Posts Tagged ‘graduation’

UD Commencement was yesterday and I was driving back from a week of “doing nothing” in the Outer Banks. I have not attended commencement in a number of years…I can’t seem to bring myself to overcome the concept of the finality of it all for yet another group of magnificent men and women departing in order to join in the celebration of their success.  The final home game is bad enough…then there’s Band Banquet and the annual video I slave over for them–that’s brutal.  To do it a third time, well, I just can’t seem to–to say “goodbye”–and I know they don’t understand. I’m not so sure I do either.

Call it avoidance, call it denial, call it anything you like–every year a group of incredible students make their way out of the stadium one last time and are called “alumni”–and I choose not to celebrate the moment with them. There is no question that some feel disappointment, some feel anger, some feel indifference. They should. I held their hands, in some cases, for four years and now they step off the edge into the abyss alone.

Know one thing Class of 2015–you, as did all the others beforehand, changed me during our time together. Your collective presence in my life added joy, fulfillment, happiness and peace…ok and the occasional challenge as well, but how else is one to grow if not for challenges? You are all part of the never-ending legacy of the UDMB. You are all family forevermore. I will leave you with one final thought, one you’ve heard before:

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
And so they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.”

― Guillaume Apollinaire

…and fly, you will.

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.

“We said goodbye to a dear old friend
And we packed our bags and left feeling sad
It’s the only way”

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2010 – Freshman Year:  Moments like this one run through your mind…this just happened.  Only yesterday were you sitting in a room with 100+ other freshmen being told: “Enjoy every moment. It will go by in the blink of an eye.” And you thought: “I don’t know who this woman is…I don’t know if I can trust her…I miss my high school band director and all my friends.  What did I get myself into?!”

Dirt.  That’s what.  Dust and dirt. Grit in your eyes, in your teeth, in your throat every time you took a breath to play.  WTH?!  And what is up will all those trucks loaded with turf turds??  They drive back and forth and back and forth…and you thought: “If I have to do this tune one more time because a dump truck interfered with our run through I’m going to quit!”

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…but you didn’t.  You stayed…and perhaps you learned to love.

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2011 arrived…TURF COMPLEX! And you thought: “How could this be possible? How can we have such a place to rehearse? Wait–we’ve got LIGHTS??????  Who the hell painted dark green yard lines on a green plastic surface?!”  You weren’t a freshman any longer–you were a SOPHOMORE!  And as far as you were concerned college was the best place ever and it would never end.  Yet something kept pushing you. Time was speeding up and people you came to know and love the year before had moved on.  But it was ok. You were ready for more responsibility, more excitement and more everything.  You wanted to stay forever because these were quite possibly the best days of your life!

Still there was only one thought running through your mind more than any other: “My legs are going to fall off if we do “Good Riddance” again!”  

…but they didn’t. And you stayed…and perhaps you learned perseverance.

Image2012–Junior Year:  Suddenly you were a junior.  How did that happen??  And you thought: “What do you mean I have to play all these notes?!  Where’s the rock and roll? Oh dear lord…we’ve got props?!?!  Sarv has finally gone over the deep end. She’s in the shed with a table saw, power drill, hammer, nails…and I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard so many curse words strung together like that! Hey look–the fences are on wheels!!!  That’s sort of cool…….(and then, 10 minutes later)….Not only are the damn fences in my way but I have to MOVE them too???”  

And then it was November and it hit you…they’re leaving.  The seniors are leaving…and you’ll be here all alone.  And you thought: “When did that happen? What am I going to do? How can I come back without them?”

…but you did. You stayed…and perhaps you learned commitment.

Image2013–Senior Year:  …and you thought: “Look at all the new things!!  A new truck! New uniforms! Even Sarv and Rah are NEW!  But wait…..O.M.G.  I can’t believe it. Sarv was right–it went by in the blink of an eye! I can’t stop crying. Everyone’s crying…why aren’t the freshmen crying?! Don’t they understand?? It’s almost OVER! “ But they don’t understand.  All they know is that they made some of the best friends they will ever have at a time when they were more frightened than ever before…and that those friends are leaving them.

They don’t understand why Christmas changed…but you do.  You stayed…and perhaps you learned to give.

You see, if you did YOUR job right these last few years then they WILL understand one day…in fact many of them already do.  And that is because of YOU. The journey you’ve been on has been filled with far more than you ever could have imagined four short years ago.  You take with you memories and friendships that define you, that you will carry with you for the rest of your lives. But what you do not realize is all you have left behind.  You have built upon the foundation of those who came before; you have added your lasting impact upon the lives of others; you gave people (me) strength when they felt they had none left.

Travel well my friends….and when you arrive at the start of your next adventure I hope of all the lessons you’ve learned this one is carried in your heart: “To Love. To love what you do; to love each other; and to love yourself with complete and total abandonment.”

“We said hello as we turned the key
A new roof over our heads
Gave a smile
It’s the only way.”