"I think we need a second drum major."
I looked up from the horn that I was currently cleaning out in the band room sink. "Okay. Why?" I asked, more than a little confused about what Mr. Stevens was talking about. It had become routine over the past semester for Mr. Stevens to talk through his thoughts while I completed a task as his TA.
"It would help with visuals and let us do more playing backfield," he answered. "And I'm starting to think that we should give our drum majors some training before we expect them to hold the band together."
"You've never worried about that before."
"Maybe we should. It went fine the past couple of years," he gestured at me, "but it was pretty rough for a few before that. And maybe it's because we were developing the program or we picked the wrong people, but the drum majors we picked might have not had enough training before we threw them on a podium and had them conduct at a competition."
"Then why haven't you called for drum major auditions?"
He let out a sigh. "It means that someone is going to lose a section member. The staff was pretty happy with the numbers last time we talked. We already started planning for drill, too."
The answer seemed pretty obvious to me. "So have them conduct for the parts where we need a second conductor and march a spot when we don't. Derek's writing the drill, right?" He nodded. "I'm sure that he could find a way to slip one person in and out of the drill when we need it. He's done stuff like that before." Like two years ago when we had a saxophone player who injured his knee and couldn't march any step bigger than an eight to five.
Mr. Stevens thought for a moment and nodded. "That might be an easier sell. I'd like to have two drum majors all the time, but we might need to take baby steps on this one." He started walking away, but paused in the doorway to the band office. "Are you available next week on Thursday?"
"Good. We'll have auditions then. I want you to be there." He shut the office door, leaving me to finish my cleaning.
Mr. Stevens tried to hold drum major auditions as usual, but the circumstances threw everyone for a loop. Arden Lake always had one drum major, typically a senior but occasionally a junior, who was announced before the section leaders in case someone who wasn't picked wanted to try for another leadership position. We never had more than one drum major; in the past decade since the school opened to alleviate crowding at Marshville High School there had been one person picked per year, despite the band growing and achieving increasingly difficult drill.
This audition was held later than usual. The band already knew that I would be returning as drum major and section leaders had been announced a few weeks ago. We received twelve applications, mostly from rising sophomores and juniors.
Auditions were run like usual, with the conducting portion held during class and an individual interview after school. Mr. Stevens and our visual instructor, Derek Verghese, would hold the interviews while I was there mostly to take another set of notes. The previous, or in my case current, drum major had little say in the actual decision, something I found out after my own interview last year. My sister Renée had sat in on my audition and our brother Markus on hers, giving some members the idea that the drum major had influence on the decision. I knew some of the candidates before I saw the applications, mostly based on who was being overly friendly in the week between Mr. Stevens' announcement and the auditions.
Interviews felt like they were taking forever and I felt a bit relieved as I showed the second to last applicant out the door. I looked out in the hallway for the next applicant, but found no one.
"Who's next, Drake?" Derek asked as Mr. Stevens finished typing his notes.
I checked the list and answered, "Lauren Carter, but she isn't here."
"That's odd. Isn't she one of the punctual ones in the clarinet section?"
"She said she might be a bit late," Mr. Stevens answered, looking up from his laptop. "She had private lessons this afternoon."
Derek stood up for a minute and stretched. "I'll step out for a minute. I need to make a call."
Mr. Stevens nodded and I took a moment to look over my notes from the previous auditions. There were a few who had potential, but no one stuck out from the group. I seemed like they were saying what they thought we wanted to hear, rather than giving honest answers. I was starting to think that they wouldn't be able to pick anyone.
"How's the audition for All-National going?" Mr. Stevens asked. He had turned back to his laptop, likely browsing through his email.
"Fine, I guess. I submitted my audition materials last weekend," I answered. I told him that I was auditioning for the All-National Honor ensembles a few months ago, since I needed him to complete some of the paperwork.
"When do you find out if you made it in?"
"They'll let everyone know by the end of June."
His computer made a noise, grabbing his attention. "It looks like we might be getting a new flute player." When I didn't respond he continued, "Her family's moving here from Houston. I've been emailing her mother about our band program and it sounds like she's interested in marching band."
"How many flutes would we have?" I asked, trying to sound curious even though I wasn't particularly interested.
