Posts Tagged ‘integrity’

The other evening two good friends shared with me something that was at first funny but quickly began to actually frighten me. Our discussion that followed, rooted in what we had watched, has stayed with me–almost haunting me. As a teacher I have many responsibilities but perhaps the most important one of all is accountability. Accountability to myself, to my profession, but most of all, to my students. Teaching–in every conceivable sense–shapes the lives of students, of people. HOW you shape the life of another individual and WHY you shape the life of another individual is equal to (in my humble opinion) the how and why of a doctor saving an individual’s life.

Ok–you’re calling me melodramatic. Let me throw some names out there then: Charles Manson, David Koresh, Marshall Applewhite, Jim Jones, and Adolph Hitler. You’re saying, “But those are CULT leaders! They were crazy!” Yes, they were. But first and foremost, they were teachers! Maybe not in the conventional sense, but ‘teachers’ nonetheless. Through their teachings each created a following–people who looked to them for guidance, understanding, compassion, mentorship, even love. People who had a need and found their need fulfilled by the words and/or actions of teachers.

I could list so many others–religious figures, politicians, business executives–some would have positive influences on people, others would not. It doesn’t really matter and that is not the point of this post. The point is that as teachers (as ADULTS, as HUMAN BEINGS) we have a  responsibility to provide a safe environment where people can grow and to never forget that our students are looking to us for guidance, understanding, compassion, mentorship, and love. Our students savor every word that comes out of our mouths. Our students notice every last detail about us (hey UMMB alums from the early 80’s: if I say “Navy Blue Suit” I have no doubt you will say “Powder Blue Stitching.” Am I right?!).

Starred Thought: The influence a teacher has upon a student is powerful–and they will remember you forever.

Let me make this very personal: People would say that I am a cult leader. Between the UDMB and DMA I have a following of thousands. This scares the living daylights out of me!!! That is NOT what I want nor desire…but when you break it down to brass tacks it sort of is the situation. And again, this scares the living daylights out of me!!!

I prefer to think, hope, whatever, that what I am creating (for lack of a better word at this moment) is a CULTURE.  A culture where PEOPLE are given the tools to make decisions for themselves; a culture where PEOPLE are given the tools to grow, to learn, to lead their lives in a way that is honest; a culture where PEOPLE do not blindly follow but learn to lead themselves.

So what brought all this on????

As I said at the start of this meandering post which accomplishes what I am not sure just yet, I watched something that frightened me. It frightened me because it was narcissistic in nature and contained absolutely no substance whatsoever.

Starred Thought: All hype and no substance makes you a fluff-head. 

Teachers speak – students listen; students absorb; students apply what they learned. What one says MUST have substantive value! Even the smallest of comments are taken from your mouth and put into action by students. The experiences you create for them will become part of the foundation of their lives.  This is scary, scary stuff folks!!! If you spout off rhetoric with no substantive purpose you run the risk of hurting people.

There is a phenomenal quote in the first Jurassic Park movie spoken by the character Ian Malcolm:

Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

The internet affords us the LUXURY of being able to leave a digital footprint for hundreds, if not thousands of others to experience. We can “reach” so many, many people. This is a TOOL…a tool that is taken for granted these days; a tool that is abused by many as well. Just because you have this tool available to you doesn’t mean you should use it!  (And the irony is I’m doing just what I said one should not do.)

It was (and still is) never my intention to create a cult. It was (and still is) my intention to create positive learning experiences for my students that they would never have if not for the UDMB, if not for DMA. THAT is creating a culture! Yes, I have a following and yes the reality of that is frightening to me. I hope beyond hope that I always remember just how fragile that following is, just how impressionable they are, just how needy they are. I hope I always remember that:

With great power comes great responsibility.

Teaching is a form of ‘power.’ Teaching requires great responsibility. …always check your ego at the door and remember,  you are shaping LIVES!

