Posts Tagged ‘higher education’

I loathe the end of the school year. I cannot stand goodbyes. It has gotten to the point that I don’t even go to commencement because I do not trust that I won’t break down into tears. Frankly, I hate endings. There is, however, one moment I relish even less:

Student Staff Leadership Announcement Day

The students wait with baited breath for the Facebook post to hit. They get worked up, filled with anxiety, desperate for the results of auditions and interviews. I, however, sit and stare at the list for days on end. No matter what I do I am going to disappoint some of my students. Some will take a deep breath when they don’t see their name on the list and are ok. Some will become so angry they will throw a chair through a glass door (yes, this happened once). Some will be furious with me – they think I hate them, or at the very least, don’t like them. Some will quit band altogether.

  • I sit and stare at the list of names knowing that I cannot give leadership positions out just because a student is a senior and I want to do something nice for them before they graduate.
  • I sit and stare at the list of names knowing I must be a teacher and do what I think is in the best interest of each student applicant.
  • I sit and stare at the list of names knowing that if my students don’t learn what it is to not get something they want while still in college they may NEVER learn that hard lesson.
  • I sit and stare…and stare…at the equivalent of a surgical waterproof bandage placed over a wound that must be removed after 7-10 days. A bandage that has almost become one with the skin. You want to rip it off fast like a bandaid but you can’t. If you do you run the risk of tearing the skin and ripping the wound open. So you proceed gingerly and carefully and slowly….and the agony lasts “forever.” Finally it’s off and all you can do is sit back and hope for the best.

Ladies and gentlemen: being in band is not, has never been, and will never be about securing and holding a leadership title. Sure it’s cool. Sure it means you have a chance to practice teaching. Sure it means you’ve been given responsibilities. Sure it means you can have an impact on the program.  But you can do all those things WITHOUT A TITLE!!

  • Being a member in your band means setting an example for others. You don’t need a title to do that.
  • Being a member in your band means helping the person next to you, teaching the person next to you. You don’t need a title to do that.
  • Being a member in your band means being responsible for knowing your music and drill. You don’t need a title to do that.
  • Being a member in your band means having an impact on other members, your institution, and every person who ever sees the program. You don’t need a title to do that.
  • Being a member in your band is cool in and of itself — and don’t let anyone ever tell you any differently! (…and you don’t need a title to do that.)

Sometimes being a leader is harder than usual…and this is one of those times.

Congratulations to all who received positions on the 2017 UDMB Leadership Staff. Congratulations to ALL the applicants too — you put yourselves out there and took a chance. That is a bigger accomplishment than anything else!

As I take a break from the evening workload (knowing I owe Robin Lamel some sort of monumental apology for not making it to her recital) I’ve come to a small moment in time where the proverbial waters calm:

We (those of us in “the business who truly ‘get it'”) are in the business of making memories. But we tend to get lost in the process of making BIG memories for the masses and neglect to realize it is the small ones that matter most–the ones that we do not always recognize as being more significant than others at the moment they occur.

It was (and always is when the opportunity presents itself) a privilege and honor to “rub elbows” with Vice President of the United States Joseph Biden and his son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden. Those random and extraordinary moments are fleeting but always exciting.  They are filled with adrenaline and simultaneously quite easy-going (because both men make it EASY on the people they are meeting/speaking with).  The uniqueness of being at the University of Delaware where people of high stature seem to come and go with the same common passing of the sun rising and setting, is again, a privilege.  Simultaneously it also elevates the word “humbling” to a whole new level when you are 1) addressed by name, and 2) are told how wonderful the band is.

I am a college band director…..big deal.  And yet it is, and has been noticed and acknowledged as more than that.  The job is something that if accomplished correctly, brings joy to others–those in the band and those viewing/listening to the band. It is something that represents and speaks for those who actually **DO** all the work!

I have been told my ‘humble hat’ is stapled to my scalp.  This is, of course, quite true.  My role today is the same one it has been for 19 years:  pay the bills.  James P. Ancona is the one who directs the UD Pep Band (a sub-component of the UDMB) and who should have been in all of this afternoon’s photos….not me.  He is the one who is there day in and day out while I walk the arena, shake hands and keep the connections flowing.  My job is easy compared to what he does.  So thank you Jim!

