Posts Tagged ‘grateful’

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.

It is so easy to point out what is wrong with people or situations these days. It’s all around us all the time. The person who can’t hold a door open for the next customer at the convenience store; the person who races you to a parking spot; the person who blows through a stop sign almost hitting you and gives a look that says YOU were wrong; the person who thinks taking a gun and killing a bunch of strangers is the answer to all their problems….and the list goes on and on and on.

There are many days I shake my head and wonder just why everyone is so angry ALL.THE.TIME.

Take this example for instance–it is one that is my greatest fears given the world we live in.  A man who lives near a high school doesn’t like the “noise” the school’s marching band produces. Answer: take a pellet gun and shoot the kids. Seriously?

But this blog post is NOT about that recent news story, nor is it about gun violence and/or control. It is about realizing if you just look a little closer and TAKE SOME TIME you will find many people who are still GOOD PEOPLE out there.

A few weeks ago I was well into my second metric century ride when it was clear I had misjudged the weather. This was not a sponsored event–it was just me, my ride, and the road. I had two water bottles mixed with half Gatorade/half water and a bunch of riding appropriate snacks in my jersey pockets. I was good. I was set. I could do this.  …and then the humidity jumped and the temps rose from 68 degrees to 81 steadily over the first 30 miles. With this not being a sponsored event I did not have food stops to look forward to–I had to get back to my car after the first loop in order to replenish supplies. That first loop was 38 miles. Down one water bottle and well into the second it was clear I wouldn’t make it back to my car with 8 miles to go and feeling VERY dehydrated.

Rolling into Port Penn along back country Delaware roads I saw a small bait shop that was open. I went in and asked if I could refill my water bottles. This was a simple “mom & pop” type store. Nothing fancy. Just local folks providing small services to local fishermen. The woman looked at me, said “Of course!” Do you need bottled water or Gatorade. We have some of that if you want more than just refilling these bottles.”

And that was when I realized I had only taken a credit card with me and no cash. I told her as much and she said:

“Do you ride through here often?”

I said, “Yes, it’s part of my regular route these last few months.”

She said, “Then the next time you come through, whether tomorrow, next week, next month, you can pay me $3 for this extra bottle of water and this bottle of Gatorade. You cyclists come through all the time and are always so nice.”

I said thank you and promised her I would be back through later that same day. She waved me off and again said whenever I came through would be just fine.

I’m sure you know how the story played out but here you go anyway:  I got back to my car just fine. There was no way I was going to do the second part of the ride–it was just too oppressive and I was not prepared as well as I thought I was. I got in my car and drove back to the little store and put a $5 bill on the counter. I yelled “thank you” to the woman who was now in the back steaming crabs. She looked up, I waved, smiled and left.

Two weeks later I rode through Port Penn again. I was well prepared for my ride but I wanted to stop in and say hello regardless. There she was, smiling at me behind the counter. She reached into the cash box (not a register mind you) and pulled out $2. She said, “You overpaid me last time.” I smiled, went over to the refrigerator, pulled out a bottle of Gatorade and said, “Now we’re even.”

Whether it’s a nice couple who are barely scraping by to make a living and do a good deed for a road weary cyclist, or a surgeon who takes time out of a conference in Vienna to contact you about the concerning email you sent two hours earlier, or another doc who decides to go back to his office–after having left hours earlier for the day/weekend–in order to take care of one of your students…take a moment and look around folks: there really still are GOOD people in the world.

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 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.

I was driving home after morning block rehearsal at band camp just now listening to NPR.  An interview with M.K. Asante was on and I was instantly intrigued.  He was speaking about his new book “Buck – A Memoir” — essentially his life story.  It is not a pretty story–it is a POWERFUL story.  And yes, I purchased it for my Kindle and will begin my journey through it’s “pages” over the weekend.

What resonated with me so quickly was not just the material (teenager growing up in Philly, etc.) but the life lessons he experienced to go from the streets of Philly to becoming a tenured professor at Morgan State University.  The portion of the interview I caught was focused around life’s lessons and how they are everywhere if you just open yourself up and step outside your comfort zone (sound familiar?).  The two main points I heard were:

1) He had no use for school.  A teacher put a blank piece of paper in front of him and said, “Write.”  He didn’t want to do the assignment–he wanted to get thrown out of class, so he wrote “F— School.”  The teacher looked at his paper and said, “Write more.”

