Posts Tagged ‘ancona’

Delazure 2015This time of year is always challenging for me.  Some of it is the winter blues that everyone tends to get to one degree or another. Some of it is the end of two incredibly intense seasons (summer–DMA and fall–UDMB) that always come to a screeching halt once football concludes.  After months playing the role of Director where one must create in one form or another on a daily, if not, hourly basis, the holiday vacation is a welcomed respite.  The challenge are the 6+ weeks AFTER the holidays….they drag on and on and on with little to no direction, offering little to no motivation.

This year I did have the “distraction” of adding a bit more metal, plastic and this time, ceramics to my body. Nothing like a hip replacement to give you something to focus upon each day. Nope, nothing like it AT ALL.  The hip has certainly taken priority and given me goals to achieve, such as going up the stairs using my legs and not hauling my body up by my arms.  You know, small goals. Yet the annual Winter Blahs still took hold pretty tight because of one missing component: I live to create.

I know, I most certainly could do all sorts of things to quench this desire but it’s not the same as standing in front of 300-400 students, be it DMA or UDMB, who are “in it with you.” Nope, just not the same. Yet today I realized something I have always known but tend to forget: Creating is much more than just the nuts and bolts of pageantry–stop being literal and think outside the proverbial box.

“Providing opportunities for the students that they might not ever get to experience unless they are in the UDMB.” This is my personal motto…ok, so I stole from someone else but if he were still with us I know he would approve and applaud. All sarcasm aside though, I do truly believe the above statement is my “bigger” job. Let me explain:

During the winter two organizations exist that my role is to merely oversee. Pep Band is directed by Jim Ancona. I jokingly tell people I just pay the bills. In truth while I do indeed pay the bills, I also know that back in 1995 when we (Jim and I) decided to make the Pep Band a formal ensemble, it was critical that I supported Jim and his decisions, that we were a team even though he did all of the “heavy lifting.” Today I still pay the bills. Rarely do I need to cover any games as we have three Graduate Assistants who help Jim, but I do break out the horn from time to time and join in on the fun. What I know more than anything though is that just by showing up to a game and LISTENING to the band play, cheering along with them, and “cracking wise” with them is more important than anything else—they see me supporting their endeavors. And THAT is the bigger picture.

So today I spent time at a men’s basketball game hanging with the Pep Band. I was unable to stay for the conclusion of the game because I needed to drive out the New Jersey to see the other group at their first competition of the 2015 season: Delazure indoor guard.

Again, my role is to pay the bills. I have this wonderful creative staff (Sarah McAdams, Phil Cavalcanto and our new designer, Joey Heininger) that does all the writing. I do my best to get to as many shows as I can–something I have come to realize that a number of my colleagues around the country do not do…something I will never understand.  I may not write the drill or the work, I most certainly am not out there teaching them movement (maybe after the other hip and knee get replaced…..um….nah, not even then!). But they ARE my students and they deserve my support in as many ways as I can provide it.

Their show this year is titled “A Winter’s Gift,” and it is stunning.  It is the fastest-paced show we’ve every produced, it is layered in more ways than you can count (with much more to come) and in a word, it is beautiful. But it was the title that struck home with me this evening…a winter’s gift….

Perhaps that is what it is really all about. I live to create, I love to create…but creating doesn’t have to be the nuts and bolts all the time. Creating can be providing opportunities for the students that they might not ever get to experience unless they are in the UDMB…or Pep Band…or Delazure.  That is my winter’s gift.

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.

UDMB @ BoA Newark, PA Regional

UDMB @ BoA Newark, PA Regional

There was a man who once said, “I love watching lots of people doing great things.”  This man was correct as there is perhaps nothing more rewarding than a group of individuals working together toward a common goal.  In this case we are talking about over 400 people (330 in the UDMB and another 70+ volunteers–parents, friends, colleagues) working 3-4 hour shifts, doing a wide variety of jobs from ticket sales, program selling, tshirt pressing, moving high school bands around the athletic complex, greeting band directors, and setup / cleanup….all for one purpose: creating an experience OTHERS will remember for a lifetime.

