Not too far from the backyard

By Praycious Wilson-Gay
Teen Editor-in-Chief
the Durham VOICE

Teen Editor-in-Chief Praycious Wilson-Gay

My grandmother was a majorette for her high school band.  Just like her, I wanted to lead a band.  My journey to the front line began in the backyard with my grandmother attempting to teach my cousin and me how to twirl a baton. Since we just didn’t have the fingers for it, we decided to go with becoming drum majors.

I grew up with a love for bands. Although I don’t participate in a band program (my band career took a hiatus after middle school), I would still love to become a drum major. Since I’m not physically involved in the band “scene” anymore, every chance I get to watch a band perform, I take it.

When my cousin, Paul Newman, joined Hillside’s Marching Band, I was more than ecstatic. It meant more band competitions, more football games and more parades to go and enjoy the band.

The band I have always looked up to and had the highest expectation of is North Carolina Central University’s Sound Machine.  My experience at NCCU started when I was in preschool at the Child Development Laboratory.  My teacher would take the class out to listen to the band practice in the afternoons.  It was one of the highlights of my day.  My mom says that she would have a difficult time getting me to leave the curbside.  She would have to wait for a break in songs.   I never realized how much I loved NCCU’s band until NCCU marched in the 2011 Rose Bowl Parade. I can remember reading every article and watching every news report leading up to their performance.  Once they flashed across the screen, tears starting rolling down my face —simple tears of joy.

NCCU's award-winning South Machine in action. (Staff photo by Praycious Wilson-Gay)

On Oct. 16,  the annual “Battle of the Bands” was staged here in Durham. In preparation for this band extravaganza, I started on Friday with a football game at Southern High School where I jammed to the band hyping up the crowd. I made sure to catch the documentary “A Cadence Unheard,” on FOX50 the following day.  Then made my way to the stadium early on Sunday for the best seats I could get to the show.  Bands from Atlanta all the way to Washington, D.C., showed up and showed out!

This year’s Battle of the Bands was packed with bands and spectators.  Some of the high school bands I enjoyed were Highlands Spring HS Marching Battalion, Hillside High School’s Band, Southern High School’s Band and Hoke County HS Mighty Marching Band. These are only a few of the bands that attended, not to mention the special performances from Southwest DeKalb High School, Winston-Salem State, Howard University, Cold Steel- NC A&T drum line and of course North Carolina Central University’s Sound Machine. From the food to the band’s performance, this was an awesome way to round out my weekend!

It takes only one note from the clarinet, one beat of the drum, one step of a drum major to make me feel just like a preschooler on the curbside or a granddaughter in the backyard twirling and marching to a recording of a band playing my favorite riff.