Posts Tagged ‘alumni’

Tomorrow is Homecoming at UD. There’s a buzz on campus for the first time in many years–a buzz that has students GLAD they are part of this campus. A buzz that feeds school spirit and one that makes just being on the grounds feel like HOME.  It takes an enormous effort to put together all the various events that take place on Homecoming–efforts that tend to go unacknowledged.  So let me take just a moment to thank the folks all over campus who have “stepped up their game” and made Homecoming something to look forward to as opposed to being a chore!!

With that said, the role of the band is multifaceted when it comes to game day. Preparation is pretty nuts frankly. Gotta get a new show out and make sure the old show is ready for postgame–toughest audience of the season: the UDMB alumni! They WANT to be wowed….(and in all humility I can say without any hesitation that “wowed” they will be tomorrow.) The band will have a shortened rehearsal at the ungodly hour of 730am in order to rehearsal with the Alumni Band at 830am. Then the Team Walk, then a quick “lunch,” then a performance inside the BOB at the President’s Reception.  After that we try (hope and pray) there is enough time to do the traditional concert in the Gold VIP lot. Then it’s clock work: west concourse parade and pregame.  All of that takes place between 9:30 – 11:45am.

…coffee…LOTS AND LOTS OF COFFEE will be required!

With all the insanity of Homecoming there are a few moments, albeit moments that are brief, that I cherish each year:

  • seeing the alumni from years past (this year we have folks from 1961 on the field!);
  • seeing their families (so many tuba mutes!  er, I mean, children!!);
  • seeing the multigenerational UDMB families on the field during “In My Life;”
  • watching the “old timers” mingle with the “baby band;”
  • smiling, laughing and knowing what it’s like to break the horn out again and trying to recapture your youth and relive those memories of entertaining the fans in UD stadium;

But most of all…I LOVE the stories! Each and every one of them begins with “Remember when…”

Tomorrow will be my 21st Homecoming at UD. I look forward to many, many more in the future. I know “the world did not begin with me” and that there were years and years of Homecomings that occurred long before I ever set foot on this campus. It is those stories I long to hear each year–the ones that happened prior to 1995. It is those stories I want the current band members to hear (albeit with an understanding that the world was very different back then!!). And the reason is so very simple:

You need to know where you came from in order to know where you’re going.

Welcome home alumni—we’ve missed you.

I wrote to some very dear friends this past weekend the following words:

During the course of any given year I approach my role with the UDMB, Symphonic Band, student teachers and any other encounter with my students as a chance to “provide a life changing experience they would not have if not for band.” This upcoming week will be one of those that exceeds such definition.

I can tell everyone the week exceeded such definition in ways I did not anticipate. The proverbial envelope was pushed, the emotional rollercoaster was a wild ride (and we are just getting to the final section of high speed twists and exhilarating turns). The discussions and conversations about the past, about philosophy, about life and all that comes with it reached depths that I’m not sure any of us involved could have planned nor expected.

The week has been a treat unlike any other. And perhaps one has to truly know the “players” in order to understand how such experiences could happen in such a short period of time with such profound and visceral outcomes. Those of you, however, that do know Bill Rowell, Jim Ancona and myself are most likely not remotely surprised by any of these words.

It began a little over a year ago–it was conceived in selfishness. How do we extend our 20th year celebration into the spring semester? The fall was easy–it’s called Alumni Band @ Homecoming. That day was spectacular–over 200 UDMB alumni returned.  We all ate, drank, told stories and of course, ripped apart “La Suerte de Los Tontos” at halftime…because we could!  Again, that was easy.  The spring was another matter.

“Hey Jim, what do you think about asking Bill Rowell to spend a week with us and guest conduct on the last concert?”

That was it–that was the selfish germ that began it all. The journey that followed included a visit to Amherst, MA, coffee, and a discussion regarding the program. (I hear laughter right now coming from cyberspace…”a discussion?” “You had a discussion with Rowell about programing.” “BWAHAHAHAH!”) Those that are chucking are indeed, correct.  I sat down with Mr. Rowell (I still struggle calling him “Bill”–it’s how I was raised I suppose) and he said something to the effect of “Heidi, I certainly do not want to tell you what to do. This is your concert.” He then took out a piece of paper with a complete program already in place!  Again–if you know the “players” you’re not surprised!

We narrowed a few things down and came up with what will be the second half of tonight’s culminating event. A little Grainger (of course!), some Ticheli (“Heidi, what if you played the offstage trumpet solo?”) and a march that is PURE Rowell–one that took me a week to listen to and finally begin to laugh out loud at the absurdity of it all.  I characterize it as a the love child of Ives’ “Country Band March” and Mackey’s “Xerxes.”

The discussions in the music education and conducting classes were thoughtful and insightful. The open Q & A yesterday turned to a discussion about the rehearsal.  (Mr. Rowell took the entire two hour rehearsal on Tuesday…and if we didn’t stop him he could have continued for another two hours.  Within 2 minutes of beginning it was as if I had been transported to room 36 in FAC–nothing had changed! When I told him this later that evening he said, “I don’t know any other way.” My students do not know what hit them but they are “hungrier” than they ever were and for that alone I am grateful that time has not mellowed the man.”) We even Skyped in Sanford Jones, another UMASS alum, from Germany.