The world we live in is one of selfishness. We are products of a society whose mantra is “What’s in it for me?”  This is an extraordinary narrow life view.  The humanity has been beaten out of us to such a degree that people no longer have the ability to communicate with another member of the species unless it is via an electronic device.  Social interaction is the newest phobia.  And yet yesterday I watched my students go out of their way for each other as they went beyond and above the call of duty for thousands of strangers.

26 high school bands were in our “house.” They came to us from as far north as Connecticut to as far south as Georgia.  They brought parents, friends, siblings, extended family members.  Community members from Newark, Delaware were there as well. Family and friends of the UDMB too.  Thousands of people passed through the gates of UD stadium and spent the day relishing the talents of over 3000 musicians and performers–who gave their all in the spirit of competition, education, and growth.

Bands of America came to UD for their Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship.  UD and the UDMB were their hosts.  The day began at 5:45 am and ended at 11:45 pm. The UDMB performed twice in exhibition–once at the conclusion of prelims and again at the conclusion of finals.  …and yes, the band grabbed the audience by the throat and said, “You will love us.”  …and they did.

I could write for pages about all the incredible moments woven within the fabric of those 18 hours but it is not necessary.  I will simply state in print what I said to the members of the UDMB last night at the conclusion of their last performance:

I have never been more proud of this band as I am today.

…there were, of course, many shenanigans taking place throughout the day as well…I leave you with an image of my transportation for the day. Decorations were courtesy of my professional staff….

Sarv's Ride

Sarv’s Ride

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.

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.

—sarv

(Oh, hey alumni?  Homecoming: October 18.  FIGURE IT OUT!)

As we head into our fifth home game of the season here at the University of Delaware I have mixed feelings about things.  They are personal yet they revolve around the profession I am so proud to be part of.  UD plays UMASS in football tomorrow and for the first time since the 1990’s the UMASS Minuteman Marching Band will not be in attendance.

WHAT?! you say.  It’s true.  And it’s not for any reason short of budget concerns.  The UDMB faced the same thing last year when we were unable to travel to the northland.  The economy is taking it’s toll on college marching bands all over the country.  The cost to move 300 people for just ONE day can be upwards of $15,000.  An overnight trip can run as high as $25,000.  Remember–you have to feed them too!  It’s expensive, period.

When I spoke with the new band director of the UMMB about coming down and learned that they would not be making the journey I have to admit to disappointment.  This was our sister band. George and I, Thom and Jim, Rah and Fred worked for years to cultivate the relationship between the programs–we would be the unique ones in the country: two college rival football programs whose bands were closer than siblings.  (Well OF COURSE the students would be–all the directors were!)  It did not take long for this relationship to not only develop, but THRIVE.  Let’s face it, have you ever heard of two other college marching bands, their parents and their alumni all traveling to Ireland to perform in two New Year’s events as ONE organization?!

I was looking forward to celebrating the UMASS departure from the FCS to Division 1.  I was looking forward to being host to my old friends Thom Hannum, Colin McNutt, John Leonard, and a host of others.  I was looking forward to showing the new director Tim Anderson our Delaware hospitality and wishing him well as he begins his journey down the road that George Parks left so abruptly.  So I was disappointed.

And yet after thinking about it I came to the conclusion that, once again, things happen for a reason.  In this case a very selfish reason.  The last time the UMMB was in our house was 2009.  The two groups joined together for a massed band performance of “America, the Beautiful” and “My Man.”  George and I got to enjoy being “kids” again–we were able to go back to the way we were when we first met in the Buccaneers:  George on the podium and me playing solo trumpet.  And for a brief moment in time, we WERE kids again.  The two staffs were arm in arm during “My Way” and “In My Life” as were  the two bands.  Swaying and singing together as ONE organization.  …and yes, the UMMB tubas “forked” the front lawn of my house with “UM hearts UD.”  And it was all good and it was as it should have been.

So my mixed feelings are between personal and professional.  My professional side would have liked to play host to my alma mater one last time; my personal side is content with the fact that the relationship between the programs ended as it was meant to in 2009.  And those memories will be cherished by all those who were part of our 16 year relationship–one that I do not believe exists anywhere else in the country.

Will the relationship continue?  That remains to be seen–perhaps yes, perhaps no.  Changes–they happen.