at their soccer games and cheerleading practices and so forth, good manners and respect aren’t among them. A generation of youngsters is learning they can get something for doing something totally useless like kicking a ball around a field, admiring sports heroes, while our band front kids spent this weekend honoring real life heroes – the firefighters of New Jersey.