It’s here! It arrived faster than we ever wanted and now that it’s here folks are all SCARED TO DEATH! That’s right, every marching band director across the country is shaking in their Dinkles right now because they looked at the calendar and saw “HALF WAY THROUGH THE SEASON” and they know that means only one thing: the band is going to stop improving and start sliding backwards. The worried thoughts have all started. The stress has begun to spill over. The anxiety is on the brink of explosion–if one more person asks ANYTHING of you there is a high probability of physical retaliation.
Well guess what folks, I’m calling bull***t on this. That’s right. Knock it off. There is no such thing as the season midpoint meltdown…..unless you didn’t prepare properly during the off-season. And frankly I don’t think many of people do. And THAT is the REAL nightmare.
I have it easy compared to my colleagues teaching high school competitive marching bands. I just bring out a second show. The band learns new music and new drill and voilà, instant “new” season. Oh if it truly was that easy. Mid terms, papers, projects, etc., all the outside pressures of other classes weigh down upon the students and their moods are nowhere near as excited nor are they as engaged as they were during band camp. It’s getting cooler outside, darker earlier and earlier. Band can quickly become a chore and one that can even be loathed.
Now is the time to CREATE fun. For us it was the necessary break for normalcy and the annual event of the season: the Newark Halloween Parade. Costumes are mandatory for band members, no exceptions. A wonderful break from reality, completely no stress, just lots of laughs, photo taking and of course, total awe at the creative ideas the members of the UDMB have!
So how do we keep smiling through the rest of the season? I can only speak for myself but perhaps my thoughts will resonant with others in my position.
- Smile. Smile and Laugh. A Lot. ENJOY THE PROCESS! If you do, they will.
- Slow down. The band members are working harder than any other organization in the school, or at the very least, AS hard as other organization. If they are not improving slow it down and don’t try to fix everything during every rehearsal. Step by step, inch by inch.
- Get off the tower and teach from the field. Show the students exactly how you want something done as opposed to just blathering it over a Long Ranger in the hopes they can interpret what you are saying, what you are envisioning inside your brain. Interact with them, give as many of the some personal attention as you can.
- Remember to experience the bigger picture – other bands. So many directors and staff members get caught up in being the “best,” winning captions, bringing home trophies, etc. I get it, don’t misunderstand me, but while it seems the right thing to do at this time–getting yourself all pumped up and out of control–when you don’t win those things the fall from grace happens fast. And then the anger sets in. And what’s worse is that you cheated yourself AND your students out of valuable life experiences! Watch other bands. Enjoy the college exhibition bands. CHEER AND SUPPORT THE BANDS THAT BEAT YOU! That’s right. So you lost, so what. How about we cheer for the ones who beat us and perhaps learn from them? How else do we, as individuals ever hope to improve unless we take the time to learn from those who are achieving what we are not?
It’s not about winning, or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s about so much more than that. Sure the kids want to win…so do we. But down the road when you and they are older and wiser, the times you won will fade into the woodwork and you will remember the time you shared with people. The bus trips, the jokes, the bus songs (Heaven forbid I ever post them here!), the crazy antics of each section (particularly the tubas), the absurd moments that are fixed in time like a snapshot. Oh you might remember who won in 1984 (those wretched Hawthorne Caballeros) but you will most likely recall and share stories about the tube trip down the Delaware River more often than what happened at finals that year. (Those stories are for another type of blog but suffice it to say George Parks DID know how to swim even though his mother convinced Gige and I he did not….yes, the two lifeguards tried to save the “drowning” drum major….oh boy.)
So push hard to the end of the road gang but remember to enjoy the ride. The ride is always more exciting than the destination when it is shared with friends.
And remember, smile. As I said earlier on, NO exceptions to the mandatory costume rule. (A sad note: the Fat Ballerina had to be retired…she no longer held her voluptuous form and sadly looked like a deflated cartoon character in need of much cosmetic surgery following gastric bypass!)