Posts Tagged ‘halftime’

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…

UDMB DM Megan NixonTomorrow is the final home game of the 2011 regular season.  A typical season on some levels; an atypical one many others (hurricanes, earthquakes, and more).  As is always the case I became a bit reflective as I drove the lift from the turf complex across the dark athletic fields.  This is a traditional solitary ride for me–I like it that way to be honest.  Me driving a big piece of construction equipment at twilight….ok, it’s a little weird I will give you that.  But for some reason I am able to use the time to be deep in my thoughts about the season that is about to pass into the history books in 24 hours, and about a very special group of seniors.

Anyone who spends countless hours on a football field in every conceivable type of weather doing one of the most physically demanding SPORTING activities known to man has a right to be happy, thrilled, ecstatic that it is all about to come to an end.  And yet every year there are tears in the eyes, if not falling down the faces, of each senior band member.  The realization that a huge part of WHO they are is coming to an end hits, and it hits hard.  Sure there were hard rehearsals, of course there was frustration at times, and yes, there were days you did not want to be out there anymore.  But now, facing “the final curtain,” one finds themselves wishing to be a rookie again; wishing they could do it all over again because it all happened far too fast.  More time, please can we have more time?!

“Regrets, I’ve had a few” is how another stanza of that song goes, and yes, I’m sure every member of the UDMB has had one or two over the years.  But regrets are not what the seniors are focusing on right now.  They are thinking about their first band camp; the first friends they made that they will probably keep for the rest of their adult lives; their first overnight trip sleeping on a gym floor; mixing with UMASS and watching two grown adults (George Parks and I) acting like little kids, each band being embarrassed by their respective director and both directors looking at each other and laughing harder; their lifetime memory of marching in the Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C. and NOT freezing to death; flying to Texas for a football championship game; and anticipating their final regular season performance in Annapolis, MD in 48 hours.

The memories are endless for this year’s UDMB senior class just as they are endless for every senior class that came before and will be for every senior class yet to come.  There is no other organization in college that goes out of its way to provide as many experiences as possible for it’s members–experiences that are not to be had anywhere else on campus.  THAT is my goal, THAT is what drives me, THAT is why I do this year after year.  To see their faces when they are living IN THE MOMENT–there is no greater joy for me.  (I learned that from a dear friend not that long ago.)

So to the seniors and EVERYONE in the UDMB, here is your to do list for the final weekend:

  • Make eye contact with those around you and “be in it WITH” them;
  • Meet a few new people in band you’ve not met yet;
  • Cheer for the team; the cheerleaders; dance team; mascots AND EACH OTHER;
  • Thank a Field Staff and Ad Staff member;
  • Thank a ROOKIE;
  • Hug your friends;
  • Thank you parents;
  • Enjoy each and every moment of the experience because it only happens once each year.
And lastly, if you’ve learned anything this year I hope it was–
  • To love what you do;
  • To love each other;
  • And to love yourself  – with complete and total abandonment…”in my life, I loved them all.”

As we head into our fifth home game of the season here at the University of Delaware I have mixed feelings about things.  They are personal yet they revolve around the profession I am so proud to be part of.  UD plays UMASS in football tomorrow and for the first time since the 1990’s the UMASS Minuteman Marching Band will not be in attendance.

WHAT?! you say.  It’s true.  And it’s not for any reason short of budget concerns.  The UDMB faced the same thing last year when we were unable to travel to the northland.  The economy is taking it’s toll on college marching bands all over the country.  The cost to move 300 people for just ONE day can be upwards of $15,000.  An overnight trip can run as high as $25,000.  Remember–you have to feed them too!  It’s expensive, period.

When I spoke with the new band director of the UMMB about coming down and learned that they would not be making the journey I have to admit to disappointment.  This was our sister band. George and I, Thom and Jim, Rah and Fred worked for years to cultivate the relationship between the programs–we would be the unique ones in the country: two college rival football programs whose bands were closer than siblings.  (Well OF COURSE the students would be–all the directors were!)  It did not take long for this relationship to not only develop, but THRIVE.  Let’s face it, have you ever heard of two other college marching bands, their parents and their alumni all traveling to Ireland to perform in two New Year’s events as ONE organization?!

I was looking forward to celebrating the UMASS departure from the FCS to Division 1.  I was looking forward to being host to my old friends Thom Hannum, Colin McNutt, John Leonard, and a host of others.  I was looking forward to showing the new director Tim Anderson our Delaware hospitality and wishing him well as he begins his journey down the road that George Parks left so abruptly.  So I was disappointed.

And yet after thinking about it I came to the conclusion that, once again, things happen for a reason.  In this case a very selfish reason.  The last time the UMMB was in our house was 2009.  The two groups joined together for a massed band performance of “America, the Beautiful” and “My Man.”  George and I got to enjoy being “kids” again–we were able to go back to the way we were when we first met in the Buccaneers:  George on the podium and me playing solo trumpet.  And for a brief moment in time, we WERE kids again.  The two staffs were arm in arm during “My Way” and “In My Life” as were  the two bands.  Swaying and singing together as ONE organization.  …and yes, the UMMB tubas “forked” the front lawn of my house with “UM hearts UD.”  And it was all good and it was as it should have been.

So my mixed feelings are between personal and professional.  My professional side would have liked to play host to my alma mater one last time; my personal side is content with the fact that the relationship between the programs ended as it was meant to in 2009.  And those memories will be cherished by all those who were part of our 16 year relationship–one that I do not believe exists anywhere else in the country.

Will the relationship continue?  That remains to be seen–perhaps yes, perhaps no.  Changes–they happen.

The Route 1 Rivalry has begun and with it a new relationship with a new college band: Del State. We have had bands come in and out of Delaware Stadium for years and the most important part for me is to get the students to appreciate each other’s efforts, and embrace each other’s differences. Del State fit right in line with all the other groups we have hosted,

Haltime was easy–we had chatted a few times prior to the game in order to make sure we had the timing correct so that there would be no concern about when one band as finished and the other would start. In fact, the timing was so tight we were about 30 seconds UNDER time–something almost unheard of! This is a credit to the DSU leadership!

There is no question that DSU knows how to entertain–they did a fantastic job and it was a treat to see the UDMB dancing on the sideline during their post game performance!

Here’s to the next part of the rivalry–a football rivalry but a band co-existence.

PS. The DSU band received a call in the middle of the UDMB post game performance that forced them to depart prior to our completion. This is not unusual and was completely understood by our band. We hope the fans understand they were not being disrespectful with the early exit.