Mr. Stevens started counting on his fingers. "Three vets from last year, two incoming freshmen, and the girl from Texas. That'd be six total."
Derek popped his head in the door. "Lauren's here. Give me two minutes." He went back into the hallway and Lauren Carter came in, looking winded. "Sorry for being late," she said, sitting down in the chair across from me. "My clarinet lesson went over, so I tried to get here as fast as I could."
"Don't worry about it," Mr. Stevens answered. "We're a bit off schedule, so it's not a big deal."
"That's good," Lauren said, then backtracked for a moment, "Not that you're off schedule, but that I didn't make you wait for very long."
I could tell that Mr. Stevens was amused by all of it, even though he kept his mouth shut. Once Derek returned they started with the interview questions, asking about the drum major's role in the band and other questions that had been on the written application. "You said in your application that you wanted to take on a position of leadership in the band," Mr. Stevens said, glancing at her application. "Why didn't you apply for section leader?"
"To be honest, I'd like to pursue a position that goes beyond the clarinet section." Before anyone could respond Lauren continued, "I mean, I love marching clarinet and I'm more than happy to continue in the clarinet section if you pick someone else, but I feel like we already have great leaders in our section. Annie's a fantastic section leader and I don't think that I could be any better in that position than she already is. And Madison did a great job last year working with the seconds in sectionals and helping the new members with drill. I feel like I would be able to work with more members and help the band achieve more if I took on a different position in the band."
I glanced over at Mr. Stevens, who typed on his computer as Derek continued with more questions. Lauren gave genuine answers to the questions being asked, and was one of the few applicants who hadn't been a nervous wreck or overly confident about the interview.
"Thank you for auditioning, Lauren," Mr. Stevens said once we were finished and I was showing her out. "The results will be posted tomorrow morning before second hour." Once I closed the door and Lauren's footsteps had faded down the hall he asked, "Well?"
Derek responded, "I think you've got your answer, Rick."
As I handed my notes to Mr. Stevens he said, "Thanks for helping, Drake. We'll talk more tomorrow."
I nodded and grabbed my bag, knowing that whatever they were planning I didn't want to be around for.
"We're doing what in a week?" My voice rose to an impossible squeak as I spoke. "We're moving?"
My mom looked at me and sighed, "Yes dear, we're moving." It was the first week of summer vacation and Mom decided to drop this bombshell on me. I didn't understand how she could be so calm about it. It was like the damned woman had done this moving thing a billion times before, which in retrospect she had. I hadn't. We had moved a lot when I was younger, but not recently. Dad had promised that we were staying this time- fat chance of that. I barely knew him. He was always at work, since he was some big shot at Whatever-the-hell-the-name-is Corporation. It was why we had moved so many times, because in order to climb the corporate ladder we needed to move. I thought that sunny, bright, hot Texas would be our last stop, but apparently not. Dad worked on the notion that if gets you ahead, do it, no questions asked. And mom agreed.
So damn it, we were moving. Again.
I stormed up the stairs and angrily threw myself at my bed, looking around at my mess of a room. Packing was going to be absolute hell. There were clothes scattered on the floor, half-filled sketchbooks of drawings, and dozens of knickknacks and other assorted things that I hadn't managed to put away. I had actually believed that we were staying so I collected whatever I wanted, knowing that I wouldn't have to pack it up until I went to college or moved out. This was not going to be fun.
"Cecilia Rose, start packing!" my mother yelled from downstairs. Of course I wasn't packing; it didn't take a genius to figure that one out.
Fuck, I hate that name. Cecilia Rose is the absolute worst name in the world. It sounds like some girl from ages ago- the kind that wore big, poufy dresses with horrible hairstyles and sat around doing absolutely fuck all. "Ari, please, mother of mine!" I yelled back, not that she would listen. Ari had been my nickname forever, even though I couldn't remember where it came from; probably when I realized that Cecelia Rose was the worst name in the world.
"Where are we moving to?" I called after a moment of thought. I hoped it was someplace warm. We had spent nine hellishly cold months in Alaska when I was in the sixth grade and I was not doing that again. If we were moving to someplace like Wisconsin, I was going to murder someone.
