I loathe the end of the school year. I cannot stand goodbyes. It has gotten to the point that I don’t even go to commencement because I do not trust that I won’t break down into tears. Frankly, I hate endings. There is, however, one moment I relish even less:

Student Staff Leadership Announcement Day

The students wait with baited breath for the Facebook post to hit. They get worked up, filled with anxiety, desperate for the results of auditions and interviews. I, however, sit and stare at the list for days on end. No matter what I do I am going to disappoint some of my students. Some will take a deep breath when they don’t see their name on the list and are ok. Some will become so angry they will throw a chair through a glass door (yes, this happened once). Some will be furious with me – they think I hate them, or at the very least, don’t like them. Some will quit band altogether.

  • I sit and stare at the list of names knowing that I cannot give leadership positions out just because a student is a senior and I want to do something nice for them before they graduate.
  • I sit and stare at the list of names knowing I must be a teacher and do what I think is in the best interest of each student applicant.
  • I sit and stare at the list of names knowing that if my students don’t learn what it is to not get something they want while still in college they may NEVER learn that hard lesson.
  • I sit and stare…and stare…at the equivalent of a surgical waterproof bandage placed over a wound that must be removed after 7-10 days. A bandage that has almost become one with the skin. You want to rip it off fast like a bandaid but you can’t. If you do you run the risk of tearing the skin and ripping the wound open. So you proceed gingerly and carefully and slowly….and the agony lasts “forever.” Finally it’s off and all you can do is sit back and hope for the best.

Ladies and gentlemen: being in band is not, has never been, and will never be about securing and holding a leadership title. Sure it’s cool. Sure it means you have a chance to practice teaching. Sure it means you’ve been given responsibilities. Sure it means you can have an impact on the program.  But you can do all those things WITHOUT A TITLE!!

  • Being a member in your band means setting an example for others. You don’t need a title to do that.
  • Being a member in your band means helping the person next to you, teaching the person next to you. You don’t need a title to do that.
  • Being a member in your band means being responsible for knowing your music and drill. You don’t need a title to do that.
  • Being a member in your band means having an impact on other members, your institution, and every person who ever sees the program. You don’t need a title to do that.
  • Being a member in your band is cool in and of itself — and don’t let anyone ever tell you any differently! (…and you don’t need a title to do that.)

Sometimes being a leader is harder than usual…and this is one of those times.

Congratulations to all who received positions on the 2017 UDMB Leadership Staff. Congratulations to ALL the applicants too — you put yourselves out there and took a chance. That is a bigger accomplishment than anything else!

We see everything from our own perspective first. If you are like me you also take a moment to view things through the eyes of your “audience.” It is this perspective that can be the most revealing…if you allow it to be.

I am a very lucky person. Some would say blessed, others would say successful or fortuitous. My humble hat has always been glued to my head…frankly, at this point it is difficult to tell where the hat ends and my head begins. I have always put the band, DMA, whatever, first, and me second. It’s just how I am. Perhaps it is my deep rooted insecurity, or heck, maybe I’m just too pessimistic to enjoy the “NOW.” <oh, you didn’t know those two things about me — insecurity and pessimism — did you?! …oops.> Whatever it is, it is who I am: others first, me second.

This past Friday, however, I did something I have never done before–I pursued “rubbing elbows” with a celebrity. I actually got myself right up against the metal barricade in front of my students, had my phone camera “at the ready,” and was not going to miss getting a selfie with Joe Biden!  Nope. This time I was going to swallow my fears, be selfish, and GET THAT PICTURE!

But I skipped a lot so allow me to backtrack…..

Joe Biden, former Vice President of the United States of America, is also an alum of the University of Delaware. I have had the privilege of meeting him before: 2 football games (one in which I was able to chat with him for 15 seconds at the conclusion of Band Day halftime) and 1 basketball game that resulted in my taking a photo of him with the UD Pep Band. At the same time, perhaps more importantly, when I was able to meet and speak with his son, Beau.

