The Pond Creek-Hunter Panther band marches through Alva, Oklahoma, to celebrate Northwestern Oklahoma State University's homecoming. Photo by Becky McCray. Used under the CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

There are sounds, aromas, attitudes and scenes that make the start of school so special.

But nothing gets the heart beating quicker than hearing the sound of a high school band echoing through the hallways.

Most bands are pushed to a far end of the school, or maybe into a separate structure altogether. But the daily rehearsals, along with marching practice on hometown streets, make everyone look up to see and hear the strains of the school fight song and other tunes quickly learned.

With today’s popularity of percussion, it’s easy to hear the drums as they pound out a snappy cadence. Brass horns fade in and out as they turn corners, and the unmistakable tweet of a whistle removes all doubt that fall football season is just ahead.

Even in elementary schools, the hallways get that same treatment, as newbies on their clarinets, trumpets, saxophones and trombones play simpler tunes that will get better and better as the year progresses.

There’s no quick route to being an excellent player without lugging through beginners’ band. And, there are no more satisfying faces than kids playing their first concert, which will be just before Christmas.

The great thing about high school musicians is their interest in other school activities. The same kid who plays a sousaphone might also wear an FFA jacket, or play volleyball, or hold down the right side of the offensive line in football.

All of it goes together during these opening weeks of school. But nothing says “welcome back” better than walking down a school hallway and hearing the band striking up a B-flat concert scale, followed by the first sight-reading of a new tune, and a few days later a familiar song that makes all listeners stop and pay attention.

This week, from wherever you are, stop and listen for the sounds of your local high school band.

It’s still the heartbeat of a hometown.

Rudy Taylor and his family publish three newspapers in southeast Kansas.

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