Posts Tagged ‘class’

I loathe the end of the school year. I cannot stand goodbyes. It has gotten to the point that I don’t even go to commencement because I do not trust that I won’t break down into tears. Frankly, I hate endings. There is, however, one moment I relish even less:

Student Staff Leadership Announcement Day

The students wait with baited breath for the Facebook post to hit. They get worked up, filled with anxiety, desperate for the results of auditions and interviews. I, however, sit and stare at the list for days on end. No matter what I do I am going to disappoint some of my students. Some will take a deep breath when they don’t see their name on the list and are ok. Some will become so angry they will throw a chair through a glass door (yes, this happened once). Some will be furious with me – they think I hate them, or at the very least, don’t like them. Some will quit band altogether.

  • I sit and stare at the list of names knowing that I cannot give leadership positions out just because a student is a senior and I want to do something nice for them before they graduate.
  • I sit and stare at the list of names knowing I must be a teacher and do what I think is in the best interest of each student applicant.
  • I sit and stare at the list of names knowing that if my students don’t learn what it is to not get something they want while still in college they may NEVER learn that hard lesson.
  • I sit and stare…and stare…at the equivalent of a surgical waterproof bandage placed over a wound that must be removed after 7-10 days. A bandage that has almost become one with the skin. You want to rip it off fast like a bandaid but you can’t. If you do you run the risk of tearing the skin and ripping the wound open. So you proceed gingerly and carefully and slowly….and the agony lasts “forever.” Finally it’s off and all you can do is sit back and hope for the best.

Ladies and gentlemen: being in band is not, has never been, and will never be about securing and holding a leadership title. Sure it’s cool. Sure it means you have a chance to practice teaching. Sure it means you’ve been given responsibilities. Sure it means you can have an impact on the program.  But you can do all those things WITHOUT A TITLE!!

  • Being a member in your band means setting an example for others. You don’t need a title to do that.
  • Being a member in your band means helping the person next to you, teaching the person next to you. You don’t need a title to do that.
  • Being a member in your band means being responsible for knowing your music and drill. You don’t need a title to do that.
  • Being a member in your band means having an impact on other members, your institution, and every person who ever sees the program. You don’t need a title to do that.
  • Being a member in your band is cool in and of itself — and don’t let anyone ever tell you any differently! (…and you don’t need a title to do that.)

Sometimes being a leader is harder than usual…and this is one of those times.

Congratulations to all who received positions on the 2017 UDMB Leadership Staff. Congratulations to ALL the applicants too — you put yourselves out there and took a chance. That is a bigger accomplishment than anything else!

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.

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.

his-bucsA few times over the years of posting thoughts and ideas and commentary and the occasionally rare criticism I have made the following remark:  “My humble hat is stapled to my head.”  It’s true…ok, perhaps not stapled but most assuredly Gorilla Glued on.  I am always quick to deflect congratulatory statements from others, passing them off to the band members because, in my heart, I truly believe they are the ones who deserve the kudos.  I’m merely the caretaker, the custodian, the one who guides the ship but doesn’t make it run.

Perhaps there is some flaw in this approach but I have never really liked the whole “It’s not them, it’s not them, it’s me!” thing.  The reason for this is simple:  without THEM, there is no ME.  I have learned a little over the last few years to simply say “thank you” when moments of congratulations present themselves.  It is hard for me…and only those closest to me know and understand that.  The outside world sees the demanding, dictatorial, rules with an iron fist woman who stands before a crowd of 20,000+ and sucks up the applause.  If only you knew how much truth lies in the notion: “It’s not you, it’s the position.”

And yet, every once in a while a moment comes along in a person’s life when one has to remove the humble hat and take a bow.  …bare with me, this will be challenging.

On the afternoon of November 1, 2014 I received a phone call just as the band was marching under the West grandstands and heading to the pregame entrance gates.  I looked at the number, didn’t recognize it, yet, against my better judgement, decided to take the call for reasons unknown to me.  I had only a few minutes before the pregame show needed to start and there I was answering the phone.

On the other end was Lois and Lou Tierno with the news that I was to be inducted into the 2014 Reading Buccaneer Senior Drum and Bugle Corps Hall of Fame.  I was, perhaps for the first time in my life (or at least in a very long time) rendered speechless. I’ve been removed from the corps for years…24 to be exact. My time with the organization was a scant 8 years: 5 on soprano bugle and 3 as drum major. Not really a lifetime commitment as so many other inductees have made.  But I suppose my contribution to the corps continued long after I departed by sending students to learn from them just as I did, and then those members going on to become staff members, just as I did.  In retrospect I supposed I’ve always been connected to Blue in some manner.

I do not speak much of my time with Reading–it holds a very dear and special place in my heart that is difficult to explain to those who have never been part of such an organization.  I was 19 when I joined–one heck of a cocky trumpet player who didn’t know that she didn’t know.  I was fearless.  Some might say the person I am today was “born in Blue”–a raw young kid who was shaped by so many gifted (and patient) instructors, who left before she was finished “cooking” but had the support in place to continue along the path on her own terms.  I grew up in the Bucs, that is clear.  I was “broken” there and then mended, molded and reshaped into something much more than I realized at the time.

My mentors were many: Matt Krempasky, Darrell Weyman, Chuck Runkle, Glen and Andi Brumbach, Carol O’Brien, Amy (DeLong) Snook, Robbie Robinson, Ken Sherry, Ralph Pace, Jerry Kelsey, Ron Gehris, Grant Hill, and of course, George Parks (and so many others…and the moment you begin to name any you leave out ones you should have included so my sincerest apologies for that).

