Applying ALL You’ve Learned

“But this is new?”

“But we’ve never done this before?”


Cue internal scream.

I love my students. Every single one of them. Even the ones who don’t “get it” the first time. Every last one of them WANTS to learn. Every last one of them needs information worded in a way that lights THEIR lightbulb of understanding. The challenge is getting a generation of young adults to TRUST THEMSELVES!

Mark time 4 and step off with a full step; left foot on count 1 and 3, right foot on 2 and 4; horns up after the 8 counts snare tap to start the “Fight Song.”  These things and many other things are nothing new. Yet they ARE new because they have never been performed in the context I ask them to at this particular time.

And then there the “million” things I haven’t told them yet. And the “million” things that are different from what we did in the last rehearsal. And the “million” things that will be different in the next rehearsal, as well as ANOTHER “million” things that will be different in the final rehearsal the day before the BIGGEST EVENT OF THEIR LIVES.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to being a band director!

I love my students. Every single one of them. What they do not necessarily understand while they are IN the band is that sometimes I do NOT have answers to every question; sometimes I do NOT know exactly what I need to have happen; sometimes things are going to change on a dime and there will be no warning. Once a student realizes this their idea of the perfect reality is shattered.

For that I am NOT sorry!

Our world–the marching band world–is one of limiting as many variables as possible. We rep chunks of the show over and over and over and over again in order to develop muscle and musical memory. We work tirelessly to reduce the +/- error factor. But sometimes….sometimes we have events that have us flying by the seat of our pants with said pants ON FIRE and you have to roll with it!

A number of years ago the UDMB was selected to perform as the college exhibition band at the Bands of America Grand National Championships. At that time an email when out to the UMMB Alumni from then director George Parks.  He wrote to the alumni about the UDMB’s honor and added in that there was a verse in “My Way” (the UMMB’s band song for those who did not know) that most people did not know:

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way

At that moment there was no doubt that it was EXACTLY how I felt. What I had I gotten myself into?!?!

Today that verse takes on a different meaning and its net spreads far beyond little ol’ me. As the UDMB heads into it’s final TWO days of the regular season and gathers together again in front of the Art Museum steps in Philadelphia next Wednesday, the verse is about the collective and not me:

Yes, there were times, we sure you knew
When we bit off more than we could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
we ate it up and spit it out
We faced it all and we stood tall
And did it OUR way.

It is time to put 1 and 1 together and realize that every lesson taught over the last 3.5 months, 300+ people have achieved the goal 100 times over that which was expected. 99% of everything will be rehearsed….1% has a fabulous chance of being “altered” as late as the final rehearsal.  AND THAT IS OK BECAUSE YOU WILL SIMPLY ROLL WITH IT!

I love my students. Every single one of them. Even when they make a mistake–perhaps especially when they make a mistake….because it is in that moment when I watch them dig into their personal database, find the solution, and make a course correction. THAT is when I love my students most of all.