Posts Tagged ‘memories’

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

Homecoming Post Mortem…

Posted: October 18, 2014 in General
Tags: , , , , ,

Where do I begin?  I suppose I could start by thanking the folks who busted their butts to make today such a success (Jess, Jen, Brent, Zaniah) but I did that multiple times today.  I suppose I could thank the “Baby Band” for rockin’ the joint and causing the alumni to smile, laugh, and in many, many cases, cry tears of joy mixed with memory.  I supposed I could thank the staff for always having my back. I supposed I could thank Jim Ancona for sticking by my side for 20 years and always starting a conversation with “You know, next year…”

Or I could recount some of the sites I saw throughout the day that captured and warmed my heart:

  • alumni from almost every year I’ve been at the helm;
  • alumni from every decade since the 1960’s;
  • children of alumni ranging in age from 10 years old down to “just born!”
  • alumni whose names did not escape my mind for the first time ever!

Watching people cross the generation gap and make new friends in their sections was priceless.  They had different college band directors but it didn’t matter: everyone was part of the family and everyone needed to be hugged and cherished.

I saw many things today…I heard so many stories being recounted and shared.  I looked out over the sea of people during “In My Life” and was not overwhelmed with tearful emotion…I was overwhelmed with joy.  So many faces that brought me back to easier times.

One thing I saw that I did not bring attention to because 1) I did not need to point it out as it spoke for itself, and 2) I would have struggled holding it together, were the people who chose to wear their GNP ribbons from 2010.  I do not believe I have ever been more touched by such a simple gesture in my life.  He was in our band in the 70’s and he was and will continue to always be part of our program.  Thank you to the folks who chose to do that–meant more to me than you’ll ever know.

Life does not ever turn out the way you envisioned it.  Life is not something that can be organized, put in a little box and wrapped with a perfect bow. Life is messy (as my dear friends are desperately trying to get me to understand!).  No one knew in 1995 that two crazy kids (and boy were Jim and I really just kids!) were going to hang around Newark, DE for as long as we have.  No one knew whether the band would benefit or collapse. No one knew what the future would bring…we always think we know but in truth, we are at the mercy of whatever comes along.

UD is my last stop.  This is home. The UDMB is my family.  And I look forward to every year when my family members will come home and spend a few hours with this old woman…when we can join together for just a few moments and be kids again…together.

Thank you all for a wonderful 20th anniversary celebration.

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!)

“We said goodbye to a dear old friend
And we packed our bags and left feeling sad
It’s the only way”

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2010 – Freshman Year:  Moments like this one run through your mind…this just happened.  Only yesterday were you sitting in a room with 100+ other freshmen being told: “Enjoy every moment. It will go by in the blink of an eye.” And you thought: “I don’t know who this woman is…I don’t know if I can trust her…I miss my high school band director and all my friends.  What did I get myself into?!”

Dirt.  That’s what.  Dust and dirt. Grit in your eyes, in your teeth, in your throat every time you took a breath to play.  WTH?!  And what is up will all those trucks loaded with turf turds??  They drive back and forth and back and forth…and you thought: “If I have to do this tune one more time because a dump truck interfered with our run through I’m going to quit!”

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…but you didn’t.  You stayed…and perhaps you learned to love.

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2011 arrived…TURF COMPLEX! And you thought: “How could this be possible? How can we have such a place to rehearse? Wait–we’ve got LIGHTS??????  Who the hell painted dark green yard lines on a green plastic surface?!”  You weren’t a freshman any longer–you were a SOPHOMORE!  And as far as you were concerned college was the best place ever and it would never end.  Yet something kept pushing you. Time was speeding up and people you came to know and love the year before had moved on.  But it was ok. You were ready for more responsibility, more excitement and more everything.  You wanted to stay forever because these were quite possibly the best days of your life!

Still there was only one thought running through your mind more than any other: “My legs are going to fall off if we do “Good Riddance” again!”  

…but they didn’t. And you stayed…and perhaps you learned perseverance.

Image2012–Junior Year:  Suddenly you were a junior.  How did that happen??  And you thought: “What do you mean I have to play all these notes?!  Where’s the rock and roll? Oh dear lord…we’ve got props?!?!  Sarv has finally gone over the deep end. She’s in the shed with a table saw, power drill, hammer, nails…and I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard so many curse words strung together like that! Hey look–the fences are on wheels!!!  That’s sort of cool…….(and then, 10 minutes later)….Not only are the damn fences in my way but I have to MOVE them too???”  

And then it was November and it hit you…they’re leaving.  The seniors are leaving…and you’ll be here all alone.  And you thought: “When did that happen? What am I going to do? How can I come back without them?”

…but you did. You stayed…and perhaps you learned commitment.

Image2013–Senior Year:  …and you thought: “Look at all the new things!!  A new truck! New uniforms! Even Sarv and Rah are NEW!  But wait…..O.M.G.  I can’t believe it. Sarv was right–it went by in the blink of an eye! I can’t stop crying. Everyone’s crying…why aren’t the freshmen crying?! Don’t they understand?? It’s almost OVER! “ But they don’t understand.  All they know is that they made some of the best friends they will ever have at a time when they were more frightened than ever before…and that those friends are leaving them.

