Peeing Blood


It should be pretty obvious that peeing blood isn’t right. We are not supposed to pee blood. However that is one of the many health consequences of playing drums in marching band – at least it was for me. Here’s the scoop.

During my freshman and sophomore years of high school I played the tenor drums in the marching band. Our school had ‘trios’; basically three toms hung on a harness. The drums were made by Ludwig and apparently from the Heavy Lumber line. These ancient relics were ridiculously heavy. Basically picture carrying around three tree stumps and you get the idea of what these drums were to carry and march with. The shells were probably on the order of 30-ply and the hardware seemed to be cast from lead. Absolutely ridiculous. The brunt of the weight was carried by the lower back and shoulders but a lot of weight was resting against the abdomen area as well.

Marching band is the butt of many (often well-deserved) jokes but in truth it is lot of hard work. We would practice before school, during school, after school and of course on weekends! Dedicating your prime years of life to hustling around on a field or marching down a street in a band takes a good deal of dedication (or parental threatening (how can you get into Harvard without marching band on your resume?!?!?!)).

So there we were, out in the sun, rain, sun, more sun and blazing heat practicing music and motion. At any opportunity I took the drums off and set them (or dropped) on the ground. My back was always hurting during this time and I am sure that to this day I suffer unduly from being in band.

During one late afternoon or weekend rehearsal (I forget which it was), we took a break from practice on the field to hit the head, get some water, stretch – whatever. I went to the boys bathroom to take a piss and lo and behold I am peeing blood. Well, that isn’t right is it? I was otherwaise healthy so I assumed that this could only be caused serious, traumatic, internal injuries caused by carrying the Ludwig tree stumps around.

I chugged a bunch of water and reported the findings to the director and drumline folks and kept practicing however without the drums on. I just marched around and played ‘air drums’. I am sure I would have preferred to go to the doctor or at least go home but marching band is a bit like football in that you need to be tough and macho; so I endured.

Luckily this was an isolated case and an eye opener. I modified some things to be a bit more comfortable (add padding to harness; change height of drums) and was more conscientious about the drums and how they related to my health taking them off at EVERY single opportunity or relieving some of the weight whenever possible by placing them on a trash can, bench, flute player’s head or whatever was significantly solid and convenient.

If I had to do it all again I happily would with the following changes: I would take the drums apart and use any tool available, be it band saw, router, jig-saw, planer, sander, circular saw, drill – whatever, to remove some material from the drums. The drums were so damn thick for no reason at all. Removing wood from the drums would lighten the load tremendously. I would also replace all the steel bolts and hardware with aluminum or titanium. Every little ounce adds up. I know at one point I weighed those drums and I do not remember the figure but it was astronomical.

As a funny side note, a couple of times I somehow managed to ride my bike to and from school with those drums; I have no idea how the hell I managed that. Must have been the same adrenaline and “youth-stupidity” that had me back on the field  after peeing blood.

Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I went back after graduating and helped out for  the next two years as a percussion instructor:

One thought on “Peeing Blood

  1. I was in the Independence marching band in 85-86… we performed at the Fiesta Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl Parade in Tempe, AZ. During the parade the temperature was between 106 and 109 degrees, we were in full uniform and had all of our equipment. I wasn’t cool enough to be a drum player in high school, I was relegated to the brass section (mellophone’s represent yo!), but I got to know and march with some amazing drummers. We had a girl playing tenors that probably weighed about 100lbs soaking wet in the uniform… during the parade we had 2 people drop from heat stroke… the girl was too tough for that though… as I marched behind her down the parade route I realized that she refused to drop out, and the other drummers refused to let her fall so they regrouped their ranks with a snare player on each side of her and for about half of the parade they used their inside hand to carry the tenor drums for her so that they could play their part one-handed and she could march and play the tenors without having to carry the weight of them at all. It’s not peeing blood, but it is revealing of the character that it takes to actually be a part of a marching band.

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