Warrior Words: Superior beings

It goes by many names: officially, it’s the music adjudication trip; informally, it’s the band trip (much to the chagrin of our choir director); affectionately, it’s BTXIV-Band Trip ’14, the Wilton High School music department’s latest trek into the vast land of symphonic competition, itchy hotel pillows, and trashy theme parks. For a brief weekend in late April, Wilton’s most musically gifted students and their directors (and some truly selfless chaperones) depart from our dear hometown — instruments and concert attire and suitcases of snacks in tow — and hope to return with a trophy, or 10, and more than a few coveted “Superior” ratings.

But this isn’t just the FCIACs or state championships for the oft-forgotten artists — our annual performances, and our success, confirm the legitimacy of the music program at the high school. And when it comes to budget slashing, what’s going to go first? The lacrosse sticks or the drumsticks? Exactly.

Please excuse the cleverly phrased melodrama. It’s probably just my annual late-April competitive nature beginning to stew inside me, masquerading as bitterness. But whom am I kidding? The competition is never too fierce — our past rivals have included misplaced middle schools and obscure Canadian academies — so perhaps our annual “sweep” of the final awards serves only to reinforce our preexisting, albeit subconscious, sense of elitism. (We never seem to win the “Good Behavior” or “Integrity” honors, if that’s any indication.)

Besides, if there’s anything during the school year that gets my inner Warrior pumped up to inexcusable levels, it isn’t Homecoming and it isn’t a pep rally — it’s the band trip. There’s something supremely rewarding in seeing all of our musical ensembles, each member of which is decked out in this year’s brightly colored tee, congregate and scream together over our successes after hours of draining performances. On day one, we’re tenors and sopranos and flautists and cellists and percussionists. On day two, we’re one, big, amorphous blob of obnoxious Wilton pride. It’s beautiful.

Band trip always culminates with a full day at an amusement park, which is always kind of a jarring experience. Gone are the sophisticated musicians in the tuxes and dresses — now we’re twerking with Bugs Bunny in front of a fountain stained with funnel-cake fingerprints, and screaming bloody murder on rickety wooden roller coasters. But we crazy kids have reason to do so — after all, we’ve just been crowned true “Superior” beings, if not “Excellent” or “Good” ones. (I must note here that no one should ever strive to be a “Good” being. Please have more respect for yourselves than that.)

If there’s any perfectly poignant memory I can take away from the experience that is band trip — all right, music adjudication trip — it isn’t the ride on the coach bus or the chaperones taping our hotel room door shut or the sunset meal at the park’s Panda Express. It was a feeling specific to my sophomore year, when the Madrigals had just finished performing our set. We stood with bated breath as one of our adjudicators approached the auditorium stage. We were so full of hope and expectation and uncertainty and dread. We didn’t know, yet, that she’d tell us that we had performed our first judged piece, Eric Whitacre’s beautiful, dissonant, tone-cluster-filled “A Boy and a Girl,” flawlessly. We hadn’t, yet, breathed out in a sort of exhausted and emotional relief, the kind of shocked sigh that only musicians have ever known. That post-performance limbo was perfect. And the feeling afterwards was … superior.

Nicholas Dehn, senior at Wilton High, shares this column with five classmates.