"Arden Lake, Minnesota," she answered. "You'll like it there; they have a nice marching band. We can sign you up, if you want."
I groaned. Minnesota was just as bad as fucking Wisconsin. But they had a marching band. "If you sign me up for band I'll go." Not that I had a choice in the matter.
"Okay, I'll sign you up!" She sounded happy. She sounded happy. This was the worst thing that could happen. Why was she happy?
I groaned again. Her brother lived in Minnesota, along with his wife and too many children. Wonderful.
I lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling for a good ten minutes before getting up and heading over to my computer. I started to message my friends with the news, but by the time I finished telling the last friend the others had arranged a going away party on the weekend and I was required to attend whether I liked it or not. Oh joy.
I ran my hand through my newly shorn hair, trying to find a way to vent my frustration. I loved my undercut but Mom hated it, saying it was too masculine or some bullshit like that. She had tried to change my mind about it, but when that hadn't worked she tried to bring my dad into the argument. He hadn't been any help to her; he didn't give a shit about what I did as long as it wasn't illegal. Mom would hate my haircut even more if I drew more attention to it.
I typed a reply to my friends with the perfect activity for my going away party. That would get back at Mom for not telling me about the move until now. I could tell that she had known about this for ages.
Besides the idea that I had come up with the party didn't end up being anything special and I was glad for that. Although to be honest I would have been pretty fucking surprised if they had actually put together a real party. There was pizza and a few movies involved, but we mostly hung out in Erin's basement and did absolutely nothing. It was just a normal Saturday evening for us.
"Band is going to suck ass without you, Ari," Jenn said, grabbing another slice of pizza from the box. While most of my friend group was in my section Jenn was the resident percussionist, playing bass drum in marching band. "Especially since we have to deal with Marie now," she added and we all nodded. Marie was last year's clarinet section leader. She was the kind of crazy bitch that wanted complete control over everything and had a tendency to make everyone's life a living hell. The whole band knew that the only reason she had got the spot as drum major was because her dad wrote a huge check to the band program when she auditioned. She wasn't the only drum major, we had three others, but it was up in the air as to whether or not they'd be able to keep Marie in check for the whole season.
"Do you know what the show is at your new school?" Alex asked, pulling a piece of cheese out of his hair. Erin had expertly placed in there twenty minutes ago and we were waiting to see how long it would be until he noticed. Even after two years of marching band it still surprised me that Alex hung out with us. Despite being a male flute player Alex was seen as one of the 'cool kids' in the band. We had all come to the conclusion that he just liked hanging out with a bunch of girls.
I shrugged. "No idea. My mom's been the one talking to the band director, so I've heard nothing."
"Have you looked online to see if you can find them?" Erin asked. When I shook my head she went over to her computer, opening up a webpage. "What's the school called?"
"Arden Lake High School," I answered, reluctantly joining the group by the computer. I didn't really care if I knew about the school ahead of time; I'd figure it out when I got there. It was how I had done things all the other times we had moved. That and I didn't want to do any more than I had to. Call me lazy.
Erin had pulled up the band's website and was slowly scrolling through it. The page had information about the different concert bands and extracurricular ensembles. "Holy shit, they're small," Kim, our senior co-section leader, said after seeing the group photo of the marching band. "They've got to be a third of our size."
"Larson said that programs in other states aren't always as big as ours," Georgie, the resident sophomore, piped in. "Maybe Minnesota just has smaller bands than we do. It says here that they won at state last year, so at least they're decent."
They continued to look through the website and I only half listened to the conversation. I sure as hell wasn't one to get sentimental, but I was honestly going to miss those oddballs. It had been the first time I had spent enough time at a place to make friends, ones I thought would stick with me for a while. Sure, I'd go and make new ones in Minnesota, but fuck, that didn't make it any easier to leave.
"Make sure you let us know how things go for you at your new school, okay Ari?" I looked over at Erin. She looked pretty sad. "We'll miss seeing you in band every day."
"Yeah, if you don't we'll come hunt you down, you little shit," Kim said, not-so-gently punching my shoulder.
I snorted. "Did you assholes really think you'd get rid of me that easily?"
"Oh, darlin', we couldn't get rid of you if we tried."