Posts Tagged ‘choice’

Been a number of months since I’ve posted and, as it is with everyone else in the world life has certainly kept moving along.  Today I started the last summer workshop I share with Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser.  It is always a bittersweet weekend–we love hanging together, working with young adults, etc., but we both know this is the last stop before the world crashes in upon both of us and we split up for the next 10 months.

But that is for another post….

As I was teaching the first 45 minute block outside in the “land of heat and humidity” (My God it was like teaching in a steam room!!) I noticed a man standing off to the side just watching…and smiling. I knew instantly who it was and waited for the right moment to interject within my instructions “Is that Mr. Glen Rhine back there?” His smile filled his face, he nodded and bowed. At the first moment of “#3 teach clean everything I just taught you,” I went over to say hello to my old friend from my days in the Buccaneers.

Back then, in the 1980’s I watched a man spend all his time working on the small things: hand positions, guiding techniques, foot placement, horn angles, etc.  The nitty gritty of the activity. Back then I thought he was missing it–I thought he had no idea what he was talking about. We needed to work on the BIG stuff, not the fact that my index finger wasn’t exactly next to my middle finger. Who cares about that? No one can tell!

Oh what I didn’t know! Oh if I knew then what I know now!!!  Success is in the details–the nitty gritty details.  Sure the band is loud but the trumpets don’t stand at attention the same way. They look sloppy.  Fix that, add the sound and BOOM!  Greatness!!  …if only it were that simply, but I know you get the point.

Glen and I had lunch together for the first time in 30 years. What a great hour it was to catch up with him, to hear he’s still out there teching high school bands, to hear that he’s even more passionate about not just fixing the nitty gritty but in teaching the students WHY and HOW–not just WHAT!  He sat there and he told me about how much he has learned since taking yoga and how it has helped him to break down and analyze backward marching–how each and every muscle in the foot needs to do certain things in order for the backward initiation to occur.

I sat there in amazement and joy as I listened to a 66 year old man speak with such passion about teaching high school band kids how to march.  And there was the lesson: He said,

“Heidi, at our age we don’t NEED to be doing this! We do it because we WANT to.”

Do I NEED to be out there with sweat running down my entire body as if I was standing in a shower? No.

Do I NEED to be out there not only in the heat, but the rain, the cold temperatures, and even snow, jumping up and down like a crazed person trying to get a college marching band to wake up and put out some energy. No.

I do not NEED to do any of those things….I WANT to do them.   Thank you Glen.


It is so easy to point out what is wrong with people or situations these days. It’s all around us all the time. The person who can’t hold a door open for the next customer at the convenience store; the person who races you to a parking spot; the person who blows through a stop sign almost hitting you and gives a look that says YOU were wrong; the person who thinks taking a gun and killing a bunch of strangers is the answer to all their problems….and the list goes on and on and on.

There are many days I shake my head and wonder just why everyone is so angry ALL.THE.TIME.

Take this example for instance–it is one that is my greatest fears given the world we live in.  A man who lives near a high school doesn’t like the “noise” the school’s marching band produces. Answer: take a pellet gun and shoot the kids. Seriously?

But this blog post is NOT about that recent news story, nor is it about gun violence and/or control. It is about realizing if you just look a little closer and TAKE SOME TIME you will find many people who are still GOOD PEOPLE out there.

A few weeks ago I was well into my second metric century ride when it was clear I had misjudged the weather. This was not a sponsored event–it was just me, my ride, and the road. I had two water bottles mixed with half Gatorade/half water and a bunch of riding appropriate snacks in my jersey pockets. I was good. I was set. I could do this.  …and then the humidity jumped and the temps rose from 68 degrees to 81 steadily over the first 30 miles. With this not being a sponsored event I did not have food stops to look forward to–I had to get back to my car after the first loop in order to replenish supplies. That first loop was 38 miles. Down one water bottle and well into the second it was clear I wouldn’t make it back to my car with 8 miles to go and feeling VERY dehydrated.

Rolling into Port Penn along back country Delaware roads I saw a small bait shop that was open. I went in and asked if I could refill my water bottles. This was a simple “mom & pop” type store. Nothing fancy. Just local folks providing small services to local fishermen. The woman looked at me, said “Of course!” Do you need bottled water or Gatorade. We have some of that if you want more than just refilling these bottles.”

And that was when I realized I had only taken a credit card with me and no cash. I told her as much and she said:

“Do you ride through here often?”

I said, “Yes, it’s part of my regular route these last few months.”

She said, “Then the next time you come through, whether tomorrow, next week, next month, you can pay me $3 for this extra bottle of water and this bottle of Gatorade. You cyclists come through all the time and are always so nice.”

