Memory Stories‎ > ‎

Reflections of the Band of Gold Experience, by Troy Fontaine

posted Jul 22, 2012, 7:09 AM by Largo Gold

It is said that the stimulation of the senses is what revives memories. For me, there are two things that always bring me back to the Largo Band of Gold. The first is anytime I hear Hey Jude on the radio (even the Beatles’ poor original rendition…Jr.’s arrangement sounded so much better in the field show). The second is the smell of Greyhound bus fumes… it never fails to take me back to packing up and pushing out of the parking lot for yet another competition/performance, another adventure. For each of us, no matter what year it was, or what Band of Gold we were in (for each was unique), we have both common and personal memories. Probably the most common memory we shared was

what the public knew us best for…winning! For one brief moment in the summer of 1978, on a soccer field in Holland, we were the best in the world. I will never forget the hero’s welcome we received returning from Europe as World Champions. The police escorted buses with every marquee of every restaurant and business between Tampa airport and the packed Largo High football stadium beaming with congratulations, the banner headlines, the letter from the President … no Olympic gold medalist, Super Bowl Champion or Word Series winner ever had it better!

As far as personal memories, I was lucky enough to be one of only twelve that got to wear the white gauntlets, stand on the podium, and “flip the switch” that ignited the big gold machine. For that unique perspective I will always be eternally grateful. What was supposed to be a rebuilding year turned into one of the greatest years in the history of the BOG. Standing on the second base line in Al Lang field on a cold night during the Florida Tournament of Bands with guard captain Ann Klein and band president Todd

Hartzel, we waited anxiously to hear the scores for the concert,parade and field show competitions. The Grand Champion would not host, but compete for the first time in the Festival of States that spring. It was going to be extremely close. As they were read I kept telling Ann and Todd to “add up the numbers.” The three of us had marched up, taken the 1st place plaque for the parade and we were just marching back to the band when they announced the scores for the field show competition. Under my breath I told Ann and Todd, “We just took Grand Champion.” We performed a perfectto the rear- march, all the while Ann asking quietly, “Are you sure, are you sure? Add it up again...” Some months later I hoisted the 40 lbs. (plus) Governor’s trophy over my head to show the BOG they were the new National Parade Champions at the Festival of States. So much for the “rebuilding”year...

Through all the competitions and performances, the band camps, the practices in the hot sun, the Mag Sound’s of Gold, the gold medals, trophies and plaques… it is the memories of the people I cherish most. My senior year I started dating the 1st chair clarinet player; Deb and I just celebrated our 15th anniversary and have two wonderful children. Outside of my parents, Bob Cotter taught me more about life than anyone I’ve known. As drum major every morning we had this unspoken ritual, I’d come in his office before school, we’d discuss the world events for 2 to 3 minutes (politics, sports, history, etc.) and then we’d talk about the agenda for that day’s band practice. We never planned that morning meeting; it just happened and it “clicked.” I look back and realize the band worked so well that year because he and I worked so well together that year. He taught me the right way to lead. While Joe Donahey was a juggernaut during band practices, it is only now that I’m realizing the depth of the conviction and courage of the man; even today he continues to be an inspiration. There were so many others, from Len Fisk to the Band Moms to the band members themselves. We all learned so much (the band was just the vehicle)… from self-discipline, to goal setting, to hard work and determination. I know personally, more so than anything else, the band taught me how to perform well under pressure, to concentrate on the task at hand and to pay attention to the details. This has paid BIG dividends in my career and in life in general.

Lt. Col. Troy Fontaine, USAF Test Pilot

’80 Band of Gold Drum Major