Posts Tagged ‘commitment’

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.

 

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.

This is not a religious post–but it is about the definition of the word. In fact, let us begin with that:

According to Merriam Webster, the basic definition of the word ‘faith’ is strong belief or trust in someone or something.

There are times when a series of circumstances tests our faith. Days when nothing seems to go right, when every conceivable and inconceivable obstacle appears out of nowhere and is thrown directly in front of you. It takes every ounce of energy you have to avoid running into that brick wall that you are convinced was not there one second ago. By the end of days like those you tend to get into your car, drive out of a darkened parking lot, head home to a quiet house and question why on earth you even bother trying.

Fortunately there are hints of wonder that walk side by side with the challenges—you just have to look hard enough to see them. One of the beautiful gifts I get is watching my students “figure it out.” First, yes, it is a GIFT one receives as a teacher. Second, “figure it out” is sometimes the most important lesson you can ever teach a student.

Today’s young adults want their world to be black and white. “What do I need to do to get an “A?” “What exactly is expected of me in this class?” What do you want me to do at this exact moment in time in order to not be wrong?” This is our world now…but the truth of it all is that there are no answers to the above questions.  The world is NOT black and white friends. The world is 1 million shades of gray.  This means that putting the gray matter located inside your skull to work is the only option you have at having a prayer at survival.  Sadly many of our young adults are not ready for primetime–they have been set up to FAIL by previous teachers, and yes, their parents.

My dear friend Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser likes to preface sessions with “Truth or Sugar?” …and always the group says “TRUTH!” The reality is that the truth is a killer.  So while the truth that today’s young adults have been set up to fail in many ways is brutal, it is NOT the end result.  It is, however, the starting point!

So where do we go from here? UP! That’s where we go! And as we climb the ladder which seems to have no end in sight, no arrival point, no moment of “I’VE MADE IT!” we keep climbing because of this little thing called ‘faith.’

Perhaps a recap of yesterday will help with understanding where all this is coming from this evening:

The derailment began when the band buses were not only late but apparently the drivers did not know they needed to bring the band to the stadium BEFORE the game…we’ve used this company since BEFORE I was director. Then I got a text that the pit equipment truck battery was dead and they were waiting for it to be jumped. Then I called Motor Pool to find out that they were waiting for me to tell them to go to the CFA to jump start the battery even after they had been called by my GA 20 minutes earlier. Then everyone EXCEPT the trumpet section arrived at the practice fields–still short 1 bus. Then the pit truck arrived during warmups so we changed up the entire practice schedule and did Pregame first.  All of this occurred in the span of ONE HOUR!.

Next we finally get the pit fired up (literally–we be electric now!!  All mic-ed up and putting out decibels!!) and start to rehearse the Overture. 15 minutes later—evacuate to the Field House due to storm cell with thunder and lightening.  Rehearsal over.

None of this would have been bad had it been any other time of year. However the last time we rehearsed with the pit was the last day of Band Camp 6 days ago. The rehearsal on Wednesday had us still on met and we did NOT “run-thru” any of the tunes except Overture–we were still breaking things down and running “chunks.” If you are following you have started to break out into a cold sweat because you know what all this means:  the first real run of Overture, Masquerade and the encore Malaguena would be under the proverbial gun DURING halftime!  No chunks; no met; 1 -2, GO!!!!!

And they did….and I finally calmed down.  Those of you who know me are aware that I get wired with nervous energy at the first game. I don’t want them to fail at anything. I don’t want them to go home thinking “we’re no good.” I don’t want them ever to feel embarrassed. Usually I am excited to see/hear what they do because I KNOW they are going to be incredible right out of the gate.  Last night was not one of those times.  Last night I was a nervous wreck. They weren’t ready; they didn’t have a single full rehearsal in 6 days; they had no idea what to do when the team scored; they had no idea how to get on and off the field. …and the list went on and on.  I was a virtual train wreck heading for the end of the line that was hovering over the edge of an abyss.

(ok…perhaps a tad melodramatic….or not.  I was a mess!)

And then they played the first note of the Overture after the auctioneer narration and the music box…and I giggled.

And then they played the final crescendo…and I chuckled.

And then they played Letter O of Masquerade…and I outright laughed.

And then they unloaded Malaguena…and I wished I had a horn so I could join the soloists on the sideline.

And then….postgame was even better.

Have a little faith.  I didn’t yesterday. I had lost most of it. I was caught up in the insanity and lost sight of faith: faith in the one thing that has always been a constant for me—this band pulling up their boots by the bootstraps and ‘figuring it out.’

It was always there…I just couldn’t see it at first because I wasn’t looking hard enough….

It was the spring of 1995 and it was just another job. That’s right: A JOB. For after all, what is being a band director at a major university: nothing more than a paycheck. Right? …not even close.

