He asked them to play The Marine’s Hymn. Really? The Marine’s Hymn? That piece is so basic, so boring to practice. Did he expect them to give their all for that? To perfect that song? Well, whatever he expected, it wasn’t fair. The band sounded awful, and he did not mince words when telling them so. Some of them cried. Most of them got angry.
They gotta really, really angry. How dare that asshole just waltz into the club, dismiss all of their mores and methods and insert his own alien way of doing things? Well, there was a reason he felt justified. At the beginning of the year, he gave them an option: Do you want to go to Nationals, or do you want to focus on having fun and making memories? Almost all of the band members chose Nationals, but they didn’t truly know what they were signing up for. So, when he stood at the front of the room and told them they were wasting his time, all while smiling coldly as he always did, it made them angry.
And, they turned that anger into fuel, into energy to put towards getting better. They practiced harder than ever, intent on showing him they could play. Some of the shy ones were so motivated, they even got up the nerve to ask their still-loafing senpai to practice! He worked with them all, section by section. It was weird; none of them really “got” what he was trying to improve in them or get across to them. But they still did what he asked of them, and as hard as they could. Unwittingly, the band had come together under the common goal of showing this guy he was wrong about them. Their anger unified them.
The day of the ensemble came. Everyone was nervous. Everyone remembered the last time they were all gathered in this room for this reason. But, this time would be different. They didn’t even know how much better they had gotten. The band played the Marine’s Hymn. It played it, and it was good. Individually, each member was giving their all, their technique mysteriously improved from last week. Each section knew its role within the whole, and the sound they collaboratively produced was harmonious. They felt proud of their play.
Suddenly, as the music dies down, we are taken out of the practice room. The shot fades from the interior of a classroom to a blue sky full of wispy clouds. Cut to a nearly full bucket of water placed underneath a slow-dripping faucet. We see a large bead collect at the spout and drop onto the clear, still surface of the water. It makes a few ripples in the bucket. Those quickly dissipate and the surface of the water becomes still once more.
Like any piece of music, The Marine’s Hymn had to end. In the grand scheme, the ensemble performance only lasted for a moment, like the ripples made in the bucket by the water drop. But, in its impermanence, that moment gains its beauty, its meaning. For that moment, the Kitauji concert band played in harmony. Each member was striving their hardest toward the same goal, and they strove together as one. It was an ensemble.
Then, it was over. The afternoon performance was one drop in the bucket of water that is the memory of each student. Ripples of its impact rise and fall. Other drops will fall on top of it. Yet, that moment transcends momentariness. As a collective memory and as an image impressed deeply onto the hearts of each band member, those ripples live on long past when they are no longer present on the water’s surface. The pride the students feel from that experience will manifest itself years, decades after it has taken place. It is only because the moment was fleeting that it moves their hearts.
Was it good enough for him, though? The playing wasn’t perfect, he told them with that same smile widening across his face. It wasn’t perfect, but the important thing was…