Posts Tagged ‘george-parks’

Those of us who are engaged in the fall edition of pageantry have been “at it” for a little over a month thus far. Each summer, as the start date for Band Camp creeps closer and closer, my level of apprehension is in direct proportion to the timeline: the closer we get the more apprehensive I get. It is a mix of anticipation, excitement, and primal terror!

This year was no different than any other except for a few personal reasons:

  • coming off a much needed sabbatical
  • fully recovered from a second hip replacement
  • finally getting on top of my health and feeling AWESOME

I started camp, however, the same way — apprehensive — but at least I was in a more positive frame of mind.

As camp progressed I did, however, notice a distinct difference between what I perceived the trajectory to be this year versus what it has been for the last…I don’t know so let’s say “number of years.” This could be directly related to my attitude and my approach or it could be something else or it could be a combination of many things. Regardless, something was different.

Rehearsals have been productive; only two performances in–with only one of them being the full show–and the energy is skyrocketing. Communication among the student leadership is topnotch–stronger and more proactive than previous years. In short, there just seems to be a whole lot of JOY out on the field, as well as OFF the field!

One of the reasons may be the inquisitiveness of the student leadership: they ask PROPER questions; they are engaged; they “do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether they want to do it or not, and without being asked.” They are not afraid to inquire about WHY of things in order to understand more–which brings me to the reason for this post.  I received an email from a student wanting to know why I felt this year was different when compared to last year. More specifically, the student still sees many, many mistakes that need to be corrected. To use the student’s own words:

 “I’m curious as to what you see from your point of view that we don’t. This has just puzzeled me as there is still so much room for improvement for this band.”

The student is, of course, correct!  It’s September 19th and we haven’t even scratched the surface with regard to cleaning. There is SO much to be done.

It is about perspective; it is about experience. It is not something I expect anyone IN the band to understand. When you are WITHIN the experience you cannot also stand OUTSIDE of it and “see” the “bigger picture.” If you could…the whole world would be a much different place!

If you place 100 senior band members in a room and ask them what was their favorite year, odds are in favor of over 98% of them saying “their freshman year.” Why? Simple–it was Christmas for them and nothing is better than Christmas! With that said, one of the hardest learning curves for anyone is to put Christmas away and begin the journey of moving quickly from stage 2 to stage 3.  <To understand these references click here.> Stage 3 is challenging for many reasons because the personal reward is indirect. Asking college students to push through their I/ME stage of development is HUGE! Many do extremely well, others can struggle. By simply asking the question, it is clear this student is on the way to stage 3–only a little push is required!

But I haven’t answered the question…or have I?

Every band is different. The minute you change one single thing, even if it is the EXACT SAME BAND with only ONE person not returning and no new people being added, the composition of the whole has changed! My dear friend George Parks, former director of the University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band, used to ask the rookie class “How many of you have seen the UMMB? How many of you want to be in THAT band?”  Virtually every hand would shoot up into the air…and then he dropped the most unexpected statement ever: “Well, you can’t be in that band. That band is GONE! But YOU will be part of making THIS year’s UMMB great!” Of course, no one in the rookie classes ever understood what he was trying to convey. To use my good friend Rob Hammerton’s words:

“Odd thing to say, if you want to rev up your troops on the eve of battle … but his point was: this year’s band is not last year’s. It’s not even the same as last year’s.”

It is best not to analyze the situation, merely to accept it. The 2016 UDMB is NOT better than other years, it is merely different. It is the differences that can make something seem more magical than something else. This does NOT mean other bands were LESS–for every band I have ever had the privilege of working with has been “the best” as far as I’m concerned–it merely means that the proverbial stars have aligned ever so slightly more and there is something intangible about the composition of the various elements that make this band seem to be “more special.”

Of course, it is still early in the season and anything can happen…but I have the feeling this group won’t need to be coaxed to the edge and won’t need to be pushed–they already know how to fly!

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…

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.

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.

…but not about what you may think.

Sure, I’ve got tons of memories racing through my head about the last 20 years here at UD.  But today I came across a post by Brian Balmages.  It contained a link to a YouTube video Roger Blackburn uploaded.  It was of the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble from 1969. This video clip brought back a flood of memories…so incredibly strong that I ended up breaking out the horn for about 30 minutes this afternoon.