I thought it odd at the basketball game when he came up behind me, gave me a hug and kiss and said, “Heidi, the band is always fantastic!” Odd because how on earth would Joe Biden know my name??? I brushed the thought aside immediately because the answer was obvious: someone told him my name prior to him coming over to the band. Still, it was overwhelming to say the least!

Back in January I was asked to put the band back together for a welcome back rally of sorts at the Wilmington Riverfront. He and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, took the train home from Washington, D.C. one final time after the 2017 Inauguration Ceremony. Between undergrads and alumni we were able to get over 200 bandos at the event.  It was one of those “positively life-changing” experiences that folks would not have had if not for band! When I was asked to scrape together what I could for the public announcement of the new Biden Institute at UD I knew I had to make it happen.

100 UDMB members stood on the The Green behind Memorial Hall on a gray, cold, raw Friday at noon. “Delaware Forever” and the “Fight Song” echoed up and down the grassy expanse, sound bouncing off the Georgian brick buildings. Over 2000 students were in attendance–all yelling “Biden Is Back.” It was a great event to usher in the new initiative at UD and in many ways, excite the student body about getting “off your rear and making a difference in the world!” <Biden’s words, not mine.> The air was electric despite the November-like conditions in April. The event concluded with another round of the “Fight Song” and then I saw it–I saw the way The Man exited the stage….and I was all over it!

I seconded guessed myself a few times, thinking, “Let the kids get up there.” “You look like a fool trying to get a selfie with him.” “Why do you even want to do this?!” Finally I shut the voice down. Screw it. Be one of the masses. He doesn’t know you, he doesn’t care. It’s part of the political game.

Secret Service — WOW! Those boys are serious dudes! My hands were freezing and I kept switching the phone between them and shoving the free hand inside my coat pocket….and I was being watched like a hawk! Again I pushed the thoughts of backing away from my mind. He was three people to my left, it’s now or never……..

I extended my right hand has he approached….he looked at my hand and began to reach for it…he looked up with that Joe Biden smile, you know, that million dollar smile we’ve seen for decades…we made eye contact…. and his entire face changed from one of political persona to one of “Hey! I know this person!”

The next minute was one of him going on and on and on about the band, about the program I continue to provide, about making sure I was not going to stop doing what I was doing.

I stood there with a big, stupid smile on my face saying ‘thank you’ and ‘ok’ and ‘yes sir’ because I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO! All I wanted was a selfie with Joe Biden and I got pulled into a freaking bear hug!

I’m still overwhelmed by the entire moment. I was at an event with a man known around the globe–a man who has done more with his life than I can even begin to fathom–and HE pulls ME into a hug after going on and on about me and the UDMB!

Perspective. Starred Thought: “You will never know the impact you have upon another person.” Perspective.

…I still haven’t gotten a selfie with @JoeBiden though…

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You Never Know…but sometimes…

Posted: November 23, 2016 in General

Those of us in the education world have been told over and over again (if we have been lucky) that we will never know the depth of impact we have upon another human being. Our world is one of delayed gratification. While I loathe to bring politics into this post there is no question that the “trickle down” effect aptly describes what my students in the UDMB experience. For those of us in the business of education that is mixed with providing entertainment for others know that we will never truly know the impact we have upon another person…except in those very rare, serendipitous cases.

Saturday, November 19, 2016 was the final UD home football game. It was Senior Day. That day each year is hard enough to get through but when you couple it with being 11 days post op from shoulder surgery, temperatures that start in the 50’s during rehearsal then soar into the 70’s by kickoff and then drop into the upper 40’s midway through halftime…challenging may be the best word to describe the experience.

With 3 minutes left on the game clock a decision had to be made: post game show or no post game show. Radar showed a massive storm cell over Baltimore heading in our direction. Winds were already gusting as strong as 30 mph. Forecast was for 45-55 mph winds once the storm front arrived…and all of that was about 40 minutes away. We decided to cancel the full band post game show and move directly to the traditional Senior Show followed by “In My Life.” It was becoming more and more dangerous to stay in the stadium.

