Posts Tagged ‘loyalty’

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…

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!)

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.

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!

…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.