My informant RA is a 22-year-old senior at USC and a member of the Trojan Marching Band. She was also a flute section leader in her high school marching band in Chicago, Illinois.
RA: “It was just something we would do at the end of every rehearsal. Like we’d get, we’d meet up with the section after the band director dismissed us and just like give announcements like we do in the TMB and then we would all do our little cheer when we were holding our flutes and then we would say:
Row. Row. Row. Row.
Kayak. (the word is elongated to ‘Kaayyaaak’)
[With each “row”, the person speaking will move their flute side to side in a motion mimicking paddling. While saying “kayak” the person will change to move their flute horizontally in front of themselves and dip each end left to right in a motion mimicking kayaking. When saying ‘flute salute’ the person will thrust their flute into the air twice with their dominant hand.]
RA: “Typically, the section leader would start [the chant] and then the whole section would join in.”
The ‘flute salute’ chant is a fun unifying activity for the flute section of a high school marching band. The chant likely serves the purpose of creating section pride by using specific gestures that only a flute (or a clarinet) could do easily. The chant is also a fun way to end practice helping to ensure that flute members keep their interest in the band and section. Marching band sections spend a lot of time practicing with each other so it is crucial for the people within each section to get along and, at least, partially enjoy their time in the band. Chants and other unique quick activities that solidify the status of a section as a whole are therefore so important.