Seeing Seymour Rosenfeld playing second trumpet…well that, coupled with the music on the clip–both tunes I have played an infinite amount of times–brought me back briefly to my days at Temple University, but most of all, to my days as a grad student at UMASS.  One day I was an undergraduate finishing my degree in music education and the next day I was a graduate student beginning my master’s in trumpet performance.  One of the main responsibilities: member of the Faculty Brass Quintet. Playing 2nd trumpet to Walter Chesnut, with Laura Klock on horn, David Sporny on trombone, and George Parks on tuba…..absolutely no pressure folks–NOT!  No room for error.  No excuse for not knowing every single note on your page better than you know your own name. My mantra: “Keep up with Mr C because he is going to push me and Laura will never forgive me….and George, he’ll help bandage my wounds on the walk to the parking lot.”

But there were very few wounds–it was perhaps the greatest lesson I ever had about responsibility, demand, commitment, and team work all rolled into one.  Two years of gigging with four of the greatest!  The Graduation folder—filled with all the standard brass quintet literature that we played at almost all commencements held at Amherst College, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith.  All of us piled in a van, Walter behind the wheel with George sound asleep next to me as I talked with Dave Sporny about who knows what.  Talk about a true “clown car!”

Music–one of the most powerful vehicles for memory and emotional stimulation. Listening to Gil Johnson and Seymour Rosenfeld and the rest of the PBE played Gabrieli’s “Canzona per Sonare No. 2” (a tune so many of us played together while in college) instantly transported me back to a time when, in many ways, life was simple.

So yes, I broke out the old trumpet.  I haven’t played since fall 2009. I expected nothing. I experienced the world.  Endurance is gone but tone, technique and flexibility–all present and accounted for.  As I played through some etudes (Bousquet and Vantelbosch) and literature (Kaminsky’s Concerto and Clark’s “The Southern Cross”….yes, I even landed the high Eb in the opening cadenza) I couldn’t help but hear Walter Chesnut saying “Air!” “Place that one IN the bell.” “Is that really the articulation?” “SING!”  …and all of those things so many of us heard in all our lessons were accompanied by the mental image of a man who would sit and beam when you played like an angel.

I took those days for granted…what I wouldn’t give to play “Die Banklesangleider” with them once again….

(left to right)  Laura Klock, George Parks, Jeff Holmes, Walter Chesnut, David Sporny

(left to right) Laura Klock, George Parks, Jeff Holmes, Walter Chesnut, David Sporny

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!)

There are things that happen for a reason.  When each event occurs rarely is one aware of the specific reason for the situation to unfold the way it does.  However, during the last four years I have become a little more aware of such moments, but only in the belief that there is a reason behind them.  I do not know what they ultimately mean, but I am aware that at some point I will come to fully understand why they occurred.

I do not mean to pull you along a metaphysical journey, nor one of spiritual belief.  That’s far too personal for me to EVER blog about.  What I will do, if you, the Reader, will indulge me, is to take you back to the fall of 1986 on the campus of UMASS/Amherst, where a young freshman mellophone player would eventually be the reason why the University of Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hen Marching Band has been as successful as it has been these last 20 years.

Before we use the Wayback Machine permit me to explain a bit more…

Lately I have been blathering on about “knowing where you came from,” “understanding your past so you can live for the future,” respecting and honoring those who came before,” etc. I have gone on and on about such topics because for me they are what gives our lives substance, purpose and meaning.  Without the past we have no idea where the future will take us.  Without the past we have no foundation upon which to stand. Without the past we are merely living for the moment with no support upon which to lean should we ever need it.  Without the past our existence would be very empty.

Each summer I spend 8 – 9 weeks on the road teaching workshops for the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy®.  I have done this for the last 30 summers.  Each workshop brings with it a chance to delve deeper into the “WHY” and the “HOW.”  I have been teaching the “WHAT” for so long that it is merely the vehicle I use in which to understand MORE.  With each workshop the material passes through a new filter in my mind.  The filter is new because life experiences change how you view things.

My dear friend Timmy (that would be Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser to everyone else), who is also one of three men I’ve chosen during my life to be my brother, likes to say it this way: “Sometimes someone says the same thing they’ve said for years but there is a new wrinkle that is ever so slight and it make me go A-HA!”

This summer was a major A-HA moment for me and why I choose to write this particular blog entry.

DMA is still DMA…even without George. While it continues to evolve just as it did workshop to workshop when George was still with us, some big ticket items remain in place.  One of those is the ATTITUDE SESSION.  Sure some stories have changed but remember, the stories have always been just the vehicles used to teach each lesson.  This summer I was in the middle of ATTITUDE at EKU in Richmond, Kentucky when I suddenly expanded upon a particular lesson.  The lesson was “There are four things you can do in an unpleasant situation,” and it was number 1 that sparked a new story for me — “#1: Change it.”

(Enter the Wayback Machine with me as we journey back to 1986….Band Camp with the UMMB.)

