Posts Tagged ‘reflection’

A few days ago I drove — yes, me! — I drove up to NYU for my post op appointment with my surgeon, Dr. Patrick A. Meere.  Just four weeks and five days since a second hip replacement and I was driving in complete comfort!  For whatever reason this time around things have been going along much easier. There is much less pain–in comparison to last winter there is virtually none. Progress is faster than I could have imagined–already sitting on the spin cycle at the HAC a few times each week….not long sessions mind you but spinning nonetheless.

The only issue is stamina….in that I have none. This is to be expected after (yet again another) major surgery. No matter how good I feel, the body is on its own healing schedule and there is nothing I can do to speed that up.

The journey–it has not been an easy one. The revolving wheel of deterioration-surgery-recovery-“feel awesome”-deterioration… it got old a long time ago. The journey is not just one of the physical however. It is also one that is mentally driven and emotionally challenging. It has also opened a window into the very fiber of my being that has allowed me to realize just how much I truly can take. Each time as I’ve gazed through this window I’ve seen much more than I expected: not just my true sense of strength and resilience, but how all of it is connected with the people who have traveled this path with me.

Many times I have quoted the first two stanzas of Rudyard Kipling’s The Law of the Jungle. There is no question that I have learned more about letting the pack be my strength these last few years than any other time in my life. The pack has taught me to ask for help when I need it and to do nothing more in return than say “thank you.”

The future–let’s see…picture if you will a relatively small physician’s office. We’re talking the size of my living room folks. After you are asked to walk out of the exam room toward the door so your gait can be assessed, you turn and stop. To your delight you see a massive smile on your surgeon’s face. He asks, “How long now?” You respond, “”Four weeks and five days.” He shakes his head in disbelief and says,

Let’s go look at joint #4.”

…not funny.  I mean seriously, this is getting way out of hand!

Fortunately joint #4 is not too bad yet and I should be able to keep the addition of more titanium to my body at bay for a while…..I’m hoping a few years… surgeon said nothing….

Oh…..Meere has taken the lead.

Tomorrow is Homecoming at UD. There’s a buzz on campus for the first time in many years–a buzz that has students GLAD they are part of this campus. A buzz that feeds school spirit and one that makes just being on the grounds feel like HOME.  It takes an enormous effort to put together all the various events that take place on Homecoming–efforts that tend to go unacknowledged.  So let me take just a moment to thank the folks all over campus who have “stepped up their game” and made Homecoming something to look forward to as opposed to being a chore!!

With that said, the role of the band is multifaceted when it comes to game day. Preparation is pretty nuts frankly. Gotta get a new show out and make sure the old show is ready for postgame–toughest audience of the season: the UDMB alumni! They WANT to be wowed….(and in all humility I can say without any hesitation that “wowed” they will be tomorrow.) The band will have a shortened rehearsal at the ungodly hour of 730am in order to rehearsal with the Alumni Band at 830am. Then the Team Walk, then a quick “lunch,” then a performance inside the BOB at the President’s Reception.  After that we try (hope and pray) there is enough time to do the traditional concert in the Gold VIP lot. Then it’s clock work: west concourse parade and pregame.  All of that takes place between 9:30 – 11:45am.

…coffee…LOTS AND LOTS OF COFFEE will be required!

With all the insanity of Homecoming there are a few moments, albeit moments that are brief, that I cherish each year:

  • seeing the alumni from years past (this year we have folks from 1961 on the field!);
  • seeing their families (so many tuba mutes!  er, I mean, children!!);
  • seeing the multigenerational UDMB families on the field during “In My Life;”
  • watching the “old timers” mingle with the “baby band;”
  • smiling, laughing and knowing what it’s like to break the horn out again and trying to recapture your youth and relive those memories of entertaining the fans in UD stadium;

But most of all…I LOVE the stories! Each and every one of them begins with “Remember when…”

Tomorrow will be my 21st Homecoming at UD. I look forward to many, many more in the future. I know “the world did not begin with me” and that there were years and years of Homecomings that occurred long before I ever set foot on this campus. It is those stories I long to hear each year–the ones that happened prior to 1995. It is those stories I want the current band members to hear (albeit with an understanding that the world was very different back then!!). And the reason is so very simple:

You need to know where you came from in order to know where you’re going.

Welcome home alumni—we’ve missed you.

The lyrics are not reflective of this year, nor this senior class…but the title of the song most definitely is.  It goes without saying (at least I hope it does) that I would, indeed, do “anything for you.” For all of you, not just the senior class. And while what follows is geared toward the 61 men and women who will take the field on Saturday one last time as a member of the “baby band,” I suspect whatever prose created below will resonant with whomever the Reader is.

There is a place called ‘band.’ It is unlike any other experience one can have in life–it is unique. I make this statement not out of ego, not out of pride, but out of years of experiencing many other organizations available to the human being. Band is dependent upon each and every individual giving 100% effort 100% of the time.

It is the grueling week of Band Camp when the newest family learns to work together, support each other, celebrate each other. It is the challenge of last minute changes to schedules that teaches the family to be flexible. It is the unexpected event (weather, bus flat tire, late lunch or dinner) that teaches the family patience and understanding.

But it is not these things you will remember next year, in 5 years, in 10 years, in 30 years. It will not be the heat, the cold, the rain, the snow. It will not be my voice letting everyone in Newark know you need to “Set it up Uh-GAIN!” (ok…maybe that one will be remembered…virtually scarred into your memory banks.) What you will remember will be the smiles, the laughter, the tears of joy, the memories of audiences clapping, screaming, dancing and cheering. It will be the memories of every performance you share with the latest “baby band” when YOU return and partake in Alumni Band at my 21st, 25th, 30th, 35th (gulp) anniversary, and all the ones in between the milestone years. You will return to reunite with old friends and begin every sentence with “Remember when…”

I would…and in many cases have done “anything for you.” You are my family and on Saturday 61 family members will relive the last few years of their lives one last time. Because of this I propose the following list of things to do over the course of the next few days because you will never be able to do all of them on Saturday…and because underneath the tough exterior that the “outsider” sees and thinks is the real me, I’m really a sentimental woman who, as I said to the seniors this evening, is far better at conveying her true feelings in the written word than face to face:

  • Go to the practice field at sunset on a non-rehearsal day. Sit on the hill and simply be.
  • Go to the stadium at dawn or at sunset, when the sun is low in the sky and the complex is empty and simply be.
  • Walk the Team Walk without the band. Before going through the serpentine wall gate, turn around, look back and simply be.
  • If the stadium is open, sit in the band seats and simply be.
  • Take your time putting your uniform on–remember the first time you did it, savory the last.

I could go on but I believe you get the idea.  Take time to look within yourself and know one thing—you did good. And know that I am proud of each and everyone of you.

…oh, and seniors? “September: Beginnings and Endings”– perhaps you now understand that show for it was so much more than the literal meaning…so very much more.

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.


(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.