You’re in the entrance tunnel to the field, listening to the performance of the group before you. The cavernous dome reverberates with the booms and crashes of the percussionists, reminding you of its sheer size.

The wait feels like a thousand years; you pray for the 8 minutes allotted to the current band to quickly pass. “It’s just another run,” you hear your director say, in an attempt to soothe any nervousness arising within you and your peers.

Finally, the line of students begins to move. Despite your countless visits to this dome in the past, you still inhale in awe as you pass through the tunnel onto the field area, revealing the jumbo-tron you always remember, and the crowd that you’ll never forget.

You get beside the large canvas prop, embellished with a large picture of an Arabian building at Night. The other band finishes their show to applause, receding through the exit tunnel and onto the side stands with heads held high.

The enormous stadium lights, far above you like the stars on the canvas, emit a steady buzz.

“3…2…1…go!”

Just as the crowd is on the brink of settling into silence, you and your peers hurry onto the field, causing them once more to erupt into applause. The front ensemble swings their keyboards into place; the canvases are positioned in a large, sweeping arc; the haughty Sultan is carried onto the field on the Magic Carpet.

You turn to your partner at the canvas and bump fists with her, then kneel at the starting position.

The crowd quiets down to dead silence. It’s about to begin, it’s almost time to go.

You are left with only your thoughts, your beating heart, and the ever-present buzz of the lights above.

Finally, the first notes of the synthesizer reach your ears as you slowly rise and turn to face the back of the field.

“Joining us from Cedar Park, Texas, please welcome the Vista Ridge High School Marching Band!”

You set off on the best 8 minute journey of your life.