When everything was over, photos taken, tears shed, hugs given, everyone raced for their cars or the buses and Thanksgiving Break was underway. It was a lackluster farewell to the seniors of 2016…but most certainly chaotic. A word I believe is appropriate for this particular graduating class.

Later that evening I received an email from on of my percussion staff members. He wrote to tell me that while the seniors were performing he saw a lone football player, still suited up, standing in the end zone. He was alone. And he was watching the senior show. He approached Jason when the seniors were finished, and introduced himself. He was #14: Simba Gwashavanhu. Simba was also a senior.

Simba asked Jason if he would thank all the seniors and the full band for a great four years. He went on to say how much he appreciated and enjoyed everything the band did.

To the outsider it may not seem like much. To others it may seem unimaginable. To me it is the purest example of: “You have the greatest opportunity of anyone else in your school to have a positive lasting impact upon the lives of others.”

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and thank you Simba (#14). 15129668_1013920045384814_3324670015785741082_o

A personal note from me to the UDMB and all members of the UD Blue Hen Nation (this includes the community, et al)–

What’s done, is done. At this moment and for the remainder of the season as well as the immediate future, it matters little how any of us feel regarding the firing of Coach Dave Brock.  There are only two things that matter:

  1. the constant and unwavering support of the UD Football Team;
  2. the constant and unwavering support for UD Football.

These are listed in my personal priority order.

We, the fans, tend to forget that college football players (college athletes for that matter) are STUDENTS…they are 18 – 22 year old YOUNG men (and women)! They attend classes side by side with REGULAR students. They are not any different than the average 20-year old who walks across The Green, grabs a coffee at Trabant, eats in the dining hall, or crams for an exam. They are, simply put, your typical college student with a gift/talent for competition utilizing an oblong projectile.

I know I am supposed to refer to the members of my band as “students,” but I am of that age that I see “kids.”  Yet, when I was their age I was ready to take on the world! I had responsibilities equal to almost every adult I knew, and certainly did not think of myself as a “kid.”  However—at this moment in time, the members of the UD Football Team are, indeed, kids.  Many are angry, upset, hurt, and confused. They do not know what the future holds for them.  They do know one thing however: they love UD Football—and we **MUST** support them!

I have been at the helm of the UDMB since 1995. I have been witness to the phenomenon called UD Football since 1984 when I was a member of the UMASS Minuteman Marching Band.  I was in AWE of the game day experience at UD!!!  Nothing like that existed at UMASS. Each time “Delaware” was placed on the UMMB schedule we were excited beyond belief because we KNEW it was going to be the best experience we had all year.

After that I would receive calls from the then director of the UMMB, George Parks, with regard to my show designs for his band:  “Heidi, it’s a Delaware year. You have to write your best!” And, of course, I did.  After that it was the 16 year relationship between the two bands — the likes of which no other bands will ever experience….ever.

My point is simple:  I LOVE UD FOOTBALL AND THE GAME DAY EXPERIENCE!  There is nothing like it out there.  A UD Football game day begins with tailgating 4 hours (or more) before kick off—complete with linen table clothes, bottles of wine, extraordinary meals, the lots filled with people wearing Blue and Gold, and the unique band “traditions” only found at UD:  parking lot parades, concourse parades, pregame, band members running the stands 3rd quarter, drum line concerts 3rd quarter under the East Stands, and of course, a full post game show.  If you know UD Football you know the 1st Down Cheer!

We, as the Blue Hen Nation, must remember that UD Football is a way of life! But more importantly, we must come together for the future of UD Football and for the future of these incredible young men.

All of us—whether UDMB members, cheerleaders, dance team members, mascots, current students, alumni, family members of any and all thus mentioned, University faculty, University staff, community members, donors, or just Blue Hen fans—simply **MUST** be there to cheer on these young men!  
They need us now more than they have ever needed us before!

I, for one, will be out there, making sure the UDMB rocks the house! I, for one, will be out there, cheering on the team. I, for one, will be out there, living the dream of UD Football.  I hope you will join me!

#GoHens!

