Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

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….

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!”

My whole life I have loved a challenge, both personal and professional.  My parents knew from the get go that the worst thing they could ever do was to tell me I couldn’t try something. If the words “You know, maybe should think about doing something else.” ever came out of their mouths the look I would shoot across the room was one of sheer defiance and raw determination. I’m sure they thought I was possessed…perhaps they were correct.

Don’t tell me no. Don’t tell me I’m not capable. Do not ever tell me to slow down.  (…frankly someone probably needs to teach me the definition of the word ‘moderation’ but let’s face it, life is short so why waste your time on the impossible…) This approach has gotten me pretty far in life, albeit the equivalent of a runaway freight train coming down the side of a mountain.  But when that train gets to the bottom and has to being its trek up the other side, THAT is when my tenacious personality seems to take hold.

So…Bands of America needed a venue for a regional championship.  Ok. I have always thought Delaware Stadium is the most intimate place on the east coast for a marching band show. And the facilities are perfect for everything needed to support such a venture.  Let’s give it whirl.

Tomorrow 23 high school bands from up and down the east coast will make their way onto campus.  We start setting up this afternoon and we will be finished at approximately midnight tomorrow–about 29-30 hours from now.  Prelims competition all day; finals all night.  The UDMB will perform at the conclusion of both segments. The UDMB will be running every area of event with the exception of the times they are performing when alumni, family and friends will take over. Band of America is in charge of everything else (so if you want tickets get to their website).

My friends and colleagues are concerned of course. How the heck am I going to get through a day like this. I refer you to my opening paragraph.  I’ve got it covered! I’m fine. I’m ready to go……I’ve got enough corticosteroids pumped into my body to last lifetime….and I have a GOLF CART courtesy of UD Athletics!  Let’s roll folks!!

But seriously, I am, indeed, just fine.  I love a challenge–both personally and professionally and clearly tomorrow will be one that will test both areas.  I cannot wait to see all the vets from the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy® in action on the podium and on the field.  I cannot wait for the UDMB to rock their own house in front of thousands of high school marching band performers and their parents and staff.

The UDMB takes center stage tomorrow in a national setting–right here in their own home. How cool is that!! ..yes, I guess I am that proud parent that loves showing off her kids to the world.

So if you’re not doing anything tomorrow, October 25, come down to Delaware Stadium on the University of Delaware campus and check out some of the best high school marching bands on the east coast.  But watch out for that blonde behind the wheel of a golf cart…she’ll be on a mission and moderation is not something she understands.

A crisp September Saturday morning is at hand.  Coffee is steaming in a mug.  The pup and kitties are scattered around the house searching for an early morning sunspot in order to warm themselves while they snore away the rest of the morning.  And me…..?  I’m sitting in front of a computer screen drinking said coffee while considering various schedules for rehearsal later this morning.

The life of a college band director.  Piece of cake.  Let’s face it, what do we REALLY do after all? After 26 years of teaching I still hear the same thing from my academic colleagues:  “You’re the band director?  What do you teach? Do you teach any classes?” Of course that’s what they continue to ask year after year because let’s face it, marching band, heck, music in general, certainly isn’t a class!  …sigh….

So what do I teach?  Let’s see what kind of list I can create off the top of my head:

  • Respect
  • Discipline
  • Team Work
  • Responsibility
  • Commitment
  • Dedication
  • Leadership Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Teaching Skills
  • Trust
  • Loyalty
  • Integrity
  • Obligation
  • Time Management
  • Organizational Skills
  • Honor
  • Courtesy
  • Civility
  • and the pursuit of individual as well as group excellence.

But Heidi, academic course have exams!  Well of course they do, and so does the Marching Band.  Every single performance is a MAJOR exam.  Think outside the box people—just because one doesn’t sit at a desk and put pencil to paper does not mean that they are not taking an exam. My exams are administered in front of 23,000 people on a regular basis who give you a grade each and every time.  Not only are the students being tested but so is the staff and so am I.  These exams can be measured according to the same rubric of any other exam–in fact, they are!

Each and every day I require my students (and myself) to do better than the day before. Maybe that means coming to rehearsal having memorized more music. Maybe that means a person has developed a wider range of dynamic control on their instrument. Or maybe that means a person made an extra effort and arrived 5 minutes early to help ANOTHER student “get better.”

Pursuit of excellence is a journey–you do not ever arrive at excellence.  “Hey look gang! We made it! We’re now excellent!”  …yeah, right.  If only it were so.  The journey or pursuit is a continuous process–one for the individual and another one for the total group.  Today’s CLASS will continue the pursuit of excellence for the band (and myself) using all the skill sets mentioned above. Today’s EXAM will tell the band (and myself) whether we made the correct choices toward further excellence and also what we need to work on in preparation for the next exam.

Music is entertainment….sure. I get that. But you know what? Entertainers work just as hard as anyone else in this world, and their contributions to the beauty of life is just as important as the next major technological breakthrough.

Ok, time to chase the dream….Ah-GAIN!