What I've Learned and What I Hope I Do

This weekend I did something I have never done before–missed a performance of the UDMB. While there are band directors out there who do this regularly, I have never condoned it. But every once in a while something extra-ordinary occurs and it requires such a sacrifice. In this case it was the rare occasion of Professor Parks’ 30th anniversary as director of the UMASS Minuteman Marching Band—my alma mater and my mentor.

So after incredibly long thought and discussion, Jim Ancona agreed to take the band to the NCC Festival without me (we made a deal that he would miss whatever was necessary to attend the 30th anniversary celebration of Thom Hannum’s tenure at UMASS). So the UDMB went to NCCs and I headed north.

Yes, I played in a 225 member alumni band. Yes, I absolutely destroyed my face playing 1st trumpet for the first time in years. And yes, I enjoyed myself. But more importantly, I learned some very important lessons!

  1. Cherish every moment you have with people because you never know when you will see them again…or if you WILL ever see them again;
  2. Savor every experience! For band is about experiences–and being band director is about CREATING these experiences that young men and women will never get anywhere else.
  3. Make memories–they will last forever.

The entire day and the evening dinner celebration for Mr. Parks was emotionally draining. We laughed, we cried, we smiled, and we cried again. As with the UDMB Alumni Band, there were people there who had graduated just last spring and those who graduated in the 1950’s or even earlier. We sat and we told stories. And regardless of age everyone had the same stories. Everyone experienced so many of the same things–the only part that was different were the names of the people!

In band we learned to be respectful, committed, dedicated, and loyal. We learned to love ourselves, each other and love what it was that we did with total abandonment. We learned to give 100% all the time and realized that our actions affected everyone around us. Yes we learned to perform–but we also learned to live as better people.

When asked to speak at the dinner I was not sure where I should begin. But during my small speech I keyed on one specific thing: I learned so much as a member of the UMASS Band and there is simply no way to thank Mr. Parks for all he taught me. But if I can create a place in the UDMB where MY students can experience what I experienced, then perhaps that is a way that I can thank him.

I hope that over the years I have done this. You see, it is, has always been, and will always be about THE BAND. Nothing else matters more than the students!

And in the words of Mitch Albom, “The secret of heaven: that each affects the other and the other affects the next, and the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one.”