Band Camp: one of my favorite times of year!

In a couple of days I will begin my 18th season as director of the UDMB, and the 25th band camp of my professional life will be underway.  25 times I will have stood in front of a group of “rookies” and teach them to say “HUT!” real loud; 25 times I will have listened to the first sounds of show music coming together; 25 times I will have stood on top of a metal platform baking my feet AND my brain while watching my students bring life to the dots on a piece of paper.

And for the 25th time as a band director I will cherish every drip of sweat, every sore and aching muscle, every late night drive home to face a lonely look from my dog.  I will cherish these things because it’s Band Camp—and I LOVE BAND CAMP!

Perhaps for some a statement like the one above is absurd.  If so, then they do not understand and most likely will never understand.  Band Camp is the equivalent of spring—a time when new life is born; a sense of excitement is in the air.  Our work is realized: drill and music begin to develop…for me watching a show I’ve written “come to life” is nothing short of miraculous.  Something one created on paper comes “alive” on a  football field.  And over time the “newborn” grows into a “mature being.”

Right…you think I’ve finally cracked up.  Quite the contrary.  Band Camp is the start of a new year for band directors–a chance to begin anew; a chance to work with lots of people doing great things.  And all these people (for me, over 330 this year) join together and begin the creation of an art form that puts music in motion.

In a few days I will begin my 25th band camp as a band director.  I will put in 20 hour days; I will be exhausted. I will laugh; I will cry.  I will watch my students find joy in achieving their daily goals; I will smile when my students cheer as they achieve each milestone along the way.  I will sweat with them outside on the turf, and I will freeze with them inside Loudis Recital Hall.  I will crawl into bed each night and drag myself out of it each morning.  I will abuse my prescription anti-inflammatory pills in order to be somewhat physically limber enough to keep up with my students during breaks of frisbee and football catches.  I will find joy in every wrong note played when it is played with commitment and gusto, and I will celebrate when my students “fix” the wrong note on their own.  At the end of the week I will watch my students perform all they learned and I will applaud them the entire time.

To my colleagues who share in the joys of this time of year–our smiles say it all.  To my colleagues who do not share these feelings…..perhaps a re-evaluation of your career is in order.  Band Directors should have their own type of Hippocratic Oath that includes “Do no harm.” For if WE, the band directors, are not “in it with them” from start to finish, we do harm.  For me it is simple:  when it becomes a JOB it is time to step away because all I am doing is hurting my students.

Band Camp–a period of time when committed band directors take on the world and the world cooperates.