UDMB @ BoA Newark, PA Regional

UDMB @ BoA Newark, PA Regional

There was a man who once said, “I love watching lots of people doing great things.”  This man was correct as there is perhaps nothing more rewarding than a group of individuals working together toward a common goal.  In this case we are talking about over 400 people (330 in the UDMB and another 70+ volunteers–parents, friends, colleagues) working 3-4 hour shifts, doing a wide variety of jobs from ticket sales, program selling, tshirt pressing, moving high school bands around the athletic complex, greeting band directors, and setup / cleanup….all for one purpose: creating an experience OTHERS will remember for a lifetime.

The world we live in is one of selfishness. We are products of a society whose mantra is “What’s in it for me?”  This is an extraordinary narrow life view.  The humanity has been beaten out of us to such a degree that people no longer have the ability to communicate with another member of the species unless it is via an electronic device.  Social interaction is the newest phobia.  And yet yesterday I watched my students go out of their way for each other as they went beyond and above the call of duty for thousands of strangers.

26 high school bands were in our “house.” They came to us from as far north as Connecticut to as far south as Georgia.  They brought parents, friends, siblings, extended family members.  Community members from Newark, Delaware were there as well. Family and friends of the UDMB too.  Thousands of people passed through the gates of UD stadium and spent the day relishing the talents of over 3000 musicians and performers–who gave their all in the spirit of competition, education, and growth.

Bands of America came to UD for their Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship.  UD and the UDMB were their hosts.  The day began at 5:45 am and ended at 11:45 pm. The UDMB performed twice in exhibition–once at the conclusion of prelims and again at the conclusion of finals.  …and yes, the band grabbed the audience by the throat and said, “You will love us.”  …and they did.

I could write for pages about all the incredible moments woven within the fabric of those 18 hours but it is not necessary.  I will simply state in print what I said to the members of the UDMB last night at the conclusion of their last performance:

I have never been more proud of this band as I am today.

…there were, of course, many shenanigans taking place throughout the day as well…I leave you with an image of my transportation for the day. Decorations were courtesy of my professional staff….

Sarv's Ride

Sarv’s Ride

A severe storm made its way through Delaware this evening, dropping the temperature after a hot and humid day. A high of 93 in Georgetown broke a record. Here's a photo by News Journal photographer William Bretzger of lightning striking at the UD football stadium. That game against DSU was postponed until tomorrow at noon.

A severe storm made its way through Delaware this evening, dropping the temperature after a hot and humid day. A high of 93 in Georgetown broke a record. Here’s a photo by News Journal photographer William Bretzger of lightning striking at the UD football stadium. That game against DSU was postponed until tomorrow at noon.

It’s funny but I still allow people to get under my skin a little bit.  The sheer lunacy of some situations or conversations leave me shaking my head, wondering if people actually hear the words erupting from their mouths. Look at the photo to the right–this was the situation surrounding our entire area Saturday evening.  The photo is of the press box on the West grandstand of Delaware Stadium. The storms began at approximately 5 PM and lasted…well, I’m not entirely sure since it was still going on when I went to bed around midnight.  LOOK AT IT!

The storms were training up the east coast as well as coming in from the west–a double hit.  Just prior to the arrival of this massive storm front was what we, the average Joe, thought was an unformed funnel cloud, filled with dirt from the STAR campus, moving rapidly toward the south, just across the street from the stadium.  When I witnessed this happening, unable to run (don’t ask), I actually quite calmly thought “Well Dorothy, it’s been a great ride but this journey is about to come to it’s final end.”  Not kidding…I thought I was done for.

The game was, of course, postponed until the next afternoon.  Smartest decision ever made. I am sensitive enough to the time commitment my students make every year to know that there was no way on this earth they could drop their lives and show up on a Sunday with about 14 hours of notice.  Marching Band is an academic class at UD, and the students sign a contract upon the start of each season.  The contract commits them to the established calendar.  This means they know when they are required to be in attendance and when they may schedule the rest of their lives: work, other ensemble rehearsals, and let’s not forget time to study.  I knew when I made it a volunteer situation the band on Sunday would be small to say the very least.

