Pursuit Of Excellence

A crisp September Saturday morning is at hand.  Coffee is steaming in a mug.  The pup and kitties are scattered around the house searching for an early morning sunspot in order to warm themselves while they snore away the rest of the morning.  And me…..?  I’m sitting in front of a computer screen drinking said coffee while considering various schedules for rehearsal later this morning.

The life of a college band director.  Piece of cake.  Let’s face it, what do we REALLY do after all? After 26 years of teaching I still hear the same thing from my academic colleagues:  “You’re the band director?  What do you teach? Do you teach any classes?” Of course that’s what they continue to ask year after year because let’s face it, marching band, heck, music in general, certainly isn’t a class!  …sigh….

So what do I teach?  Let’s see what kind of list I can create off the top of my head:

  • Respect
  • Discipline
  • Team Work
  • Responsibility
  • Commitment
  • Dedication
  • Leadership Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Teaching Skills
  • Trust
  • Loyalty
  • Integrity
  • Obligation
  • Time Management
  • Organizational Skills
  • Honor
  • Courtesy
  • Civility
  • and the pursuit of individual as well as group excellence.

But Heidi, academic course have exams!  Well of course they do, and so does the Marching Band.  Every single performance is a MAJOR exam.  Think outside the box people—just because one doesn’t sit at a desk and put pencil to paper does not mean that they are not taking an exam. My exams are administered in front of 23,000 people on a regular basis who give you a grade each and every time.  Not only are the students being tested but so is the staff and so am I.  These exams can be measured according to the same rubric of any other exam–in fact, they are!

Each and every day I require my students (and myself) to do better than the day before. Maybe that means coming to rehearsal having memorized more music. Maybe that means a person has developed a wider range of dynamic control on their instrument. Or maybe that means a person made an extra effort and arrived 5 minutes early to help ANOTHER student “get better.”

Pursuit of excellence is a journey–you do not ever arrive at excellence.  “Hey look gang! We made it! We’re now excellent!”  …yeah, right.  If only it were so.  The journey or pursuit is a continuous process–one for the individual and another one for the total group.  Today’s CLASS will continue the pursuit of excellence for the band (and myself) using all the skill sets mentioned above. Today’s EXAM will tell the band (and myself) whether we made the correct choices toward further excellence and also what we need to work on in preparation for the next exam.

Music is entertainment….sure. I get that. But you know what? Entertainers work just as hard as anyone else in this world, and their contributions to the beauty of life is just as important as the next major technological breakthrough.

Ok, time to chase the dream….Ah-GAIN!

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