  • 1986 – 

A cocky graduate student (me) who decided to break all the rules and still be in marching band, is one of two people left on the field after a full band march off.  My opponent: a freshman mellophone player named Jennifer Boltz. She is just as cocky as I am and I would be damned if I let her beat me!  …but she did…so I suppose I’m damned.  …two words: Oh Well.

I do not remember much about Jennifer during 1986 – 1988.  I was working on my master’s in trumpet performance and she was an undergraduate music education major.  I’m sure she has her own tales to tell but my memories of college and time in the UMMB have long since faded with only snapshot images of moments that hold special meaning for me.  What I do recall is the spring of 1988 and Jennifer’s audition for Drum Major of the UMMB.  I do not recall the actual audition but I recall her getting the position…my position.  My successor had been named.

  • 1988 – 

George and I were having a fight as usual (someone hold Trish Cornett please) and we were not speaking.  At some point mid-fall Jeanne Parks called me and asked when I planned to come up and see the band. I told her I had no intention of doing so. In short, she said she thought the two of us (George and I) were being idiots and that I needed to get past that and come up to see the band–it was amazing!  So I did…I drove up despite not speaking to my best friend and when the UMMB finished the opening fanfare of “Festive Overture” I had been reduced to tears!  They were amazing.  They were big and they were powerful, and I was shocked and simultaneously amazed at how impressive they were.  And there was that mellophone player on the podium: Jennifer Boltz.

  • 1989 –

Time for me to write for the UMMB again…and they were BIG!  Well over 300 members….what does one do with all those dots?!?!  Jennifer was back on the podium again.  This, of course, meant nothing to me. I was happy she was being successful and I hoped she was enjoying it as much as I did.  That was about it.  The band was incredible…I was a high school band director (first professional goal achieved)…George and I were speaking again (whoever is holding Trish may now let go). But a question lingered in my mind for the next few years: how did the band get so big so fast when it was stuck in the low 200s for so many, many years?

  • (Fast forward to 1993….”Building Power and Class”)

A documentary was made about the UMASS Minuteman Marching Band and there is a moment when filming is done in the McGuirk Stadium Pressbox of the Boltz sisters.  Jennifer is there and she talks about changing how the band welcomes the freshmen.  She talks about how when she was a freshman she did not feel very welcomed. She talks about the “suitcase thing” and how it was not any big deal but that because it WELCOMED the incoming band members in such a positive way, the band enrollment went from 200 to 300+ overnight.

“There are four things you can do in an unpleasant situation.  #1 – Change It.”  And Jennifer did just that the summer of 1988 for the UMMB.  The field staff was hanging out in the staff room of Old Chapel and just getting into trouble.  She thought if they would go unload the cars of the rookies during check in she could get them out of Old Chapel and they would be doing something positive for the band.  This simple, no nonsense, “fix the immediate problem” idea began a snowball effect that I am quite sure Jennifer had no idea would occur.  The freshmen were welcomed into the band…upperclassmen moved each one of them into their dorms for band camp and the freshmen felt wanted and needed. And BAM! The Minuteman Marching Band of UMASS became HUGE!

  • (Fast Forward to 1995…on the campus of the University of Delaware)

A new band director (me) gets appointed to the UDMB and the task before me is a little overwhelming.  Fortunately the majority of the senior class is hungry, perhaps they are ravenous for something new.  After teaching high school for a few years and being the Associate Director of Bands at Temple University for a few years, and spending my summers playing Tonto to George’s Lone Ranger, I knew enough to be completely and totally petrified at the prospect of being the head band director of a major university marching band.  Fortunately I also had learned that one makes small changes and takes their time molding a program into their vision (a vision that changes as much as the DMA “WHY” changes workshop to workshop!).

The first thing I instituted was “the suitcase thing.”  The Field Staff would move the rookies into their dorms; the Field Staff would do so with a smile on their faces; the Field Staff would love it…period.  In 1995 the UDMB numbered 147 members.  In 1998 the UDMB numbered 300 members.  Since 1998 the UDMB has had an annual average membership of 320.

All of this is due to a young mellophone player turned Drum Major of the University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band named Jennifer Boltz.

Thank you Jen.  A momentary blip on the radar screen of reason allowed me to connect all the dots for the first time this summer.  If you had not done what you did I would not be where I am today.  You are now a DMA story…George would be proud!

And so we come full circle my friends: everything happens for a reason.  We may not know the reason at the time but if we are patient, one day the reason will be revealed.

(…I suppose I could have just said thank you at the start of this missive, but when have I ever not taken advantage of telling a story in order to teach a lesson?!  So get ready to move those rookies into their dorms UDMB FIELD STAFF–time to make the BAND!)