And small it was–about 40 members at the most.  Yet we had a blast! Once we figured out what we could play and what we couldn’t play we got into a routine. All touchdowns and extra points were taken care of.  Yes the brass “ran the stands” during third quarter.  Yes, the woodwinds played Fight Song Short and Delaware Forever A when the team scored during the third quarter…with one lone tuba…they are now the newly formed UDMB String Band. And yes, I broke out the horn and played too.  No, I did not run the stands…I sat with good friends, chatted, laughed and waited for the brass players to get around to the West stands in order to join them for the last “First Down” in front of sections A & B.  …I would have been beaten had I tried to “run”….by many, many people from surgeons to students to general fans!

  • Yes the University of Delaware won the game…yet again beating Delaware State University.
  • Yes it was a beautiful day on Sunday and no, the stands were not full.
  • Yes we all had a magnificent time.

But for Heaven’s sake people…when Armageddon is breaking loose outside and places everyone in harm’s way, it is simply not safe for anyone to be outside, let alone play a football game!  So when I hear people saying things like: “It wasn’t that bad out there.” or “I was so disappointed they postponed the game.” or “They had a chance to get the game in if they had started after it stopped raining at 6:15.” I have to wonder if you actually hear the words coming out of your mouth.

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!)

This past July I sat in a restaurant with two friends and one, Linda Hannum, described the experience her son had when he was a volunteer in Haiti.  To say it was extraordinary barely scratches the surface. During the conversation Linda said that one can never truly grasp what those people are going through and she added the statement that is the title of this post.  The Myth Of A Shared Reality.   The use of this phrase was in context with the topic of her son’s trip to Haiti and how people from such drastically different lives/worlds can interact but never truly understand what the other person’s life has been/is. My memory is foggy at this point as to who was responsible for coining the phrase but needless to say it struck a very loud chord with me.

We’ve all heard it before, philosophical phrases such as “Never criticize a man until you walk a mile in his moccasins.” There are hundreds of derivatives of this phrase, all essentially warning one about the dangers of passing judgment upon another person.  But the myth of a shared reality seems to resonate deeper than all the other philosophies.  It suggests, or perhaps it flat out states, that the idea of one person truly understanding the reality of another person is not possible at all.

Every person lives their own life.  Oh sure every person’s family and friends work diligently to help shape it and guide it but when you get right down to it every life is solitary and unique.

My relationships with my family and friends are mine and mine alone.  And yet my family and friends interact with other people differently than they interact with me–because my reality is mine and their’s is theirs.  As an example, just because a bunch of us may have been in the same college marching band does not mean that we all had the EXACT SAME experience.  If there were 240 people in the band then there were 240 SEPARATE realities of the EXACT SAME memory. (Go on, work on that for a while and see if your brain doesn’t start to overload.)  Let’s get more specific and look at a singular event.

In the fall of 1987 the University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band traveled to the University of Delaware for a football game.  My experience during that game became my reality but it was not the same reality for anyone else.  Yes we were all in the same place at the same time…but were we?  Not literally.  I was on a podium while the vast majority of folks were on the field.  Each of us had different responsibilities–albeit some were similar person to person but ultimately they were all different in some manner. Thus, our realities were different even though we were participating in the same event.

Now here’s where it gets just a little cray-cray…..who is to say one reality is more real than another?

My experience that day in Delaware Stadium was no better and no worse than anyone else’s, but it was, different.  It was not more real for me than it was for anyone else. If you took the three drum majors of the UMMB that day (me, Rob Hammerton and Chris Gardiner), sat us down and asked us to recall the postgame performance you would get three completely different accounts with interjections of “Oh yeah!” from one of the other two people.  What was important to me was not necessarily as important to them.  What was the most vivid memory for me was not necessarily the most vivid memory for them.  And yet we were all there at the same time in theory.

