Posts Tagged ‘rivalries’

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.

As we head into our fifth home game of the season here at the University of Delaware I have mixed feelings about things.  They are personal yet they revolve around the profession I am so proud to be part of.  UD plays UMASS in football tomorrow and for the first time since the 1990’s the UMASS Minuteman Marching Band will not be in attendance.

WHAT?! you say.  It’s true.  And it’s not for any reason short of budget concerns.  The UDMB faced the same thing last year when we were unable to travel to the northland.  The economy is taking it’s toll on college marching bands all over the country.  The cost to move 300 people for just ONE day can be upwards of $15,000.  An overnight trip can run as high as $25,000.  Remember–you have to feed them too!  It’s expensive, period.

When I spoke with the new band director of the UMMB about coming down and learned that they would not be making the journey I have to admit to disappointment.  This was our sister band. George and I, Thom and Jim, Rah and Fred worked for years to cultivate the relationship between the programs–we would be the unique ones in the country: two college rival football programs whose bands were closer than siblings.  (Well OF COURSE the students would be–all the directors were!)  It did not take long for this relationship to not only develop, but THRIVE.  Let’s face it, have you ever heard of two other college marching bands, their parents and their alumni all traveling to Ireland to perform in two New Year’s events as ONE organization?!

I was looking forward to celebrating the UMASS departure from the FCS to Division 1.  I was looking forward to being host to my old friends Thom Hannum, Colin McNutt, John Leonard, and a host of others.  I was looking forward to showing the new director Tim Anderson our Delaware hospitality and wishing him well as he begins his journey down the road that George Parks left so abruptly.  So I was disappointed.

And yet after thinking about it I came to the conclusion that, once again, things happen for a reason.  In this case a very selfish reason.  The last time the UMMB was in our house was 2009.  The two groups joined together for a massed band performance of “America, the Beautiful” and “My Man.”  George and I got to enjoy being “kids” again–we were able to go back to the way we were when we first met in the Buccaneers:  George on the podium and me playing solo trumpet.  And for a brief moment in time, we WERE kids again.  The two staffs were arm in arm during “My Way” and “In My Life” as were  the two bands.  Swaying and singing together as ONE organization.  …and yes, the UMMB tubas “forked” the front lawn of my house with “UM hearts UD.”  And it was all good and it was as it should have been.

So my mixed feelings are between personal and professional.  My professional side would have liked to play host to my alma mater one last time; my personal side is content with the fact that the relationship between the programs ended as it was meant to in 2009.  And those memories will be cherished by all those who were part of our 16 year relationship–one that I do not believe exists anywhere else in the country.

Will the relationship continue?  That remains to be seen–perhaps yes, perhaps no.  Changes–they happen.

The Route 1 Rivalry has begun and with it a new relationship with a new college band: Del State. We have had bands come in and out of Delaware Stadium for years and the most important part for me is to get the students to appreciate each other’s efforts, and embrace each other’s differences. Del State fit right in line with all the other groups we have hosted,

Haltime was easy–we had chatted a few times prior to the game in order to make sure we had the timing correct so that there would be no concern about when one band as finished and the other would start. In fact, the timing was so tight we were about 30 seconds UNDER time–something almost unheard of! This is a credit to the DSU leadership!

There is no question that DSU knows how to entertain–they did a fantastic job and it was a treat to see the UDMB dancing on the sideline during their post game performance!

Here’s to the next part of the rivalry–a football rivalry but a band co-existence.

PS. The DSU band received a call in the middle of the UDMB post game performance that forced them to depart prior to our completion. This is not unusual and was completely understood by our band. We hope the fans understand they were not being disrespectful with the early exit.