Dinners were wonderful trips down memory lane of course, as were the car rides back and forth to the hotel. But everything I’ve written thus far is nothing one wouldn’t expect when a former teacher is invited back to be a guest. There was one difference:

The emotional journey this has been for all of us (Bill, Jim and I) was transporting and suspended time. I’ve been in a bubble the last few days–one that has brought me closer to understanding how utterly important it is to stop brooding over the past, stop worrying about the future, and LIVE in the present. (I have another friend who does this and I have been envious of it for a couple of years. I now have a bit of a better understanding due to the personal immersion of this week.)

We fed our souls this week. It was a by-product of a standard event conceived in selfishness that I did not anticipate. It was a win-win-win situation.  The students were exposed to the teachings of a man who taught all of his students to look inward and find resilience and strength. Jim and I were able to share our podium with a mentor and in turn learn a bit more about ourselves. But the biggest winner was Mr. Rowell.  Jim and I knew this would be a special week but it turned into a gift unlike any we could have planned.

To borrow Mr. Rowell’s words for a moment, “Art is not a thing. Art is a way.”  And this week was, indeed, art.

The lyrics are not reflective of this year, nor this senior class…but the title of the song most definitely is.  It goes without saying (at least I hope it does) that I would, indeed, do “anything for you.” For all of you, not just the senior class. And while what follows is geared toward the 61 men and women who will take the field on Saturday one last time as a member of the “baby band,” I suspect whatever prose created below will resonant with whomever the Reader is.

There is a place called ‘band.’ It is unlike any other experience one can have in life–it is unique. I make this statement not out of ego, not out of pride, but out of years of experiencing many other organizations available to the human being. Band is dependent upon each and every individual giving 100% effort 100% of the time.

It is the grueling week of Band Camp when the newest family learns to work together, support each other, celebrate each other. It is the challenge of last minute changes to schedules that teaches the family to be flexible. It is the unexpected event (weather, bus flat tire, late lunch or dinner) that teaches the family patience and understanding.

But it is not these things you will remember next year, in 5 years, in 10 years, in 30 years. It will not be the heat, the cold, the rain, the snow. It will not be my voice letting everyone in Newark know you need to “Set it up Uh-GAIN!” (ok…maybe that one will be remembered…virtually scarred into your memory banks.) What you will remember will be the smiles, the laughter, the tears of joy, the memories of audiences clapping, screaming, dancing and cheering. It will be the memories of every performance you share with the latest “baby band” when YOU return and partake in Alumni Band at my 21st, 25th, 30th, 35th (gulp) anniversary, and all the ones in between the milestone years. You will return to reunite with old friends and begin every sentence with “Remember when…”

I would…and in many cases have done “anything for you.” You are my family and on Saturday 61 family members will relive the last few years of their lives one last time. Because of this I propose the following list of things to do over the course of the next few days because you will never be able to do all of them on Saturday…and because underneath the tough exterior that the “outsider” sees and thinks is the real me, I’m really a sentimental woman who, as I said to the seniors this evening, is far better at conveying her true feelings in the written word than face to face:

  • Go to the practice field at sunset on a non-rehearsal day. Sit on the hill and simply be.
  • Go to the stadium at dawn or at sunset, when the sun is low in the sky and the complex is empty and simply be.
  • Walk the Team Walk without the band. Before going through the serpentine wall gate, turn around, look back and simply be.
  • If the stadium is open, sit in the band seats and simply be.
  • Take your time putting your uniform on–remember the first time you did it, savory the last.

I could go on but I believe you get the idea.  Take time to look within yourself and know one thing—you did good. And know that I am proud of each and everyone of you.

…oh, and seniors? “September: Beginnings and Endings”– perhaps you now understand that show for it was so much more than the literal meaning…so very much more.

Homecoming Post Mortem…

Posted: October 18, 2014 in General
Tags: , , , , ,

Where do I begin?  I suppose I could start by thanking the folks who busted their butts to make today such a success (Jess, Jen, Brent, Zaniah) but I did that multiple times today.  I suppose I could thank the “Baby Band” for rockin’ the joint and causing the alumni to smile, laugh, and in many, many cases, cry tears of joy mixed with memory.  I supposed I could thank the staff for always having my back. I supposed I could thank Jim Ancona for sticking by my side for 20 years and always starting a conversation with “You know, next year…”

Or I could recount some of the sites I saw throughout the day that captured and warmed my heart:

  • alumni from almost every year I’ve been at the helm;
  • alumni from every decade since the 1960’s;
  • children of alumni ranging in age from 10 years old down to “just born!”
  • alumni whose names did not escape my mind for the first time ever!

Watching people cross the generation gap and make new friends in their sections was priceless.  They had different college band directors but it didn’t matter: everyone was part of the family and everyone needed to be hugged and cherished.

I saw many things today…I heard so many stories being recounted and shared.  I looked out over the sea of people during “In My Life” and was not overwhelmed with tearful emotion…I was overwhelmed with joy.  So many faces that brought me back to easier times.

