Friday, January 09, 2004

Have you ever had a conversation with a 2 year old before? I have, and it is pretty interesting. Yesterday, Christopher, my son, and I had our first back and forth conversation. That is to say that in the past he has asked a question and then I responded. Yesterday, he asked, I answered then he had a follow up question. It was so cool! You never really know what they are saying or understanding until they ask a follow up question. Now I know he understands and the can't wait for the day that he can tell me when he is sick and we not have to figure out why he is crying. Later!!

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Guess where I was on Saturday, Jan. 3rd at about 9 o'clock or so? Do you give up yet? I had the honor of traveling with our award winning Marching Band from East Burke High. They got a personal invitation, sight unseen, as far as their field show, to perform at a Carolina Panthers NFL Football game as they hosted a Playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys!!!

Words can not describe what I was feeling. I was just as nervous as the students. I did not even think about myself being nervous until we were standing in the tunnel right under the stadium! As we were standing there, the students were exteremly quiet. I believe that it had not even hit home for most of them of what they were about to do until the Panthers Team Mascot came by and high fived the band members as they waited. Then some turned pale, others were looking off in space.

Then it happened, they began to open the big door! We could see through a tunnel and see the field. Then we heard the 80,000 or so fans in the stadium and it was loud. Things began to go through my mind. Were the students going to freeze? Would anyone in the stadium be able to hear this small band from a High School from the foothills of North Carolina? And finally, how was I going to get to the other side of the field with so many photographers from all over the world there? All questions that would soon be answered.

I began my way around those photographers, all busy at the time, watching and shooting the Panther Cheerleaders who were performing close by. I would soon find out that we were really close to the action as the Cheerleaders exited the field, the nearly ran over me. After figuring out what was going on, I followed the cheerleaders to the sidelines as I figured they knew how to get around all the cameramen.

The "Top-Cats" went over and got set up to cheer some more so I decided to take in what was happening. You never want to just jump in feet first and be in the way. It was a privillage to be on the field, and I was not going to do anything to mess that up.

After a few seconds, I worked my way to the edge of the field of play and shot a few plays of the actual game. It was funny though, as I was standing behind some other cameramen trying to shoot video through them. Then the Panthers made a great play on the opposite corner of the field. All of a sudden, we had any spot on the sideline that we wanted. All the photographers took off running for the other end of the stadium. After a few more long range shots, I remember why I was there and looked at the clock. We had 14 seconds and the Marching Cavaliers would be on the field. I started getting a few shots of them standing far away on the far side up against the wall. I for a moment, felt like they had got the bum deal, I was standing on the sidelines, watching/working the game like a pro. All they were doing was standing up against a wall and waiting and getting more nervous.

Ok, here is the deal, most people who go to high school football games, see a show! The band always has 10 mins or so to perform and show their stuff. Tonight, they got 6 mins! That means getting on the field and getting off with their equipment. So when you figured it all up, they were going to have about a 4 min show. Hey, who cares, it's the NFL, where are the other bands that got invited. Oh wait, we were the only ones invited to play! I think all in all, if they said the band could play for 30 secs, that would have been alright too!

So, here come the Cavaliers!!! The mad rush was on, luckily, I had already seen the Marching Cavaliers perform several times this year. First thing I knew, was stay off the field. These guys are all over the place! There is no way to know where you can stand unless you have practiced with them for many days. Second, as we were waiting across the street on the Panther Practice field, the students had performed a few run-throughs. I was prepared, what I was not prepared for was all the extra people on the sidelines still shooting film.
I figured that the cameramen and photographers would have taken the session off and the field would have looked more like a high school halftime show. This was not the case, they had cameramen all over the place and cables were everywhere on the ground. The good part of this was that the band was shown on the big Jumbo Tron TV's at each end of the stadium. They performed as they have all year long, Perfectly. They sounded great, looked great and had a great time. I enjoyed the the fact that the band members were playing their hearts out to a show that they have played many times. The fact that they know it by heart is the reason why I caught several shots of their eyes wandering around gathering as much of the glory as possible with out missing a beat.

I know how they felt, I was nervous myself. I even had the thought that I was not sure if any of my pictures were going to look good. As a photographer, you must have a steady hand. I could feel my nerves shaking inside. The performance went like a slow motion film. That was an exteremly long 4 mins. I knew that this was a chance of a lifetime for the students and myself and I wanted to make sure as much of it as possible was captured. When they were finished playing, the crowd cheered. Apparently, this small group from eastern Burke County can make a difference to 80,000 people!

As we were riding home, the students finally had time to realize what had just happened. Being on the Band Directors Bus, Mr. Berry showed a tape of the performance that the Panthers had recorded. This was the same as shown on the big screens. The students shouted out as they saw themselves on TV and were amazed at how close some of the shots were on their friends. Mr. Berry even got in on the act of blurting out a name or two. This was a night to remember and students were finally able to enjoy it. The memories that they have will stay with them forever! In years to come, the words on the street will be, do you remember the year that the Marching Cavaliers got to perform before the Carolina Panthers in a Playoff game? I sure know what my answer will be.

My final thoughts are that I am extremely appreciative to the band and especially Mr. Jon Berry for allowing me to tag along. I never would have believed it as school was letting out for Holiday vacation that I would be standing on the sidelines of a Panther Game and that I did not have to sneak in.