Mercer Island Band Performs at Seahawks Halftime, Saxophonist Reflects

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The drum line waves to the cheering crowd. Photo courtesy Joe Chen.

If you can’t already tell from this article’s byline, my name is Alex Levin, and I am the Sports Columnist for the Islander.

Being one of the newer, less experienced members of the editorial board, my editors (naturally) enjoy teasing, mocking and tantalizing me.

However, of all the topics they poke fun at me for, I am mainly ridiculed for two things: my obsession with writing articles about the Seahawks and my infatuation with the school marching band.

To spite my editors, this article includes both.

The MIHS marching band was lucky enough to perform at the Seahawks halftime show in their Thursday night clash against the Los Angeles Rams. The show was dedicated to former Seahawks owner and Mercer Island resident Paul Allen and consisted of a mix of his favorite songs.

For any normal band member, this was clearly a profoundly exciting experience. But for me, it was absolutely insane.

From the moment I heard the news of the gig to the moment I stepped onto CenturyLink field, I was buzzing with a mixture of thrill, fear and hysteria. Here is the lowdown.

The Departure – 11:40 A.M

Transporting 300 teenagers anywhere in an organized fashion is not exactly possible, so by the time I got to the band hallway, it was a chaotic mess.

We were given many different sets of instructions at that time, but what I took away from them was to grab my instrument and uniform, get something to eat and quickly hop on a bus.

So with a saxophone in one hand and a sandwich in the other, I left maroon and white behind and started thinking blue and green.

Inside CenturyLink – 12:30 P.M.

A short, somewhat anxious bus-ride later, we arrived at the Seahawks’ doorstep.

After an exceedingly slow-moving security briefing, we dropped off our bags. Just the knowledge that I was in the same building as the Seahawks players was enough to get my heart racing.

Next to our tables was a tempting buffet, but it was not time to eat yet. It was time to rehearse.

Pregame Warm-ups – 2:10 P.M.

Being in the stands at CenturyLink field is one thing, but being on the actual field is entirely different.

I had never realized how large the actual stadium was before stepping onto the field; and believe me it is ENORMOUS.

As the band stepped on to the turf for the first time, we gathered by the 50-yard line to warm up and play through our show music.

Of all the people on the field, throwing passes in the middle was none other than all-star quarterback Seattle icon Russell Wilson. 

I resisted the urge to run up and ask him for a high five, as I’m sure everyone else did. However, I could see that Wilson, as well as the band, was determined to put on a show.

Waiting… – 3:15 P.M.

After our rehearsal we were taken back to our area for dinner. We now had about two and a half hours to kill before we had to start getting ready.

This time was mostly spent eating, exploring the building and playing MarioKart.

For me, being the football fanatic I am, I spent the time waiting for the actual football game to start. There were monitors for us to watch once it started even though it was happening live about 200 feet away from us.

I was so hyped up at this point, I was craving adrenaline. Watching the game made me realize how eager I was to be on that field.

More Waiting… – 6:20 P.M.

With seven minutes left in the first quarter, we put on our jackets, warmed up our instruments and headed down into the tunnel. We were inches away from the excitement. I was shaking.

We constantly heard the roar of the crowd, but we were not sure if the reactions were good or bad.

I was too caught up in the moment to realize the significance of what came next: I was about to step on to CenturyLink field in front of thousands of fans.

The Real Deal – 7:05 P.M

The first thing that hit me was the blinding bright lights that beamed directly onto the back sideline. Following shortly thereafter was the noise.

And it was LOUD. Like, eardrum-shattering loud.

I absolutely couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Rams players were wandering about the sideline right in front of me.

Two time defensive-player-of-the-year Aaron Donald was having a conversation with menace 255-pound linebacker Clay Matthews.

Greg “the leg” Zuerlein was practicing kicking field goals inches away from where I was standing.

I was pulled out of my trance as the game clock turned to 0:00. The band stepped forward onto the field. It was really happening.

Note by note, step by step, minute by minute, the physical performance flew by in an instant. But the moment after we played our last note, I looked around, listened to the crowd and soaked it all in. That moment lasted forever.

I don’t think I had ever felt as incredible as I felt then and there.

The MIHS band takes to the field, broadcast on the big screen. Photo courtesy Joe Chen.

Post Game Report – 7:15 P.M.

After a series of smiles, high fives and “we did it!”s, I finally came back down to earth.

We did not get to stay for the rest of the game, which was a little disappointing, but at that point it didn’t matter. I couldn’t complain.

I had enjoyed every minute of the entire excursion, and for the entire bus ride home I was on top of the world.

And now for the rest of my life, I not only bring with me a love for saxophone and a passion for the ‘hawks, but a lengthy story about the one time I got to cherish both.

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