One thing I saw that I did not bring attention to because 1) I did not need to point it out as it spoke for itself, and 2) I would have struggled holding it together, were the people who chose to wear their GNP ribbons from 2010.  I do not believe I have ever been more touched by such a simple gesture in my life.  He was in our band in the 70’s and he was and will continue to always be part of our program.  Thank you to the folks who chose to do that–meant more to me than you’ll ever know.

Life does not ever turn out the way you envisioned it.  Life is not something that can be organized, put in a little box and wrapped with a perfect bow. Life is messy (as my dear friends are desperately trying to get me to understand!).  No one knew in 1995 that two crazy kids (and boy were Jim and I really just kids!) were going to hang around Newark, DE for as long as we have.  No one knew whether the band would benefit or collapse. No one knew what the future would bring…we always think we know but in truth, we are at the mercy of whatever comes along.

UD is my last stop.  This is home. The UDMB is my family.  And I look forward to every year when my family members will come home and spend a few hours with this old woman…when we can join together for just a few moments and be kids again…together.

Thank you all for a wonderful 20th anniversary celebration.

Honestly I’m not really sure where to begin and that doesn’t make much sense to me. My 20th homecoming at UD…I should have some profound statement to make, some heartfelt story to share, some memory that triggers laughter and tears all at the same time but….at the moment….I’ve got nothing.

How is this possible?!  How can I sit here on the couch without having a single inspirational thought running through my mind?!  Has it finally happened? Have I lost my touch? Have I lost my mind? Have I come to the end of the road where Santa is standing next to a leprechaun, both looking at me with sheer annoyance??  …perhaps they are….

To be fair to myself, I actually have hundreds of memories racing through my mind.  Each one bringing a smile to my face.  What I find interesting is that every memory is equal to the next.  Yes there are some that seem to stand out at first but then another one pops into my head that has the same importance in the evolution of the program.  Each story is better than the next and yet they all seem to stand shoulder to shoulder with each other because of one overarching theme: family.

I’ve written about about this topic before but sometimes certain topics are worth revisiting.  We all have family.  Mine are all up in northern NJ or Manhattan.  Our families bind us together–they are there for us in good times and bad.  They can always be counted on when needed.  Some people are lucky to have an extended family…I’m one of those people.

From college friends who have stuck by my side through thick and thin to former students who are now colleagues and cohorts, it really doesn’t get any better than this!  Band brought us all together…band keeps us together.  Band is family….UD is home.

20 years have flown by…and with that about 3000 people have graced my life by letting me share in theirs.  We’ve shared happy thoughts, flown past the second star to the right and have found Neverland together. We’ve weathered Indians, alligators and a few Captain Hooks over the years but we’ve always come out the other side as far better people.  The people come and go but there will always be Lost Boys to look after, and there will always be another adventure.

See you all bright and early……


It’s that time of year during the fall semester. Homecoming is in the air across the country.  Homecoming…what an interesting word.  Merriam-Webster defines it as follows:

  • 1:  a return home
  • 2:  the return of a group of people usually on a special occasion to a place formerly frequented or regarded as home; especially :  an annual celebration for alumni at a college or university

Simple and clear enough.  We all experience a variety of “homecomings” every year.  Whether it is gathering in the actual homes where we grew up for holiday feasts, in the homes of relatives for various occasions, or even at a special restaurant with special friends just to catch up on life–even that is a type of homecoming.  The events inevitably take us down memory lane – sometimes a celebratory time and sometimes a bittersweet time.  No homecoming is ever the same.

Tomorrow is Homecoming at UD.  Alumni will return to campus and gather again, reminiscing about “the good ol’ days.”  They will walk the campus grounds that are not the same as when they attended classes: new buildings, new fountains and monuments, new landscaping.  A college campus is a living entity that grows and evolves just as a human being does.  Yet the feeling of familiarity, of warmth and of security will inevitably wrap itself around each alum, who will at some point during the day sigh deeply and smile while thinking “I’m home. I’m safe.”

The UDMB will see its “relations” tomorrow.  They will see “family members” whom they’ve never met before, who will regale them with stories that begin with “Well, when I was in the band…” Each story will be filled with cherished memories of their time wearing a UDMB uniform (whether it was a West Point military style from the 50’s or the ones we just retired after the 2012 season) and what it was like to be part of the biggest “family” on campus.  They will enter the stadium for pre game with smiles that wrap around their heads; they will play in the stands trying to out do the monster “baby band” next to them.  Some will even run the stands during 3rd quarter….or at least try and remember perhaps the arthritis in their knees might be upset with them later….but heck, they’ll do it anyway!

Every face of a UDMB Alumni Band member tells a story of their experience in the program.  Every memory weaves together the fabric of time that is so thick nothing can penetrate it.  And this giant security blanket envelopes every one of them because they are “home” again, safe with their band, surrounded by people who understand what they did and why they did it when THEY were undergraduates at UD.

I believe Mitch Albom sums it up perfectly within the pages of his book “Five People You Meet In Heaven.”  It is a quote that struck me years ago and is one which I believe most accurately describes to how I try to live my life:

“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.”

Welcome HOME alumni, welcome home.