They don’t understand why Christmas changed…but you do.  You stayed…and perhaps you learned to give.

You see, if you did YOUR job right these last few years then they WILL understand one day…in fact many of them already do.  And that is because of YOU. The journey you’ve been on has been filled with far more than you ever could have imagined four short years ago.  You take with you memories and friendships that define you, that you will carry with you for the rest of your lives. But what you do not realize is all you have left behind.  You have built upon the foundation of those who came before; you have added your lasting impact upon the lives of others; you gave people (me) strength when they felt they had none left.

Travel well my friends….and when you arrive at the start of your next adventure I hope of all the lessons you’ve learned this one is carried in your heart: “To Love. To love what you do; to love each other; and to love yourself with complete and total abandonment.”

“We said hello as we turned the key
A new roof over our heads
Gave a smile
It’s the only way.”

It’s here! It arrived faster than we ever wanted and now that it’s here folks are all SCARED TO DEATH!  That’s right, every marching band director across the country is shaking in their Dinkles right now because they looked at the calendar and saw “HALF WAY THROUGH THE SEASON” and they know that means only one thing: the band is going to stop improving and start sliding backwards. The worried thoughts have all started. The stress has begun to spill over. The anxiety is on the brink of explosion–if one more person asks ANYTHING of you there is a high probability of physical retaliation.

Well guess what folks, I’m calling bull***t on this.  That’s right.  Knock it off.  There is no such thing as the season midpoint meltdown…..unless you didn’t prepare properly during the off-season.  And frankly I don’t think many of people do.  And THAT is the REAL nightmare.

I have it easy compared to my colleagues teaching high school competitive marching bands.  I just bring out a second show. The band learns new music and new drill and voilà, instant “new” season.  Oh if it truly was that easy.  Mid terms, papers, projects, etc., all the outside pressures of other classes weigh down upon the students and their moods are nowhere near as excited nor are they as engaged as they were during band camp.  It’s getting cooler outside, darker earlier and earlier.  Band can quickly become a chore and one that can even be loathed.

Now is the time to CREATE fun.  For us it was the necessary break for normalcy and the annual event of the season: the Newark Halloween Parade.  Costumes are mandatory for band members, no exceptions. A wonderful break from reality, completely no stress, just lots of laughs, photo taking and of course, total awe at the creative ideas the members of the UDMB have!

So how do we keep smiling through the rest of the season?  I can only speak for myself but perhaps my thoughts will resonant with others in my position.

  1. Smile.  Smile and Laugh.  A Lot.  ENJOY THE PROCESS!  If you do, they will.
  2. Slow down. The band members are working harder than any other organization in the school, or at the very least, AS hard as other organization. If they are not improving slow it down and don’t try to fix everything during every rehearsal.  Step by step, inch by inch.
  3. Get off the tower and teach from the field.  Show the students exactly how you want something done as opposed to just blathering it over a Long Ranger in the hopes they can interpret what you are saying, what you are envisioning inside your brain.  Interact with them, give as many of the some personal attention as you can.
  4. Remember to experience the bigger picture – other bands.  So many directors and staff members get caught up in being the “best,” winning captions, bringing home trophies, etc.  I get it, don’t misunderstand me, but while it seems the right thing to do at this time–getting yourself all pumped up and out of control–when you don’t win those things the fall from grace happens fast.  And then the anger sets in. And what’s worse is that you cheated yourself AND your students out of valuable life experiences! Watch other bands. Enjoy the college exhibition bands. CHEER AND SUPPORT THE BANDS THAT BEAT YOU! That’s right.  So you lost, so what.  How about we cheer for the ones who beat us and perhaps learn from them?  How else do we, as individuals ever hope to improve unless we take the time to learn from those who are achieving what we are not?

It’s not about winning, or at least it shouldn’t be.  It’s about so much more than that.  Sure the kids want to win…so do we.  But down the road when you and they are older and wiser, the times you won will fade into the woodwork and you will remember the time you shared with people.  The bus trips, the jokes, the bus songs (Heaven forbid I ever post them here!), the crazy antics of each section (particularly the tubas), the absurd moments that are fixed in time like a snapshot. Oh you might remember who won in 1984 (those wretched Hawthorne Caballeros) but you will most likely recall and share stories about the tube trip down the Delaware River more often than what happened at finals that year.  (Those stories are for another type of blog but suffice it to say George Parks DID know how to swim even though his mother convinced Gige and I he did not….yes, the two lifeguards tried to save the “drowning” drum major….oh boy.)

So push hard to the end of the road gang but remember to enjoy the ride.  The ride is always more exciting than the destination when it is shared with friends.

And remember, smile.  As I said earlier on, NO exceptions to the mandatory costume rule.  (A sad note: the Fat Ballerina had to be retired…she no longer held her voluptuous form and sadly looked like a deflated cartoon character in need of much cosmetic surgery following gastric bypass!)

Just dressing the part I play every day.

Just dressing the part I play every day.