That smile. That never-ending smile. It stretched from one end of the field to the other and could be seen from the top of the stadium press box. And it was ALWAYS there.

You arrived an eager and excited freshman. You came to us from Washington Township High School where you had a new marching band director – a former UDMB member himself. And you walked out onto that stadium field donning blue and gold for the first time and you were hooked.

Your second semester you tried out for drum major – you DREAMED about standing in front of that band…that is what you told me in your interview. You were so excited in your conducting audition that you had no idea the band was playing two different scales at the same time. You were having so much fun that I never had the heart to tell you.

And then your email arrived, asking to meet with me and discuss the rest of the audition process. You arrived at my office and you told me you decided to apply for, and had been accepted as an RA. You knew there was no way you could be Drum Major, let alone be part of the Field Staff because you couldn’t attend Band Camp. But that was not the worse part – you thought you wouldn’t be allowed to be in band at all. And when I told you that we would save you a spot and we would get you into the show as quickly as we could, you were so grateful and so happy, and there was that smile again. And it shined!

At basketball games I would hear, “Hey! Sarv!” From across the field I would hear, “Hey! Sarv!” And in random places while walking across campus I would hear, “Hey! Sarv!” You were ALWAYS so happy; you made those around you happy.

And then there were those “other” times. Times I look back on and I, myself, smile.

Seeing you riding your bike and waving…and then I would look closer and see the bell of your baritone sticking out of your knapsack on your back. And you KNEW I wanted those things carried in their cases.

Times like the baritone block going left and you going right and me saying from 40 feet in the air “Ry-ann!” and you, simply waving, smiling and saying right back at me, “Got it Sarv!” I could never be mad at you and not because of your personality laced responses, but because you ALWAYS tried so hard – and THAT was all that EVER mattered.

And then the day you came bounding up to me just a few months ago. You were so excited. You told me you were not going to be an RA next year because you would be student teaching in the spring, and you couldn’t wait to finally be able to come to band camp.

The last time I saw you, you were on TV, yes, TV. You were playing in Pep Band during a men’s basketball game just eleven days ago. I got home in time to watch the last 45 seconds of the game. And it was CLOSE – just a 3–point game and the arena was charged. I sat down on the couch, looked at the screen as the camera panned the band – and there was that SMILE!

There is a quote at the bottom of every email I send. It is from Mitch Albom’s book “The Five People You Meet In Heaven:”

“The secret of heaven: that each affects the other and the other affects the
next, and the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one.”

Students pass in and out of my life on an almost daily basis. Every year there’s a “new crop” of at least 100. Another 100 band members who are going to have different experiences during their time in band. Every year there are 300 band members who have different experiences in band…but not really. In some way every single UDMB member who has ever set foot on our field shares the same experiences, the same story as all those who have come before; as all those who will come after.

Perhaps band is a sneak peak at Heaven. I hope so, because Ryan so loved band there is no question that he is loving Heaven.

Thank you Ryan, for being part of OUR story.

…until we meet again young man.

(Heidi I. Sarver, once your band director – forever your friend)