Those are the BIG moments.  Ones that so few people ever get to experience. I remember my dearest friend in the world, George Parks, shaking hands and taking photos with Ted Kennedy, Geraldine Ferraro, and of course, Bill Clinton (prior to his first term as President of the United States). I remember thinking “how cool is that?!” And each moment was, indeed, quite cool to say the least. ….but in the grand scheme of things or of life…..

It is the other moments, the ones spent with the folks we tend to take for granted, the ones we expect to ALWAYS be there, that are more important. These are the ones that last, the ones that matter and the ones that ultimately define us as human beings.  These experiences are the ones that have a life-long lasting impact upon the people who were part of the moment.

To spend time with the Pep Band today was terrific. To hear them play with more quality and musical understanding than ever before was exhilarating—for they built upon the past and continued the evolution of the ensemble.  THAT is a nod to the past in the highest respect.

To sit or stand with individuals I consider friends (not ones I spend weekends with kicking back and relaxing, but those who are ever so slightly more than professional acquaintances) and chat about the daily occurrences of university life, and/or even personal situations, is something that is to be cherished.  There is sincere interest and concern in the inquiries and THAT is so very special and appreciated–yet words always fail to be expressed properly at those times. The reason for that is simple: we all still feel a “line” that must never be crossed at those times.  We want to sincerely thank these people for what appears to be honest interest yet we (at least I do) fail to produce the necessary words.

And then there are our true friends–those who have traveled the journey with us–albeit at a slight distance removed from the complete emotional immersion–who we neglect the most.  Why?  Simple: we take them for granted. We believe they will always be there for us no matter what so we fail to recognize that every moment we share together is precious and should never be taken for granted.

Sure, photos with Biden were exhilarating.  Chatting with the Roselles and Axe was comforting. But bantering with the McAdams, Deena Frank, Jim Ancona and Larry Turner–THOSE moments were, and will always be, priceless.

We neglect the obvious….and one day we will regret having not acknowledged the obvious.

It’s April.  Big deal you say.  But for many it is a big deal.  It is the time of year when a special species roams randomly around the country on a quest to find a new home.  This species has a varying life-span.  For some members of the species they have been on this quest for two or three years.  Other members of the species have been on the same quest for only a matter of months.  The life-span of each member of said species varies as much as the radius of geography each member traverses during their quest.

  • The species:  The Human High School Senior
  • The quest: Choosing A College

My email has been pinging with notes from high school juniors and seniors (as well as their mothers….rarely a father emails.  It’s always the mother when a parent does the searching inquiring).  I have met with many of them already.  Some have met with my Graduate Assistants.  All of them are looking for a place to go to school that has a “big marching band.”  And I, of course tell them the truth:  “The UDMB is big.  Over 300 members.  We would love to have you.  **BUT** make sure  UD is the place for YOU.  Make sure it has the degree program you want. Make sure you can “see” yourself here on campus–can you picture yourself walking the grounds? Can you see yourself living in the dorms?  Can you envision spending four years of your life studying in your department of choice?  If not, then as much as I would love to have you in the band, UD is not the place for you.”

Many potential students (and colleagues for that matter) look at me like I’m crazy.  You mean I’m not making empty promises, painting the perfect picture, ensuring 100% success in order to get as many students to come to UD as possible?  Nope folks, I’m not.  And here’s why:

If a student chooses to come to UD just because they want to be in the “Fightin’ Blue Hen Marching Band,” then they are doing themselves a disservice.  There is nothing worse than being on a college campus and being totally miserable–nothing.  How do I know this?  Because it happened to me!  I did not begin my college career at UMASS (my eventual home and family).  I started somewhere else….and spent my entire sophomore year desperately trying to leave.  I chose another institution “because of the band” and not because it was the “right fit for me.”

I was fortunate–more fortunate than I knew at the time.  I have parents who only wanted me to be happy regardless of the angst it caused them (and Lord knows I caused them more angst than they ever deserved).  I transferred to a new “home” at the conclusion of my sophomore year and it was “the right fit AND had a big marching band.”  THAT decision was the best one I ever made and one that shaped me as a person and as a professional.

So here we are, another April and another season of that species roaming the countryside in search of WHO and WHAT they will become.  There is no question that I would love to have ALL OF YOU as part of the UDMB.  Just make sure YOU choose UD for the right reasons.