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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Student musicians around the country are tooting their trumpets and wearing their band uniforms for this fall's football season. In Portland, Oregon, there's one group of musicians who may be perpetually stuck in high school.

Miriam Widman reports on the Get A Life Marching Band.

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MIRIAM WIDMAN: It's a typical neighborhood festival complete with a marching band, but these marchers are anything but typical. They range in age from 18 to 70, but a quick look shows most are clearly middle-aged. The Get A Life marching band is a group of grownups who played or twirled or danced way back when in high school and they just can't give it up.

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WIDMAN: The band's baton twirlers sewed their own dresses. This season's are tight green short polyester ones trimmed with gold. Get A Life twirlers definitely show the pounds they've gained since high school graduation. There's also a lot of grey hair, not to mention a few bad knees and hips, which is why band co-founder Bob Pulido likes to keep the marching band's appearances to shorter distances.

Mr. BOB PULIDO (Band Co-founder): If I can get two mile parades or less we're happy. When I work out a contract I make sure they feed us.

WIDMAN: Pulido is also the band's resident jokester.

Mr. PULIDO: How you get in this band, your waistline has to be bigger than your inseam.

WIDMAN: His vast repertoire is very slapstick and he's come up with lots of mottos for the Get A Life band.

Mr. PULIDO: I rather miss a beat than a chance to eat. Would rather miss a note than a meal. I rather drop a tuba than my fork. You dig what I'm saying?

WIDMAN: In their day jobs, Get A Life marching band members are everything from homemakers to scientists. For some folks, like Debbie Sloop, it's a family affair. The clarinet player has a brother who plays trumpet in the band and her parents are in the percussion section. Getting into the band isn't tough, Sloop says.

Ms. DEBBIE SLOOP: The requirement would be preferably that you had played in high school marching bands, you know, and it's so you know how to march. But any military experience helps with that too so.

WIDMAN: Is there an audition?

Ms. SLOOP: No. Just show up, read the music, you're done. Get in. Play, have fun, that's it.

WIDMAN: Having fun is really what the band is all about. The musicians practice only occasionally. The twirlers and dancers are careful to do some warm-ups, says Sy Behren. Behren was a baton twirler in high school some 50 years ago, but she performs as a dancer in the Get A Life band.

Ms. SY BEHREN: We do have conditioning classes. The dancers do have classes to keep in shape and to limber up so we don't hurt anything on the parade route. But I feel very comfortable with it. I'm tired when I get home, but okay.

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WIDMAN: The Get A Life band started in 1994, but it's not the first adult marching band in the country. That honor goes to the Second Time Arounders in St. Petersburg, Florida, that celebrates its 25 anniversary next year. Get A Life co-founder Pulido says his band has close ties with the Florida one and that in both groups you can't play if you're too concerned about cellulite.

Mr. PULIDO: Yeah we're older and we're fatter and we're getting crinkly, but we're having fun. You can hear it on the parade route.

Unidentified Woman #1: You guys are lovely.

Unidentified Woman #2: Thank you. Okay, one, two, three, smile.

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WIDMAN: Get A Life band members say they're having a better time now than when they were in high school. For one, high school bands are often judged. Get A Life members are just out to have fun. And as these baton twirlers explain, they often surprise the crowd.

Unidentified Woman #3: Then they start to look and they go oh my god, she's got gray hair. We're they age.

Unidentified Woman #4: Then they get up and start to clap too.

WIDMAN: This year the band took its first international trip to Victoria, Canada. Next year they travel to San Antonio. Want to get in on the fun? The Get A Life marching band is always looking for high school band retirees.

For NPR News, I'm Miriam Widman in Portland, Oregon.

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