Reliving, part 2

I wrote in this post about the question that brought me up short at my 20-year high school reunion:  “If you could relive any moment from high school, what would it be?”  I couldn’t come up with one at the time, and I committed to take some time, reflect, and find a high school moment worth reliving. 

Here ’tis.  There’s a lot of set-up, but it’ll be worth it.  If this bores you, thanks for indulging me anyway.

My Junior year we acquired a new band director–Costa Geros.  Our previous director was mild and kind, but Mr. Geros was a firebrand with a Mediterranean temper.  Think “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” but mix in the Marine Corps with trombones instead of rifles and you get Costa Geros.  He took band seriously, he took winning seriously, and he scared us to death.

Up to that point band had been a safe place for musical people who also happend to speak Klingon and understand higher math.  We weren’t there to be challenged–we were there to have a group that got us and a place to sit during lunch.

So when Mr. Geros wrote a show for us that summer with an opener that took the whole week of band camp to learn, we thought he was crazy.  And he probably was.  Here’s the opener and why it was so hard:

We started in the upper left corner of the field, oriented at a 45-degree angle in this formation:


I think the song was called “Firebird” or “Phoenix” or something sexy and exciting like that.  Anyway, we moved the whole thing forward following our 45-degree orientation:


to the center of the field


and then rotated the formation


until we were facing the stands.


We worked and worked and worked to get the thing to hold together, and reviewed the film of our halftime shows as critically as the football team would review tape of their games.  It was a sweet move, hard as hell to pull off, and we knew it.

We also knew it didn’t really matter to anyone but us.

Halftime at South football games is about standing in line to get a hot dog, and the band’s job is to make it noisy enough so that you have to shout your order to the concession lady.  Our parents watched and applauded kindly, but it didn’t really matter to anyone if the right side of our formation collapsed toward the center as we marched to the center mark or if the sousaphones were out of tune.  We were ignored.  We didn’t mind, but we knew we were ignored.

Costa’s bravado went beyond his show writing.  He scheduled us to go to band festivals that required actual interstate travel.  Prestigious festivals where really good bands showed up.  Our last festival of the year was at North Carolina’s Elon College in mid-November of 1985.

So here’s the moment:  we’re at the Elon College Festival finally on the field after watching some really good marching by other bands all day long.  We’re really just glad to be there with these other groups, and figure we might do well enough to not embarrass ourselves in front of them.

The opener starts up, and we head off on the 45-degree trek to the center of the field.  About 3 seconds into the rotation move, I panic and figure we’ve flubbed it somehow because the sound is all wrong.  I can’t hear the rest of the band and there’s noise everywhere.  It isn’t until the rotation is halfway through and I get a view of the crowd that I figure out what’s happening.  Get ready–

Everyone in the stands is on their feet, jumping up and down, and cheering at the top of their lungs.  They’re going nuts.  

I literally teared up and had to pull myself together to finish the show.  We had no idea that anyone understood what we had done, much less appreciated what it took to do it.  But for a moment, we were the main event and the buzz of the evening.  For a moment, a whole lot of people got us and thought we were something.

So there it is–my moment from high school worth reliving!  I know there are more, and I’ll dig around for them, but for now it’s so satisfying to embrace the idea that high school wasn’t a total and complete waste of my time.  I’ll have to modify my “I hated high school and my life didn’t really get started until I was 27” mythology now, and that’s a good thing. 

It’s a good discipline to relive, rehearse, and remember good moments from the past.  It goes a long way toward keeping self-pity and self-hatred at bay.  It humanizes us to ourselves.  It redeems our personal history.

I’ll have to work more of that into my schedule.

If you don’t have a high school moment worth reliving, you need to get one.  I’d love to hear it!


9 Responses to “Reliving, part 2”

  1. 1 Jim September 10, 2007 at 3:58 am

    Great story. This is a really good thought process. Maybe high school wasn’t as bad as I remember.

  2. 2 melissa March 17, 2008 at 5:58 am

    Hey! I was in the band during that time. What a memory. We had a great band. I would love to get together with some of the band members. What is your name? My name is Melissa Leonard (i’m a jones now). I played the mallets for VHS from 82-85. Write back!


  3. 3 June 5, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    I remember and would love to have some audio or video of the times in band at good old VHS with Costa as our band director. We were the first on his agenda to march off the corner, way before sullivan south. does Mirada ring a bell. We were the BEST. Email me back Melissa i remember you.

    Elizabeth Liz McCain Clarinet & Rifle

  4. 4 Danielle. May 18, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    im in costa’s band now and he’s not changed at all.
    if you all want to find him and catch up he’s probably at the school looking for a field show for next season.
    go to Cherokee High School, Rogersville. and i think we might be playing soputh again this season so you could go to that game.

  5. 5 aerial September 10, 2009 at 3:39 am

    words can not explan geros

  6. 6 aerial September 10, 2009 at 3:43 am

    Mr.Geros is a lovely man who would give up a leg and an arm for you. I love him dearly and hope he comes up with many many new rutens. We love you Mr.Geros!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. 7 sally October 17, 2011 at 11:29 am

    It does my heart good to read these wonderful word about my brother. thank each and everyone of you.

  8. 8 Tina R. Cruz April 23, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Not sure what site I am actually posting too but googled Costa. I was in the band the first yr. Costa and Dale Horset came to VHS after graduating from UT. Our performance that yr. won every award Elon, Johnson City etc. and we got a standing ovation every game we performed it at. We played Fiddler on the roof and the flag team did a dance/walk like performed in the movie Fiddler on the roof. It was truly amazing!

  9. 9 Jason May 1, 2015 at 2:05 am

    I was a freshman at Sullivan South during the trip described above. I was there and would have to agree that this was one of my most memorable moments.

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