Let me tell you about the Spirit of Gold.

This week is all about breath. How much power can you harness in a single second of time? Can you stretch that second, suspend it until there’s nothing left? Your lungs will burn and your shoulders tighten, but when you exhale, a high, pure note soars across the sky of the stadium. You listen for its impact, only to realize it’s been swallowed by a tidal wave of sound that rushes by you, around you, through you. That second-long breath becomes a roar of sixteen beats, and you give until there’s nothing left. The drum major’s hands stop. The last note dies away, but the walls still echo. You turn in time with the people around you; together, you take the next step.

I always say that I stay in band because I love what I do.  I love playing my instrument, being part of something bigger than myself, I love SEC gameday, and I love putting on a show one set at a time, only to have it all come together at the performance.  And that’s why I’ve stuck with band.

But really, it goes much deeper than that.  Band is a family – especially our band.  So when I talk about taking that next step together, I really mean it.  We’ve been through three director changes in the past two years, but we’ve kept putting shows on the field.  Our alumni came back voluntarily to work the high school marching invitational we host while our band performed in exhibition.  Sophomore year when I broke down crying on the sidewalk after rehearsal, I came home to four or five messages from different people who wanted to know if I was okay.  And that’s what makes the Spirit of Gold so special.

In seven hours or so, I’ll step onto the field for the last time, and that breaks my heart a little bit.  The eight straight years I’ve spent in marching band have utterly and completely made me who I am today.

But I know that with the SOG, even when everything else changes, the people stay the same.  With that in mind –

Ms. Cindi, Queen of Bands, thank you for sticking with us.  Thanks for knowing our names, and solving any problem we could possibly come up with, and being so humble, gracious and kind in every situation.  We appreciate you so very much.

Mr. Murphy & Brad, thanks for taking on this season with us.  You led us so well, and we are so grateful that you are here.

Colin, my little, thanks for being the only other person in the band who takes the SOG Sibling program seriously.  But more than that, thanks for being my friend.  College wouldn’t be the same without you at all.

Piccoloves, past and present, wow.  Y’all are my section, my people, you let me be me, and that means more than I could ever put into words.  To the alums & past piccs – Caitlyn, Emma, Emma, Lucas, Paige, Tricia, Bobby, Catey, Neevi, Zoe and Rachel – thank you for being so sweet to me when I was a tiny freshman, and for being terrific leaders for our section.  Ryn, Bethanie and Barbara – your friendships have been so dear to me every year.  I’ve loved having three whole years to get to know you.  Ethan, Kirsten and Jerico – y’all are so FUN.  You make me laugh and you have stayed positive through two of the craziest years possible, which makes you absolute rock stars.  Erin, Maia, Raven, Braelyn, James, Jessica Jr. and Katie – I could not have asked for a better group to spend senior year with.  You all have some of the brightest personalities I’ve ever come across, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for each and every one of you.  Every single year, I’ve thought that we’ve had the best group of freshmen in our section, and you’ve all been such a joy to grow alongside.  Y’all blow my mind with your community and camaraderie.  Never change.

And of course . . . Jessica, my best friend since day one of band camp freshman year, thank you for being my person.  Thanks for reading my mind and having the same brain as me.  Thank you for being there for every twist and turn in these four years, and letting me come alongside you for all of your ups and downs, too.  The heart you have for the world around you and your determination no matter the circumstance inspire me to no end.  This journey absolutely would not have been the same without you.

Spirit of Gold, I will always love the band.

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