I learned about family from my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. This idea of family became more pronounced during my time with the corps. In turn it was enhanced and reinforced during my time at UMASS with George. But all those lessons and values and ethics did not crystalize until this kid simmered a bit more over the years, and began to pass on the lessons to my own “kids” at the University of Delaware.  In the end, all I ever really needed to know I learned at Reading.

I’m honored, humbled, and most grateful to be part of the 2014 Reading Buccaneer Hall of Fame.  I could share stories for hours and hours about all the joys and tears of that time in my life.  But that is for when we sit around the nursing home and not for this moment. And while it is bittersweet not to be able to share this moment with absent friends, I know they are standing on the deck of the ship we will all board one day when we will once again rule the seas, together.

Aye me Buccaneers…for we are indeed, all good men.

I learned a simple lesson a long time ago from my parents: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.  I, like most people in society these days, struggle with this.  We like to complain–actually I believe we tend to relish it at times.  We “believe” it puts us on a higher level than the people causing what it is we are complaining about.  We are, of course, merely lowering ourselves to their level when we do this–the complete opposite of what it is we are hoping to accomplish.

I am not talking about ignoring situations that need to be addressed, nor am I saying that all complaining is inappropriate and we should just roll over and take whatever the world hands us.  I’m saying there are times to complain and times to simply stand up tall, smile knowing that you have a different set of standards that you are most proud of, and to perhaps, turn the other cheek.  Again, it all depends upon the situation.

I learned another lesson, along the same premise of the one my parents taught me, from my dearest friend who departed this world far too soon.  He taught me (and many others) to always have class in everything we do.  We may not understand everything about a certain situation and to act in a classless manner only exacerbates things. He taught me there are always two sides to every story; to take time to examine a situation from all angles; to remember that the actions of one represent the views of the whole.  (And for the most part to remember never to throw cheese cubes….but that’s a story for another day.)

Yesterday’s game against Del State was one for the record books.  A beautiful morning, a cloud covered afternoon rehearsal (how one gets the worst sunburn of their life during the overcast part of a day I will never know), and an early evening of what could have been sheer chaos–and was anything but!   Each day I wake up knowing I have the greatest job in the world–I have the PRIVILEGE to represent the UDMB as its director.  A group comprised of over 300 college students every fall that could get themselves into a world of trouble quicker than you blink.  A group of 18-22 year olds who are living the dream: four years to learn the first steps to what it takes to be an adult while simultaneously acting like a bunch of 6 year olds.  (Oh what I wouldn’t give to go back and be where they are again!)

At the conclusion of yesterday’s rehearsal I explained to the band what they needed to do if the stadium were to be evacuated.  I explained they exit the stands carefully, enter the basketball arena and sit in the stands to await further instructions.  Simple enough….one hopes.

Game day began—with the new location of the President’s Tent I am still working out a timeline that allows the band to play the Fight Song at various locations around the stadium grounds (patience fans, please). The band’s performance at the new Hospitality Village was strong (more bugs to work out with this new location too).  An unexpected interruption in the performance and a blocked exit location made for the band’s first challenge of the day–and they handled it magnanimously.  They finished their “gig,” listened to instructions and proudly went about resetting the block in another location.  Not  a single person said a word–THAT’S CLASS!

Halftime: DSU started their performance with the UDMB standing respectfully around the perimeter of the field as they always do during another band’s show, anticipating their first opportunity to be the best audience their guests have ever seen.  30 seconds later–EVACUATE THE STADIUM IMMEDIATELY.  I pointed to our drum majors and pointed to the arena.  They nodded, turned and instantly the band began to calmly exit the field/stadium and enter the arena.  I asked DSU’s band to follow them as they were unsure what to do next and it proved to be the perfect solution to their situation.

After 20 minutes, perhaps more, content that everything was taken care of with regard to student safety and equipment organization, I entered the arena myself.  I had no idea what I was going to find, and I expected to be confronted with all sorts of problems, negative reactions, and yes, chaos.  Why? Simple–the band was on their own inside the arena during a volleyball tournament along with a few thousand football fans while the staff and I were outside “securing the perimeter.”  But what I found was quite the opposite…..and it was at this moment I have never been more proud of any group I have ever had the PRIVILEGE to work FOR!

Remember, the instructions were simply to exit the field and go into the stands in the arena.  Nothing more.  I got to the top of the arena concourse, closed my eyes, took a deep breath and opened my eyes expecting to find band members everywhere…..and I didn’t.  I looked out into the arena and found the entire UDMB sitting in the center section of the arena cheering on Columbia University (they were in blue so it seemed appropriate) against Texas A&M. The band members were in FULL UNIFORM, shakos at their feet, instruments in their laps and all sitting together.  No one told them to do this; no one told them how to act; no one told them where to sit; no one told them anything expect to “go into the arena and sit in the stands.”

I could go on and on about the rest of the evening, the percussion concert in the lobby between volleyball matches, the volunteer brass players who cheered on the team in the pouring rain, the quiet departure of band members with parents or when the buses came to pick them up, etc.  But I do not believe it is necessary–you get the idea.

Class, dignity and respect—the pride of Delaware, the University of Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hen Marching Band.  …not much more to say, just proud to be a Blue Hen.

photo courtesy of Chris McCauley Ohannessian