Tag Archives: high school marching band

Trapped in a Tuba Case


AX: I think a long long long time ago, one of like the brass instrument players got stuck in a tuba case. So in our band, we always had one case open in the storage area: I didn’t know if it was accidental or purposeful. Sometimes, we’ll have tiers of levels, like a trombone case open here, and a tuba case open there. I was like, is there always an instrument missing or something? And the people went oh yeah! It’s so that we can make sure that nobody is in there. And I was like in a case? And they said yeah! A long time ago, some kid fell asleep in his tuba case, and without knowing it, some of his band mates closed it and buckled it up. And this kid is still dead asleep by the way, like in a coma. Must have been a rough day at practice. When he woke up, he was like what the hell? And this was like midnight, so nobody was on campus, so he was just banging on his tuba case for help. In the morning they found him, and then they opened it, and at that point his tuba was right next to him. He was actually traumatized, so traumatized that he left his tuba and case in the band room, left and never came back. So now everybody leaves their cases open, including flutes and clarinets. I was like Jesus Christ! And it’s so funny because during practice, we joke about it. People actually sit in the tuba case, so we joke about closing it, like it looks empty to me! If that happened to me, I would resign myself and say this is how I die.

Context: AX is a freshman at USC studying English—she’s a fellow student in our folklore class and knows the material well. She grew up in Chino, a small suburb outside of Los Angeles. She’s of Asian descent.

AX: “I’m pretty sure it’s not real because like… all night? I don’t think it happened. I think it’s made up so that people are responsible with cases, so maybe it was made up by someone to force good instrument etiquette. It’s less of a horror story and more of a joke story. Now that I’m telling it to you, it sounds way more messed up than I thought.”

Analysis: The story is definitely a legend. It takes place in the real world, but it may or may not have happened. AX herself questions it. Though being a part of a high school band may not be a paid position, this story very clearly fits into the realm of occupational folklore as explained by Robert McCarle. It serves to enforce rules involving cases, but also acts as a catalyst for jokes. The joking that band members engage in about closing the tuba cases help reinforce a sense of community: members only “get” the joke if they’re familiar with the tuba case story, separating fledgling band members from the seniors. In the moment, it’s funny, and members seldom stop to think about the horrifying implications of being stuck in a case overnight. The story also provides context for the occupational custom of leaving cases open. The legend includes a leap in logic that AX acknowledged: how can you close a tuba case without seeing a person? It’s a part of the story that, being so well known, wasn’t challenged until the informant told the story outside of their circle.

High School Marching Band ‘Flute Salute’

Informant Background:

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’)

Flute Salute.

[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.