Those of us who are engaged in the fall edition of pageantry have been “at it” for a little over a month thus far. Each summer, as the start date for Band Camp creeps closer and closer, my level of apprehension is in direct proportion to the timeline: the closer we get the more apprehensive I get. It is a mix of anticipation, excitement, and primal terror!

This year was no different than any other except for a few personal reasons:

  • coming off a much needed sabbatical
  • fully recovered from a second hip replacement
  • finally getting on top of my health and feeling AWESOME

I started camp, however, the same way — apprehensive — but at least I was in a more positive frame of mind.

As camp progressed I did, however, notice a distinct difference between what I perceived the trajectory to be this year versus what it has been for the last…I don’t know so let’s say “number of years.” This could be directly related to my attitude and my approach or it could be something else or it could be a combination of many things. Regardless, something was different.

Rehearsals have been productive; only two performances in–with only one of them being the full show–and the energy is skyrocketing. Communication among the student leadership is topnotch–stronger and more proactive than previous years. In short, there just seems to be a whole lot of JOY out on the field, as well as OFF the field!

One of the reasons may be the inquisitiveness of the student leadership: they ask PROPER questions; they are engaged; they “do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether they want to do it or not, and without being asked.” They are not afraid to inquire about WHY of things in order to understand more–which brings me to the reason for this post.  I received an email from a student wanting to know why I felt this year was different when compared to last year. More specifically, the student still sees many, many mistakes that need to be corrected. To use the student’s own words:

 “I’m curious as to what you see from your point of view that we don’t. This has just puzzeled me as there is still so much room for improvement for this band.”

The student is, of course, correct!  It’s September 19th and we haven’t even scratched the surface with regard to cleaning. There is SO much to be done.

It is about perspective; it is about experience. It is not something I expect anyone IN the band to understand. When you are WITHIN the experience you cannot also stand OUTSIDE of it and “see” the “bigger picture.” If you could…the whole world would be a much different place!

If you place 100 senior band members in a room and ask them what was their favorite year, odds are in favor of over 98% of them saying “their freshman year.” Why? Simple–it was Christmas for them and nothing is better than Christmas! With that said, one of the hardest learning curves for anyone is to put Christmas away and begin the journey of moving quickly from stage 2 to stage 3.  <To understand these references click here.> Stage 3 is challenging for many reasons because the personal reward is indirect. Asking college students to push through their I/ME stage of development is HUGE! Many do extremely well, others can struggle. By simply asking the question, it is clear this student is on the way to stage 3–only a little push is required!

But I haven’t answered the question…or have I?

Every band is different. The minute you change one single thing, even if it is the EXACT SAME BAND with only ONE person not returning and no new people being added, the composition of the whole has changed! My dear friend George Parks, former director of the University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band, used to ask the rookie class “How many of you have seen the UMMB? How many of you want to be in THAT band?”  Virtually every hand would shoot up into the air…and then he dropped the most unexpected statement ever: “Well, you can’t be in that band. That band is GONE! But YOU will be part of making THIS year’s UMMB great!” Of course, no one in the rookie classes ever understood what he was trying to convey. To use my good friend Rob Hammerton’s words:

“Odd thing to say, if you want to rev up your troops on the eve of battle … but his point was: this year’s band is not last year’s. It’s not even the same as last year’s.”

It is best not to analyze the situation, merely to accept it. The 2016 UDMB is NOT better than other years, it is merely different. It is the differences that can make something seem more magical than something else. This does NOT mean other bands were LESS–for every band I have ever had the privilege of working with has been “the best” as far as I’m concerned–it merely means that the proverbial stars have aligned ever so slightly more and there is something intangible about the composition of the various elements that make this band seem to be “more special.”

Of course, it is still early in the season and anything can happen…but I have the feeling this group won’t need to be coaxed to the edge and won’t need to be pushed–they already know how to fly!

Been a number of months since I’ve posted and, as it is with everyone else in the world life has certainly kept moving along.  Today I started the last summer workshop I share with Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser.  It is always a bittersweet weekend–we love hanging together, working with young adults, etc., but we both know this is the last stop before the world crashes in upon both of us and we split up for the next 10 months.

But that is for another post….

