Homecoming–a reflection on my 16 years.

After 16 seasons at the helm of the UDMB I have seen people come and people go.  I have made life long friends with former students and am grateful for their constant and unwavering support.  Every year the band is different–not in a negative sense, but in a true sense.  As with anything in life the moment a single aspect of it changes or is altered or is substituted the “thing” or event is different.  It is that simple.  As an example, if every single member of the 2010 UDMB returned in 2011 except ONE person, the band would be different.  The entire whole of it would have shifted.

I say all of this because every UDMB I have had the privilege of conducting has been an outstanding organization.  And there have been pinnacle moments over my 16 years that shaped the path the program has taken:

  • 1995: The first year.  Just the arrival of myself and Jim Ancona forever changed the landscape of the UDMB.
  • 1998: The first year we hit 300 members and “Lost In Space.”
  • 2001: Band Day w/UMASS and “God Bless The U.S.A.” – enough said about that one!
  • 2002: Bands of America Grand Nationals Performance and “Evita”
  • 2003: Bands of America Eastern Regional Performance and “Bohemian Rhapsody”
  • 2005: “Bond,” “Children of Sanchez,” and “El Gato Triste”  WOW!
  • 2007: “Malaguena”
  • 2008: “One” and “Pictures At An Exhibition” at UMASS
  • 2009: “Pressure” and “My Man” combined w/UMASS (student and teacher in their original roles–who knew George and I would never get to do that again…)

And that brings us to 2010.  The season started out with a band camp that was 2 days AHEAD of schedule.  The work ethic was astounding–the band ALWAYS works hard at camp but something about this year was different.  We were CLEANING the last 2 days.  Unheard of!

Game after game the band just kept getting better.  And with the passing of George Parks there was an accelerated drive to perform; to leave no note unplayed, no audience member unmoved.  The invisible curtain that separates the performance field from the audience was not taken down–it was shredded on the night of September 18, 2010.  And it has not been in place since!  The performances at USSBA NJ States on October 24, 2010 took the band to a whole new level of entertainment–they simply rocked the joint!

Having the Alumni Band back in the stadium mixed with the “baby band” (as the UDMB is affectionately called by the band alums) was so very emotionally moving.  Generations of UDMB members playing together–and everyone being part of the one family at the same time.  That was special.

But it was during yesterday’s Homecoming post-game show that brought it all home to me (no pun intended).  At first I was dancing, clapping and cheering along with the alumni in the stands.  But then I stood a little bit away from them and just watched THEM watching the UDMB–so many expressions!  There was the obvious enjoyment of the show but there was so much more.  Faces showed the memories of when THEY were down on that field and the longing to return to those times.  I saw tears of happiness and I saw smiles of knowledge–knowledge that what THEY did when they were here was living on and prospering in the current band; knowledge that the UDMB is a place where you learn so much more than playing your instrument and marching your dot.  Knowledge that they were part of something they can never explain to others and that they will ALWAYS be part of it, just as IT will always be part of who they are.

And the UDMB cranked, and I mean CRANKED! B-52’s–outrageous!  And as the alumni filed onto the field for “In My Life” I got to hug and say “Hey!” to so many of them–and it was an incredible feeling that I am unable to properly articulate. Suffice it to say, it felt good.

Homecoming–an opportunity to come “home” for every university alum.  But for the UDMB Alumni it is an opportunity every year to come HOME and be in the band ONE MORE TIME.

Travel well my friends and always remember “…I’ve loved them all.”


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