I said thank you and promised her I would be back through later that same day. She waved me off and again said whenever I came through would be just fine.

I’m sure you know how the story played out but here you go anyway:  I got back to my car just fine. There was no way I was going to do the second part of the ride–it was just too oppressive and I was not prepared as well as I thought I was. I got in my car and drove back to the little store and put a $5 bill on the counter. I yelled “thank you” to the woman who was now in the back steaming crabs. She looked up, I waved, smiled and left.

Two weeks later I rode through Port Penn again. I was well prepared for my ride but I wanted to stop in and say hello regardless. There she was, smiling at me behind the counter. She reached into the cash box (not a register mind you) and pulled out $2. She said, “You overpaid me last time.” I smiled, went over to the refrigerator, pulled out a bottle of Gatorade and said, “Now we’re even.”

Whether it’s a nice couple who are barely scraping by to make a living and do a good deed for a road weary cyclist, or a surgeon who takes time out of a conference in Vienna to contact you about the concerning email you sent two hours earlier, or another doc who decides to go back to his office–after having left hours earlier for the day/weekend–in order to take care of one of your students…take a moment and look around folks: there really still are GOOD people in the world.

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.

Last night I went down a more personal path regarding pushing one’s limits and physical challenges…my own. Each day is an adventure, for sure, and some of them are more instructive than others. The last few months of this blog have been quiet. I hope to change that up as we head into the summer.

This morning I began to think outside the box about last night’s post title.  It was quite broad and left itself open for me to see where another path would take me when given some coffee and early morning calmness. What are limits? Are they self-imposed? Are they imposed by others? Are they imposed by society? Is one able to overcome them or is the ceiling too solid to break through?

I do know the answer to all the questions above–the answer is yes. All of those questions are, by definition, a type of limit. So what is one to do when every which way you turn someone is saying telling you no?

“You have the tenacity of a pitbull.”  – Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser said of Heidi I. Sarver

While I chuckle thinking back on that moment I do so because I know it to be true. My entire life has been one giant pushback against anyone and anything that had the audacity to tell me I couldn’t do something. I can count on one hand the number of times I faced an obstacle I truly could not overcome. I realize that this is not the case with everyone else however.

Limits, whether self-imposed or imposed by other factors are real. Some are in place for our safety. Others exists as milestones for us to overcome along our journey. Whether it is being able to sit on a bike saddle for 1 mile or 20 miles after multiple joint surgeries, or finally being able to play that whole tone scale in the Kaminski Trumpet Concerto, or finishing a home improvement project, limits that transform into milestones are some of the most satisfying moments in your life.

“What do I need to do to get better?” – Walter M. Chesnut, following spinal neck surgery in 1992

That simple question, asked by a man lying in a hospital bed 24 hours after his C4 and C5 vertebrate disintegrated into his spine leaving him paralyzed, is one that I have kept close to heart on many the occasion. I heard it in my head after each and every surgery. I heard it in my head after each and ever setback during the last two+ decades. The word “better” does not just refer to one’s health. I think of it in every connotation. Approaching a new limit, a new obstacle, and striving to push through it to the other side implies “getting better.”

“Make it a great day.” – Deena Seavey Frank, after each and every phone conversation

Today, and every day that follows, do whatever it takes to make it a great day. Will there be limits, obstacles, potential heartache, drama, setbacks? Heck yeah! It’s called life and life is chock full of all that stuff. It is how you choose to approach it and attack it.  Ultimately I hope you choose to overcome whatever stumbling blocks you find in your way. As bad as things are for you (and yes, there are some truly horrific things out there, I do not deny that for a moment!), I am willing to bet that if you look just beyond them you will find something that calms you, makes you smile, gives you peace–if only for a moment. Latch on to that and realize that with the bad there is also good. Push through the ceiling set by a limitation and understand there is very little you cannot do.

I already got this:

Unicompartmental Left Knee replacement of medial compartment

Unicompartmental Left Knee replacement of medial compartment

In 14 days I will have this:


This morning I was ready to get it done NOW.  I want to be on the other side of this and start getting better–the rehab uphill climb I know all too well.  But as of this moment I am going to just say it—I’M PETRIFIED. I know I’ll be fine. I’ve had too many surgeons and hip replacement recipients tell me that it’s so much easier than what I went through with my knee. But you know what? THAT DOESN’T MEAN A DAMN THING AT THIS POINT IN TIME! The thought of going under the knife yet again has got me wound up tighter than piano string on the verge of snapping. And frankly I’m not all that sure why.

