How To Face Adversity…With Class, Dignity and Respect

I learned a simple lesson a long time ago from my parents: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.  I, like most people in society these days, struggle with this.  We like to complain–actually I believe we tend to relish it at times.  We “believe” it puts us on a higher level than the people causing what it is we are complaining about.  We are, of course, merely lowering ourselves to their level when we do this–the complete opposite of what it is we are hoping to accomplish.

I am not talking about ignoring situations that need to be addressed, nor am I saying that all complaining is inappropriate and we should just roll over and take whatever the world hands us.  I’m saying there are times to complain and times to simply stand up tall, smile knowing that you have a different set of standards that you are most proud of, and to perhaps, turn the other cheek.  Again, it all depends upon the situation.

I learned another lesson, along the same premise of the one my parents taught me, from my dearest friend who departed this world far too soon.  He taught me (and many others) to always have class in everything we do.  We may not understand everything about a certain situation and to act in a classless manner only exacerbates things. He taught me there are always two sides to every story; to take time to examine a situation from all angles; to remember that the actions of one represent the views of the whole.  (And for the most part to remember never to throw cheese cubes….but that’s a story for another day.)

Yesterday’s game against Del State was one for the record books.  A beautiful morning, a cloud covered afternoon rehearsal (how one gets the worst sunburn of their life during the overcast part of a day I will never know), and an early evening of what could have been sheer chaos–and was anything but!   Each day I wake up knowing I have the greatest job in the world–I have the PRIVILEGE to represent the UDMB as its director.  A group comprised of over 300 college students every fall that could get themselves into a world of trouble quicker than you blink.  A group of 18-22 year olds who are living the dream: four years to learn the first steps to what it takes to be an adult while simultaneously acting like a bunch of 6 year olds.  (Oh what I wouldn’t give to go back and be where they are again!)

At the conclusion of yesterday’s rehearsal I explained to the band what they needed to do if the stadium were to be evacuated.  I explained they exit the stands carefully, enter the basketball arena and sit in the stands to await further instructions.  Simple enough….one hopes.

Game day began—with the new location of the President’s Tent I am still working out a timeline that allows the band to play the Fight Song at various locations around the stadium grounds (patience fans, please). The band’s performance at the new Hospitality Village was strong (more bugs to work out with this new location too).  An unexpected interruption in the performance and a blocked exit location made for the band’s first challenge of the day–and they handled it magnanimously.  They finished their “gig,” listened to instructions and proudly went about resetting the block in another location.  Not  a single person said a word–THAT’S CLASS!

Halftime: DSU started their performance with the UDMB standing respectfully around the perimeter of the field as they always do during another band’s show, anticipating their first opportunity to be the best audience their guests have ever seen.  30 seconds later–EVACUATE THE STADIUM IMMEDIATELY.  I pointed to our drum majors and pointed to the arena.  They nodded, turned and instantly the band began to calmly exit the field/stadium and enter the arena.  I asked DSU’s band to follow them as they were unsure what to do next and it proved to be the perfect solution to their situation.

After 20 minutes, perhaps more, content that everything was taken care of with regard to student safety and equipment organization, I entered the arena myself.  I had no idea what I was going to find, and I expected to be confronted with all sorts of problems, negative reactions, and yes, chaos.  Why? Simple–the band was on their own inside the arena during a volleyball tournament along with a few thousand football fans while the staff and I were outside “securing the perimeter.”  But what I found was quite the opposite…..and it was at this moment I have never been more proud of any group I have ever had the PRIVILEGE to work FOR!

Remember, the instructions were simply to exit the field and go into the stands in the arena.  Nothing more.  I got to the top of the arena concourse, closed my eyes, took a deep breath and opened my eyes expecting to find band members everywhere…..and I didn’t.  I looked out into the arena and found the entire UDMB sitting in the center section of the arena cheering on Columbia University (they were in blue so it seemed appropriate) against Texas A&M. The band members were in FULL UNIFORM, shakos at their feet, instruments in their laps and all sitting together.  No one told them to do this; no one told them how to act; no one told them where to sit; no one told them anything expect to “go into the arena and sit in the stands.”

I could go on and on about the rest of the evening, the percussion concert in the lobby between volleyball matches, the volunteer brass players who cheered on the team in the pouring rain, the quiet departure of band members with parents or when the buses came to pick them up, etc.  But I do not believe it is necessary–you get the idea.

Class, dignity and respect—the pride of Delaware, the University of Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hen Marching Band.  …not much more to say, just proud to be a Blue Hen.

photo courtesy of Chris McCauley Ohannessian