Nostalgia: All-County Band Edition


When I think about grades 6-12, my very first thought isn’t awful school lunches or maniacal teachers. It’s usually band. All-County band.

I know. I know. Don’t get started with the whole “band geek” thing. Because I know that there are a fair number of you band kids out there that are secretly thinking of your own experience. And as much as it fed on your life and soul, you genuinely enjoyed band. Admit it.

All-County, for those unfamiliar with it, is an audition-based honor group, separated into middle and high school bands. One night in the first semester, kids flock to a local school, play a prepared piece for judges, and a few weeks later are ranked and assembled into one group. This group rehearses and puts on a concert. It’s typically more advanced than a regular high school concert and will often feature a guest conductor.

It’s more fun than it sounds. Trust me. I could write a book about my experiences in 6 years worth of All-County. If I wrote them all here, you’d have to take a bathroom break in the middle. But as FCPS prepares for their 2014-2015 concert tonight, I thought I’d get nostalgic for a while:

Finding out that one guest director in high school was named Dr. McCoy. Naturally, I decided to call him Bones.

Waiting for rehearsal to start and getting overly excited when Mr. Musser played the soundtrack from Super Smash Brothers Melee (it was relevant at the time) on the speakers.

Middle school sectionals, AKA my favorite thing about All-County. More specifically, getting quarters from Mrs. Robinson when we passed a playing test.

High school sectionals, which varied from year to year: the year we were locked in the scorching-hot Urbana choir room, the year that we got the snot scared out of us by the Tuscarora director, et cetera…

The clarinet section in general. Honestly, my section was full of fun, talented people every single year.

Bones deciding to play Americans We as fast as humanly possible — without a countoff.

Placing far too much of your self-esteem on your chair position.

Developing a war-like rivalry with kids from other schools.

Meeting kids from other schools and becoming best friends in a few hours’ time.

Watching the drummers play, because they always had the coolest parts.

Listening to my sister tell her own All-County stories, because band is a family affair.

Playing a Percy Granger piece and loving it like you love a human child.

Praying that nobody fell down the steps leading down to the stage on concert night, because it happened more than once at practice.

Counting change to order pizza with the drummers.

Getting out of school for an entire day just to go rehearse.

Watching the Urbana kids play Zoo and wondering if I was envious of them or not.

Watching the trumpet players show off and try to out-scream each other.

Trying to show off. Trying.

Literally not being able to put a horn to my face after the concert because of the massive sore in my mouth.

Trying to hang those medals on everyone’s concert shirt.

Getting the recording in the mail and listening to it like you hadn’t just spent a month rehearsing that exact music.

But the thing I remember most is the people. On one side of the coin, there were elementary classmates of mine that went to a different middle school than I did. I went 7 years without seeing them and then suddenly they’re walking down the arts hall of TJ High with a cello or a trumpet.

On the other hand, there’s the people I met in All-County that I ran into elsewhere — Hood’s band, McDaniel’s band camp, Solo and Ensemble, or even in the Linganore Band. It was awesome. “Oh cool, I recognize you from All-County. Not only do we share an interest and we care enough about that interest to audition for an honor band, but we most likely played some game/prank together or complained to one another. We’re best friends now.”

(That’s not an exact transcription, especially since I had that conversation at least ten times, but you get the idea).

I was a band kid. No matter where the future takes me, I’ll be forever grateful for that.

Did I miss anything, FCPS kids?


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