I don’t mean to bitch and moan about it–I truly don’t.  I’m surrounded by wonderful friends who have everything figured out with regard to getting home, caring for me until I’m ready to be on my own again, and carting me around until I’m permitted to drive.  I couldn’t have a better surgeon nor could I have a better support network. But this evening…for whatever reason…”the shit got real.”

I’ve mentioned a few times to close friends that I honestly do not remember a time when I wasn’t in some sort of pain.  I think it was around 2000 but hard to tell–I had been lifting mom’s wheelchair in and out of the trunk of my car for over 10 years at that point so my back, hips and knees were already giving me fits.  But somewhere during 2007 was when I realized I was always in some sort of pain.  And I’m so damn tired of it.

So I guess I’m pulling a #4…something that goes against the very fiber of my soul. Sure, I’ve been living #2 (Accepting it) for the last however many years, and in 14 days I’ll jump up a notch to #1 (Changing it).  #3 is of course, not an option (Quit). So forgive me for dumping in a public forum…I just want December 3rd to get here already so I can wake up in the Recovery Room and say, “Ok, let’s start getting better–NOW!”

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.

I watched the weather for the entire week…the staff and I knew we were not going to dodge the proverbial bullet this time–the band would be soaked…cold…miserable…and every other conceivable word one can think of.  We also all knew the stands would be virtually empty. There was only one approach–“CHOOSE to be happy or miserable–you control it, so suck it up buttercups!”

We prepped them for everything–from a regular show to what it ended up being: a 1980’s drum and bugle corps with a 120 member woodwind dance team!!  And when every post on Facebook, complete with pictures, includes comments such as “The Band was GREAT!” you know that you did everything you could to get them in the right place for a day like yesterday.

I know for a fact that there are plenty of band members who think I’m just full of crap when I spout off positive rhetoric or leadership philosophical phrases such as “Every day you wake up you choose how you want to be.” “Band will give you the experience you want: if you want to have a great time, Band will give that to you. If you want to be miserable, Band can give that to you too!” “Happy people live in happy worlds, sad people live in sad worlds…it’s the same world.”  Etc.  And I will concur with the naysayers that there are an enormous amount of people out there who “talk the talk but do not walk the walk.” Ladies and gentlemen, I assure you that I am not “blowing sunshine up your skirts” when I speak to you.  If I was, you would know it!

But to satisfy the naysayers let me also assure you that I did NOT wake up yesterday morning, feel the wind, cold and rain and say: YEAH!!!!  It’s going to be dreadful out there today—this is going to be phenomenal! WOOHOO FOR CRAPPY WEATHER!!!”  Ummmmm….no, I did not.  I took a deep breathe, began layering clothing, topped it all off with new Goretex outerwear, slammed down a cup of coffee and thought: “Thank Heavens for the UD Field House!”

UDMB inside the UD Field House having a full rehearsal prior to the 11/1 game,

UDMB inside the UD Field House having a full rehearsal prior to the 11/1 game,

UD Athletics has gone above and beyond supporting the UDMB this year.  From turning on lights at the practice fields to giving us complete use of the Field House almost every weekend, I cannot thank them (Eric, Ziady, Joe Shirley and Alicia Greco Walker) enough.  It is a small gesture on their part that is viewed as MAGNANIMOUS by us, particularly the UDMB Alumni who were always outside in the rain and mud and cold.  

And the band laughed, danced, took photos, made new friends in other sections, watched UD Football win against URI, and ultimately made memories that will last them a lifetime.  They do not realize it right now but down the road be it 5 years, 10 years, 20 years or more, they will remember yesterday–and they will laugh and smile as they do.  They will not remember how cold they were, how rain soaked they were, how they couldn’t feel their fingers or how heavy their water soaked uniforms were.  They will remember the fun, the laughs and the smiles…simply because they CHOSE to enjoy the day rather than wallow in misery.

And just like that, after 7 solid weeks of rehearsals and 7 performances (BOA regional counts as two since there were two separate shows that day) we all get to take a break until Monday, November 17th.  This is, of course, absolutely unprecedented for the UDMB.  Two weeks with no shows and no rehearsals.  Why do this, you ask?  Because they EARNED it!

I will do what everyone else will do: laundry, clean out the car, clean the house, pay my bills, grocery shop. Of course I’ll catch up on all things music department and band related at the office…that goes without saying.  Planning for spring semester is a must as well because let’s face it, this woman won’t have a working brain cell in her head starting December 3 after hip replacement surgery — well, I will but I would rather focus everything that month on recovery and not academics.

…and sure, I’ll catch up on Netflix and whatever is jammed on the DVR.  But first….off to the gym.  There’s no rest for the weary–this body is not ready to get cut into yet again so I must get back on track because after all, it really is ALL about choice!