In a few days the third anniversary of the passing of my dearest friend will arrive.  It will arrive with no pomp nor circumstance.  It will simply be another day on the calendar.  It will, however, be marked by thousands of people as they take a moment out of their day to remember a man who had a most profound impact upon every single person he ever encountered.  Let me repeat that: EVERY SINGLE PERSON.  I do not exaggerate and those who truly knew George N. Parks will agree with me.  And every person, every single person will tell you without the slightest hesitation that this man was their best friend; that they were, in their reality, his best friend.  And you know, for the most part, they are ALL correct.  Why? Because this man had the ability to make every single person he met feel as if they were the center of the universe.  This goes for someone he met for just a moment as well as someone he knew for 27 years.  This was a unique gift and those who crossed paths with him during his life and now have their eyes open realize how lucky they were to have been able to share in part of his reality.

My reality is not shared with anyone–it’s mine.  I travel this world alone as does every other person–we share it with people who come in and out of our lives but ultimately each person is on an individual journey.  My best friend (for he was that in my reality) George, inherently knew this.  And he lived his life accordingly.  I, for one, will continue to strive to be more of what he was: a person who never self-proclaimed his reality as the most important but rather a person who shared in the lives of others hoping together they could make a difference.

 

 

A crisp September Saturday morning is at hand.  Coffee is steaming in a mug.  The pup and kitties are scattered around the house searching for an early morning sunspot in order to warm themselves while they snore away the rest of the morning.  And me…..?  I’m sitting in front of a computer screen drinking said coffee while considering various schedules for rehearsal later this morning.

The life of a college band director.  Piece of cake.  Let’s face it, what do we REALLY do after all? After 26 years of teaching I still hear the same thing from my academic colleagues:  “You’re the band director?  What do you teach? Do you teach any classes?” Of course that’s what they continue to ask year after year because let’s face it, marching band, heck, music in general, certainly isn’t a class!  …sigh….

So what do I teach?  Let’s see what kind of list I can create off the top of my head:

  • Respect
  • Discipline
  • Team Work
  • Responsibility
  • Commitment
  • Dedication
  • Leadership Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Teaching Skills
  • Trust
  • Loyalty
  • Integrity
  • Obligation
  • Time Management
  • Organizational Skills
  • Honor
  • Courtesy
  • Civility
  • and the pursuit of individual as well as group excellence.

But Heidi, academic course have exams!  Well of course they do, and so does the Marching Band.  Every single performance is a MAJOR exam.  Think outside the box people—just because one doesn’t sit at a desk and put pencil to paper does not mean that they are not taking an exam. My exams are administered in front of 23,000 people on a regular basis who give you a grade each and every time.  Not only are the students being tested but so is the staff and so am I.  These exams can be measured according to the same rubric of any other exam–in fact, they are!

Each and every day I require my students (and myself) to do better than the day before. Maybe that means coming to rehearsal having memorized more music. Maybe that means a person has developed a wider range of dynamic control on their instrument. Or maybe that means a person made an extra effort and arrived 5 minutes early to help ANOTHER student “get better.”

Pursuit of excellence is a journey–you do not ever arrive at excellence.  “Hey look gang! We made it! We’re now excellent!”  …yeah, right.  If only it were so.  The journey or pursuit is a continuous process–one for the individual and another one for the total group.  Today’s CLASS will continue the pursuit of excellence for the band (and myself) using all the skill sets mentioned above. Today’s EXAM will tell the band (and myself) whether we made the correct choices toward further excellence and also what we need to work on in preparation for the next exam.

Music is entertainment….sure. I get that. But you know what? Entertainers work just as hard as anyone else in this world, and their contributions to the beauty of life is just as important as the next major technological breakthrough.

Ok, time to chase the dream….Ah-GAIN!