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The West Point Band marches the Graduation Parade. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mikki Skinner

The West Point Band marches the Graduation Parade. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mikki Skinner

This year’s graduation week was a memorable one for the West Point Band. Graduation week is possibly the most important time of year for us, and each one is memorable in its own way. Grad week 2013 was most memorable for the weather. It was extremely rainy and unseasonably cold for both the graduation parade and the graduation and commissioning ceremony. It was so rainy for the graduation parade, that our drum major made the decision to do the parade without woodwinds. Woodwind instruments don’t work very well in the rain, and even more importantly, need to be serviced by our repairman before they can be played again. With so many jobs back to back, it is not an option to have the woodwind instruments out of commission for a couple of days while they are all serviced.

The West Point Band during the "Sound Off" sequence. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mikki Skinner

The West Point Band during the “Sound Off” sequence. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mikki Skinner

The weather for the graduation and commissioning ceremony was a real shocker for the band. Usually we expect to show up at Michie Stadium very early in the morning while it is still cold outside. By the time the ceremony is over, it is usually quite hot. In fact, last year it was in the 90s and very muggy. Several attendees had to be taken from the stadium with heat related injuries. This year it was in the upper 40s and raining off and on through the entire ceremony. It is not often that I find myself digging out long underwear and warm dress gloves for events in late May, but this was certainly a day where I did.

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The ceremony itself was a tremendous success. The band was well rehearsed, and had a well thought out plan to deal with our printed music in the rain. Usually we would use music stands and a pre-made book of music. Those books are not water-resistant in any way, and would have been useless after being in the rain. The band all played using marching lyres and flip-folders, which encase the music in plastic sleeves. It is not a totally waterproof solution, but much more effective than nothing at all.

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The band, our equipment, the graduates, and their friends and family all got wet. But, the elation on the faces of the graduates was truly heartwarming. If you would like to see more photos of the band in action during graduation week, check out our flickr site.

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Words by Sgt. 1st Class Sam Kaestner
Images by Sgt. 1st Class Willie Calohan, and Staff Sergeants Chrissy Clark and Mikki Skinner

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