OBSERVED: Windermere band misses Homecoming dance, gains lifelong memories

Windermere High School scheduled its Homecoming dance on the same day as one of the marching band's biggest competitions.

File photo courtesy of Gabriel Cosme.
File photo courtesy of Gabriel Cosme.
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From all accounts, Windermere High’s first Homecoming dance was a rousing success. Video from the Oct. 12 party shows a packed ballroom with futuristic lasers illuminating hundreds of teenagers bopping up and down on the dance floor at the Hilton Orlando.

However, none of the students belonging to the school’s largest organization — the marching band — was there. Instead, they were about 20 minutes away celebrating their own first — a spot in the finals for Bands of America’s Orlando Regional Championship.

For those unfamiliar with BOA, it’s the organization that crowns annual champions in the competitive high school marching band world. Its Grand Nationals, held annually in Indianapolis, showcases the top high school marching band shows in the country.

And in just its third year in existence, the Windermere band earned a finals performance in the organization’s regional competition. When the final scores were tallied, the young band earned an eighth-place finish, besting programs from local schools such as Olympia, Oviedo and Cypress Creek. Windermere’s marchers shared the field with perennial powerhouse programs from Tarpon Springs and Broken Arrow (Oklahoma).

Next month, the band will travel north to bring its show to the 2019 Grand Nationals at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

I’m sure the competition conflicting with the Homecoming dance disappointed a few band members. But as a former marching band kid, I say with confidence that the memories you made at Camping World Stadium that same night will last far longer than any you missed on the dance floor.

In fact, I can’t remember much about my high school Homecoming dances. I’m sure there are photos of those nights somewhere in a box. But of the experiences I carried on from high school, those dances rank pretty low.

Conversely, lessons I learned as part of a competitive marching band program have continued to inform and inspire me — decades after I removed my drum harness for the final time. I can still hear my drumline instructor’s voice in my head and have utilized some of his best lines both at work and with my children.

Among my favorites: Don’t be sorry; just fix it. And, You’re just going to have to ‘come on.’ (Translation: Stop making excuses.)

Truth: Nothing in my career has pushed me harder than the two-a-day practices we endured in the heavy, still August heat in Missouri — all in an attempt to achieve perfection with 12 minutes of music and movement. The words, “One more time,” haunted me at the end of every exhausting day, but I now know intimately the canyon that exists between good enough and great.

Another truth: Spending those hours, weeks and months of a marching band season with about 200 like-minded peers is more than worth it — regardless of whether you win or lose. That experience sharpened my resolve and force-fed me humility. It required me to set aside my own ego for the sake of the group. And nothing is as nerve-wracking as trying to pull off some crazy drum lick with the percussion judge staring at your hands and barking criticism into a portable tape recorder (yes, I’m so old that my judges’ comments were on audio cassette).

And finally, one more: The relationships — both with my bandmates and with music itself — have continued to be a source of happiness long after my marching career ended. 

Next year, I certainly hope those powers that be at Windermere High will check to make sure the Homecoming dance doesn’t conflict with BOA. However, in a year that forced the band to choose, to me, these Windermere musicians got the better end of the deal.




Michael Eng

As a child, Editor and Publisher Michael Eng collected front pages of the Kansas City Star during Operation Desert Storm, so it was a foregone conclusion that he would pursue a career in journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Missouri — Columbia School of Journalism. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his wife and three children, or playing drums around town. He’s also a sucker for dad jokes.

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