This was THE defining moment in his life.  (You never know the impact you will have upon another person.  Even the simplest thing can change a person’s life forever….in a good way or a bad way.)  As you can imagine, I was hooked!

The second thing he said was about learning from everything thing, even from people you would never think could teach you something:

2) “A bum on the street asked me if I knew what “soul” was.  I said, “You mean like Soul Train?” He said, “No. Soul is the graceful survival against impossible circumstances.”

Wow.  That was all I could think.  We are so quick to discount people because of outward appearances, physical looks, etc.  Everyone and everything is here for us to learn from and yet we do not open ourselves enough to take in all of our world.

Much to think about……and must return to band camp…and much to write about band camp too.

…thank you.

It has been MONTHS since I took the time to post here and I’m not all that sure why.  There were many times I had this particular post running around in my cluttered mind but simply didn’t make the time.  Hmmm…that is unacceptable for me.  I will attempt to be better at my communication….until the calendar starts to fill up again.  🙂

The holiday season has come and gone and I was struck by how many people were “chatting” about all the things they were thankful for.  What struck me was the number of posts that addressed the present and future but very little about the past.  I found that interesting.  Now, don’t get me wrong–I’m BEYOND grateful for all the wonderful people currently in my life and the wonderful things I am experiencing.  Thankful simply doesn’t come close to how I feel about all I have.  But I also know that if it weren’t for all that came before (people and experiences) I would NEVER be where I am today!

We are all a composite of everyone who has crossed our paths–the “big” people in our lives (family members, teachers, role models, etc.) and the “little” people in our lives (the stock boy at the supermarket, the front desk manager at the hotel, the man who held the door for you at WaWa, etc.).  Every person and every event you’ve ever encountered and experienced had an impact on WHO you’ve become!

…when you stop to think about that it quickly becomes overwhelming…

So as I sit here in a hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with the balcony door open and the salt air coming into the room, enjoying nice cup of coffee and getting ready work with the Bowl Games of America All-Star Band and the high school bands joining us for a massed band finale with the Miami Sound Machine at the BCS National Title Game I want to give a “shout out” to the people who contributed to this crazy person my students call SARV—

  • Mom and Dad;
  • The Basses, Sarvers, Dinbarts, and Hoffmans (and all the other family extensions!);
  • My music teachers (Mrs. Goldblatt, Miss Gonzales, Mrs. Andrews, Mr. Brown, Mr. Law, Mr. Sayre, Mr. Goff, Mr. Beavers, Dr. Deihl, Dr. Bundy, Mr. Chesnut, Mr. Rowell, George;
  • The neighborhood kids who screamed outside our living room window telling me to stop practicing piano (….I didn’t);
  • All those who understood that my trumpet was always in my possession and band was life whether they “got it” or not;
  • My friends in college who did (and still do) “get it;”
  • All the Reading Bucs and other drum corps folks;
  • My past colleagues who shared the same dream–becoming a college band director or music professor–but for their own reasons chose different paths;
  • Former students who shaped all the programs I’ve ever been part of;

And this could go on forever–it is infinite.

For me it is simple: we are who we are because of those who have come in and out of our lives.  They have all left their mark upon our lives.  But there is one particular group of people I wish to address that is not necessarily of the traditional listing, my predecessors.

**My predecessors, most recently J. Robert King, David Blackington, Robert Streckfuss and Alan Hamant. Some of you I know, some of you I’ve never met.  But because of YOU I have been able to do what I have done at UD.  Each of you has carved part of the path, ultimately passing the keys for the bulldozer to your successor, just as I will do one day.  The path before me is unpaved, raw, and in some ways, unknown.  The bulldozer, however sits idling on a paved surface–you have to remember to look BEHIND you to see the paved road others created before you took over the controls.

So often people begin a new position (just as I did 18 years ago) and approach it from a position of “the world begins with me.”  This is NOT true.  No matter how hard one tries to deny the past, what came before you DID exist. You cannot erase it–ever.  All you are going to do is leave YOUR mark next to the marks that everyone who came before left.  Your mark will not wipe away anything–to think so is foolish.  Your mark is added to the picture, just another imprint on the “life” of whatever it is you’re part of.  Some marks will be big and loud. Some marks will be soft and small.  Regardless of which yours is, it is a mere part of the whole that others will add to long after you have moved on.

So to all those who came before me, thank you.  Thank you for what YOU created. Had you not paved the path before me I wouldn’t have been able to even GET to the bulldozer, let alone carry on all you did.