The final goodbye: instrument turn-in after four years in band

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Jason Tidd, senior in mass communications, performs during the marching band’s halftime show of the home opener in Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Sept. 17, 2016. (File Photo by Emily Starkey | The Collegian)

I flick the latches, open the case and pull out the silver baritone.

A whole 30 seconds: That’s how long it took to say goodbye to my baritone Wednesday night. Its name was Baritone 187.

Instrument turn-in is typically an emotionless event. No tears are shed. No memories shared. Just get in, get out and get on to the next person in line.

If it weren’t for band, I probably wouldn’t have come to Kansas State. It was something about all those concert band clinics in high school and band director Frank Tracz’s “leave it better than you found it” that convinced me K-State should be my home for four years.

Four years. Four bowl games with the marching band. Four trips to the men’s basketball Big 12 Tournament with the Cat Band.

Four Augusts ago, I didn’t even know how to hold a baritone.

Over Christmas break, I bought tickets for myself and four of my siblings for the Oklahoma game. It was their first K-State basketball game; it was my first game where I could sit down, because the band never sits.

Did you know Wabashing is harder than it looks? I’ve worried so much about memorizing how to play the part after the key change, but I’ve never really learned how to actually Wabash. But I did my best to teach my siblings how to move to the music.

The cloud of shredded Collegians fluttering to the fight song above a raucous student section looks especially beautiful from behind a baritone. Even more so when you put work into producing the newspapers.

While Cat Band’s senior day game against Texas Tech was special, it still didn’t feel like it would be the last time I would stand on the court at Bramlage Coliseum until graduation.

Before the game, I did something for the first time: I walked all the way around the Octagon of Doom. I wanted to see all of it, instead of only the angle from the band section.

It’s hard to predict what I will remember from the days of cheering on the Wildcats from the band sections in Bramlage and Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

Will it be the music or moves from the halftime shows? My favorite Cat Band tunes? The upset and come-from-behind victories? Playing “Wabash” as students rush the court? Hours of bus rides? “One more time” yelled across the practice field? High marching with pointed toes when climbing stairs and roll stepping when walking in-time with a friend? Frozen valves in the winter and burning metal in the summer?

I remember the smell. The following is an excerpt of what I wrote after the Texas Bowl for my hometown newspaper, The Iola Register, where I focused on uniform 144, which I wore in parades and at games for four years:

“I wiped the sweat from my brow with what once were white gloves. I unzipped the pants, feeling for the last time the relief of the pressure on my chest as a snug band uniform peeled away from my sweaty body.

“I breathed in the smell of band: sweat, metal, valve oil and cotton, complete with five hours of pregame preparation, marinated in Houston humidity, baked for three hours in the Texas Bowl and flavored with four years of some of my best college memories. Never again will I smell like that.

“I buttoned up uniform 144 and took the Sudler Trophy pin off the chest. The next time I go to a K-State football game will be the first time I watch and cheer for a Pride of Wildcat Land halftime show. I hear they’re pretty good.”

The one-point loss to West Virginia in the men’s basketball Big 12 Tournament was the last time I played “Wildcat Victory,” “The Wabash Cannonball” and “Alma Mater” on Baritone 187. Who knows when I will play them again?

Jason Tidd is a senior in journalism. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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Jason Tidd
Jason Tidd graduated from Kansas State University's Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communication in May 2017. He was the spring 2017 editor-in-chief, fall 2016 news editor and spring 2016 assistant news editor. While at K-State, Jason played baritone in the Pride of Wildcat Land marching band.