And The Band Marches On

CAROUSEL Pop star Madonna visits the ancient Roman-era city carved out in red stone of Petra, south of Jordan, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2009. Madonna has wrapped up her world tour with a sightseeing trip to Jordan's famed ruins in Petra. AP

There are three million high school band and music student in the United States this year, and statistics show that 90 percent of them go on to college.

Two decades ago, Melinda Murphy was a band member playing the flute. Now, she takes a trip down memory lane for one day and rejoins her high school marching band. Here's her story.



Fall is football season and with football comes marching bands. I grew up in Midland, Texas, and was a member of one of the best bands in the whole state of Texas — the Mighty Rebel Band.

Gosh, how I loved being in the band. So, 20 years later, I headed back to do it all over again.

I was in Randy Storie's first band at Lee High School and he was my favorite teacher. He is still there.

Can you imagine not playing the flute for 20 years? But, I did OK.

Yep, I was fitting in just fine, and just in time for the pep rally. I was a little surprised that the band still played "Dixie" on the way to the gym. But, it's a southern school, I guess, with big ol' pep rallies, to boot.

My producer, Jennifer Cohen, is a native New Yorker and this was a first for her.

After the rally, I got measured for my uniform and then, viola! I was 18 again.

"It's cool," said one boy. "I think it's weird because she's not in high school anymore." One girl called me weird.

Weird or not, I just had two hours to learn the show. So, out came the assistant band director, Mr. Whitaker.

Surprisingly, Marching came right back. My stride was perfect — more or less. But, I did forget the finer points of stopping.

I was ready, or so I thought. But, marching with the whole band was harder. They've gone to the state marching contest for 17 years and did so again just last week.

Mr. Storie hasn't changed a bit on the field. He is as scary as ever. We practiced right up until it was time to load the buses.

We were battling the other school in town for a chance at the state finals. My school, Lee, almost always went to state, but our opponent, Midland High School, hadn't been there since 1951. The town's brand new stadium was sold out.

We immediately lined up for what's called pre-game.

And then, in a blink of an eye and a missed step, I was back on the field for the first time in 20 years, messing up my count.

Pre-game is pretty easy and I made it through OK. Of course, I didn't play a single note. But, back in the stands with sheet music, I at least tried.

Sitting with the band was always a blast for me, but before I knew it, we were lining up again, this time for the big halftime show.

And then it was time. I stepped off and made it down the field without tripping. The countermarch went well, too. I was one of them. Life was good, until they made this announcement.

"At this time, let me introduce you to a very special member of the Rebel Band. Marching with us tonight is Melinda Murphy with CBS News," announced someone.

I was mortified. Now all 16,000 fans would know who was out of step. The pressure was on. Thank goodness they couldn't hear me play.

I did pretty darn well, even if I do say so myself. Well, there was that little bobble. But, it was not bad, all in all. At the very end, I got lost. A band member had to tell me where to go.

I tried to play "Dixie" one last time with little success.

What's worse? My powerhouse team lost 49-0. It was our worst district loss since 1963. I was blue, but the day eclipsed the score.

I didn't realize how much I missed band until that day.

Yep, I sure did love being a part of the Mighty Rebel Band. And it turns out, I still do.
  • Rome Neal

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