A frosty breeze blows across my face, playing with the few hairs that have slipped out of my shako, and bringing with it the wooden scent of a reed and the slightly musty smell of a mouthpiece. To others, these are likely not pleasant smells, perhaps even a bit repugnant, but to me they are comforting, like the smell of a beloved friend. I sneak a glance across the audience that is shifting in the stands, some rearranging blankets or scarves, some going for hot cocoa or coffee, some simply looking for a seat. I know my mother is among them, and indeed, there she is. She is not hard to spot in the crowd, waving with both arms frantically in a sea of blue that is our school's cheering section. In about forty minutes time, I will join their number; wearing thick woolen socks, fleece gloves and scarf and a hooded sweatshirt under a heavy letterman's jacket with a hand warmer in each pocket. I will hunker down in my stadium chair, surrounded by all of my best friends. We will talk, oh yes we will talk, but there will silences too. They will not be awkward silences though, for these are the friends with whom I've lived for the last three months, and with some, for the last four years; I've laughed with, ate with, griped with, gotten sick with, slept with, shared water bottles with, played with, stayed up late with, gotten up early with, and bonded with, and our bonds run deeper and stronger than anything. But now; now we are in performance mode. A feeling of tension and excitement rises, as real and as palpable as the vapors rising from our mouths. Every sense is alert and fined-tuned. I see the individual grains of wood in my reed, and beyond that, the stadium lights glittering in the silver of our uniforms and glinting off the brass instruments. I listen to the sounds around me; the shifting of the drummers' harnesses, the rumble of the tractor unloading the pit equipment, a quiet crash as someone accidentally drops a cymbal up front, the rustle and whispering of thousands of spectators. A clear, crisp voice breaks across the stadium, reverberating off the stands, ringing in the tunnels and balconies, silencing all conversations and causing every spine on the field to straighten. "Drum Majors, is your band ready?" I cannot see the two leaders of our band, but I can hear the count off for the salute, so complete is the silence that has befallen the stadium. Another wind whips across the field, colder and crueler than the first. My wool jacket does little to keep out the icy weather that blows up my sleeves and down my neck, but I hardly notice. A great cheer explodes from the blue and silver section of the audience, signaling the end of the salute. "Mountain View Marching Band and Colorguard," comes the voice again, matching the enthusiasm of the crowd, "you may now take the field in finals competition, at the 27th Annual Festival of Bands!" More cheering. Two glints of flashing white sprint across the field, one headed for the far left, the other for the podium situated on the fifty in front of the pit. The drum major climbs the steps, removes her shako, and stands erect for a few moments, waiting for the noise of the crowd to die away. The corners of her mouth lift slightly and she winks at us, showing her utmost confidence that after all our hundreds of hours of pain and dedication, this show, these next fifteen minutes will be the best we've ever performed; she raises her hands to the starting position and yells "Set!" The colorguard assumes opening position, the drummers bring their sticks up, and a warm, tingling sensation spreads out to my bare fingers and down to my cramped toes, chasing away the biting cold. Her hands come down; one. A string of 'don't forgets' flies through my brain so fast that none of them really register. Don't forget the step off, don't forget the new notes, don't forget the bells-to-the-box, don't forget to keep your toes high, and about twenty other reminders chase themselves through my head. Her hands come down again; two. My mind goes blank. A third time her hands come down, and three things happen simultaneously; the drummers begin dutting her rhythm, my clarinet begins rotating up towards my mouth, and the judges bring their recorders up to their mouths. This moment, this right here, this is what I live for. One, two, three, push and step…play.