I did not know then that I would spend the rest of my life in Delaware. At the time I considered it as another job that might lead somewhere else one day. Frankly I was never one who looked farther down the road than 10 feet. When it came to work, I lived in the proverbial moment. (Not so much with the rest of my life but that is neither here nor there.) The University of Delaware hired me to be their marching band director and that was that–time to get “at it.”

21 years later I find myself still here. Many life events have occurred: I lost both parents, a few pets, and an enormous amount of dear friends and loved ones. I bought and remodeled a house. I have been through a ridiculous amount of cars. My knees and hips have either been rebuilt, replaced or on the brink of one or the other. …we will NOT discuss my shoulders…

Regardless of all that, I consider Delaware my home. Sure I’m a north Jersey broad that marched drum corps (Go Bucs!) and can still drive like I own the road, but my home and heart has taken up residence in a small state that is nothing to be messed with.

Tomorrow night the one “thing” I love more than perhaps anything in the world will come to life on a football field. 350 college students will don uniforms, carry instruments and give up their hearts and souls for 15 minutes during halftime at a football game and again for a tad longer post-game. This “thing” keeps me going year after year. I would be a liar if I didn’t say it gets a bit more difficult each summer to summon up the energy, the creative power to write a show, the ability to push physical pain and limitation away and “be in it with them” again. But somehow, some way I manage.  I have to because they expect nothing less.

This “thing” will once again remind me how much I love what I do, how grateful I am to have A JOB that I love each and every day, how lucky I am to be able to give to others what was once given to me. To strive for excellence, to achieve goals only dreamed of, to push beyond self-inflicted personal limitations, to look into the faces of those who do not understand and smile thinking “they have no idea what a joy my world truly is.”

It’s called college marching band.  It is a world that cannot be explained–just accept it as something greater than yourself. Being Santa is hard work…not so sure I would have it any other way…

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.

The eve before Thanksgiving. I’m sitting here in my family room with the fireplace a blaze…it’s still snowing outside albeit much less than earlier in the day. Delaware got its share of slush…the usual for this part of the eastern corridor. Tomorrow I will enjoy the company of friends–the turkey is ready for the oven, stuffing is ready to be baked, dessert is all done (bread pudding with whisky sauce–note the spelling of “whisky,” it is important), and cranberry relish is all chilled. There’s not much left to do except relax…FOR ONCE!

While rummaging through Facebook I came across a posting of a video that made me think just a little outside the box and allowed me to find a way to tie a bunch of different thoughts together into one topic:  traditions. As a band director it is a word that I tend to loathe. A dear friend once said that  “if you do something two years in a row it is suddenly a ‘tradition.'” Well said George, well said. Thanksgiving traditions–we all do it. Just re-read the above list of all the food I’ve prepared and there you have it.  (Please note the absence of pumpkin pie…um, gross. Apple is fine, but pumpkin…blech.) Families gather together all across the country and do “traditional” things. Once upon a time, not all that long ago, I would gather with George and part of his family out at a local Delaware golf course sometime during the 4-days. Regardless of weather or temps, we HAD to play golf!  It was a TRADITION!

But this time of year there are more traditions that cross my mind. It is the end of the season for the UDMB and the last home game is filled with traditions: seniors turn their capes around, seniors perform a senior show, the drum line marches the graduating members OUT the pregame gate–the way they first entered as Rookies, and the list goes on and on.  The band has a traditional song–it’s OUR song:  “In My Life.” It holds meaning to every member that can never be conveyed to someone who has never participated in the UDMB. Sure the outside world thinks they “get it,” but not in totality. The UMASS Minuteman Marching Band has “My Way.” These traditions are worth keeping and holding dear because they bridge the generational gap in a way that is indescribable.

Tonight I came across a video that made me think about all of this.  Every corps has their song. Star of Indiana had “When You Wish Upon A Star.” Santa Clara Vanguard: “Send In The Clowns.” The Cavaliers: “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” And many more.  Any member of any drum corps will tell you that when they hear the melody of their corps song it stops them in their tracks and their hearts skip a beat.  Some call it tradition…I call it love.

Tomorrow the Madison Scouts will perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade…yet another tradition. The video I saw this evening was of the group playing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”–their song.  (click and enjoy.  For those on Facebook this one is even better.  )  Within seconds of watching/listening all I could do was think of this coming Saturday evening when I will spend a few hours with some very dear friends at the Reading Buccaneer Banquet. I still have yet to wrap my head around being inducted into the corps Hall of Fame…perhaps I will Saturday night. I do not know if the corps song will be sung…I hope it will be. Our song is set to the melody from the movie theme of “An Affair To Remember,” and my affair (if you will) with the Reading Buccaneers from 1983 – 1990 is one I cherish more than I can ever explain. As I posted upon hearing the news, the evening will be just a tad bittersweet due to “absent friends.” …but I was lucky enough to find a video of the song being sung that captures the depth of tradition, the bittersweetness of it all, and how a simple song can mean the world to people who have shared the same experiences.

Traditions…sometimes they ARE a good thing.

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