As I was teaching the first 45 minute block outside in the “land of heat and humidity” (My God it was like teaching in a steam room!!) I noticed a man standing off to the side just watching…and smiling. I knew instantly who it was and waited for the right moment to interject within my instructions “Is that Mr. Glen Rhine back there?” His smile filled his face, he nodded and bowed. At the first moment of “#3 teach clean everything I just taught you,” I went over to say hello to my old friend from my days in the Buccaneers.

Back then, in the 1980’s I watched a man spend all his time working on the small things: hand positions, guiding techniques, foot placement, horn angles, etc.  The nitty gritty of the activity. Back then I thought he was missing it–I thought he had no idea what he was talking about. We needed to work on the BIG stuff, not the fact that my index finger wasn’t exactly next to my middle finger. Who cares about that? No one can tell!

Oh what I didn’t know! Oh if I knew then what I know now!!!  Success is in the details–the nitty gritty details.  Sure the band is loud but the trumpets don’t stand at attention the same way. They look sloppy.  Fix that, add the sound and BOOM!  Greatness!!  …if only it were that simply, but I know you get the point.

Glen and I had lunch together for the first time in 30 years. What a great hour it was to catch up with him, to hear he’s still out there teching high school bands, to hear that he’s even more passionate about not just fixing the nitty gritty but in teaching the students WHY and HOW–not just WHAT!  He sat there and he told me about how much he has learned since taking yoga and how it has helped him to break down and analyze backward marching–how each and every muscle in the foot needs to do certain things in order for the backward initiation to occur.

I sat there in amazement and joy as I listened to a 66 year old man speak with such passion about teaching high school band kids how to march.  And there was the lesson: He said,

“Heidi, at our age we don’t NEED to be doing this! We do it because we WANT to.”

Do I NEED to be out there with sweat running down my entire body as if I was standing in a shower? No.

Do I NEED to be out there not only in the heat, but the rain, the cold temperatures, and even snow, jumping up and down like a crazed person trying to get a college marching band to wake up and put out some energy. No.

I do not NEED to do any of those things….I WANT to do them.   Thank you Glen.

 

A few days ago I drove — yes, me! — I drove up to NYU for my post op appointment with my surgeon, Dr. Patrick A. Meere.  Just four weeks and five days since a second hip replacement and I was driving in complete comfort!  For whatever reason this time around things have been going along much easier. There is much less pain–in comparison to last winter there is virtually none. Progress is faster than I could have imagined–already sitting on the spin cycle at the HAC a few times each week….not long sessions mind you but spinning nonetheless.

The only issue is stamina….in that I have none. This is to be expected after (yet again another) major surgery. No matter how good I feel, the body is on its own healing schedule and there is nothing I can do to speed that up.

The journey–it has not been an easy one. The revolving wheel of deterioration-surgery-recovery-“feel awesome”-deterioration… it got old a long time ago. The journey is not just one of the physical however. It is also one that is mentally driven and emotionally challenging. It has also opened a window into the very fiber of my being that has allowed me to realize just how much I truly can take. Each time as I’ve gazed through this window I’ve seen much more than I expected: not just my true sense of strength and resilience, but how all of it is connected with the people who have traveled this path with me.

Many times I have quoted the first two stanzas of Rudyard Kipling’s The Law of the Jungle. There is no question that I have learned more about letting the pack be my strength these last few years than any other time in my life. The pack has taught me to ask for help when I need it and to do nothing more in return than say “thank you.”

The future–let’s see…picture if you will a relatively small physician’s office. We’re talking the size of my living room folks. After you are asked to walk out of the exam room toward the door so your gait can be assessed, you turn and stop. To your delight you see a massive smile on your surgeon’s face. He asks, “How long now?” You respond, “”Four weeks and five days.” He shakes his head in disbelief and says,

Let’s go look at joint #4.”

…not funny.  I mean seriously, this is getting way out of hand!

Fortunately joint #4 is not too bad yet and I should be able to keep the addition of more titanium to my body at bay for a while…..I’m hoping a few years…..my surgeon said nothing….

Oh…..Meere has taken the lead.