For the first time in my career–perhaps life–I find myself enjoying a moment of peace and restfulness. I’m sitting on my deck at home, sipping a new coffee from my favorite coffee roaster in New Jersey (Moon Doggie Coffee Roasters – try them!) called “Ground Zero – Fat Man French Roast.” It’s 64 degrees outside, the deck is still in the shade and I’m sweating. Ok, perhaps a little too much TMI there but do I like to provide you, The Reader, with the complete picture whenever possible. It is T-minus 10 hours, 45 minutes before the start of my 20th band camp as director of the University of Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hen Marching Band…I have nothing to do but laundry while I get my scores and drill charts organized. Everything seems ready to go…I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t just a little nervous about not having to run around like a crazy person doing last minute projects but all seems to be in place so I’ll take advantage of this momentary “quiet before the storm.”
20 years…when did that happen?? I do not know if I’m more astonished that 20 years have flown by or that I’m still here after 20 years. Now do not let that last statement upset you, it is nothing more than an obvious observation: 20 years at one institution is a long time in this day and age. I do not believe that in 1995 I thought UD would be my “last stop.” Frankly I do not believe I thought anything other than “how do I survive my first day as band director at a major university?!” A dear friend once called me “loyal to a fault.” It was, and quite frankly, still is the most accurate assessment of my nature. When something in my life “works” I stick with it to the end, be it bitter or sweet. People do ask though why I haven’t moved on to “bigger and better” things. There are multiple reasons for this and I will not delve into them because each would require a magnitude of explanation for those out there who do not understand the “nature of the beast” (college marching band). I will just offer a blanket statement: I know my demons here and THAT is reason enough.
How does one measure 20 years at the same job? Three dogs (Walter (ATB), Buford (ATB) and Della) and four cats (Sheba (ATB), Guinness, Oscar and Shalli). No children (unless you count the 6000 that have shared each academic year with me over the course of the last two decades). One apartment, one rental house, one owned house. The loss of both parents, best friend, and countless other friends, relatives and colleagues. Three cars (Celica, Infiniti and Infiniti). Two arthroscopies (one on each knee), one partial knee replacement, and gallbladder removal. One ulcer. Trifocals.
Well that is certainly one way to measure 20 years….but how about we do it another way?
Trips to Boston, UMASS (countless times), MICCA, ACCs in Scranton and Hershey, various shows at Frawley Stadium, Allentown, Navy, Towson, JMU, Connecticut, Washington Township, GRAND NATS in Indianapolis, Chattanooga – twice!, Texas (sort of), the 9-11 halftime show during Band Day w/UMASS, new uniforms (2002), new uniforms (2013), George Parks getting stuck on the lift–in the air (priceless), FOILED!, FORKED!, CAR PAINTED!, POST-IT NOTED!
I’m sure I missed a bunch of other momentous occasions but these seem to stand out as the most significant milestones. In my life I’ve loved them all…
I’ve been asked a few times already, and I’m sure I’ll be asked the same question many more times as the year unfolds: “What is your favorite moment from the last 20 years?” For me it is not an event, not an occurrence, not any singular moment in time. It is that in all my time here there has been one other constant: Jim Ancona. There are very few programs in the country that can claim a partnership such as ours. Twenty years of growth and understanding all based upon the same philosophical point of view. I can think of only one other such partnership (George Parks & Thom Hannum). I think Jim and I are in some pretty good company.
What will the next 20 years bring? ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? Let’s aim for 12 or 15 at the most and close the door with a nice quiet retirement at a beach house near Rehoboth, ok? What is in store for the rest of the journey until retirement arrives is not for us to say, nor to guess. Wherever the road takes me is where I will go…but if the last 20 were any indication of what the last third of the journey will be like I think we’re in for quite a wild ride!
T-minus 9 hours, 20 minutes until BAND CAMP #20.
(Oh, hey alumni? Homecoming: October 18. FIGURE IT OUT!)