Posts Tagged ‘ud marching band’

Those of us who are engaged in the fall edition of pageantry have been “at it” for a little over a month thus far. Each summer, as the start date for Band Camp creeps closer and closer, my level of apprehension is in direct proportion to the timeline: the closer we get the more apprehensive I get. It is a mix of anticipation, excitement, and primal terror!

This year was no different than any other except for a few personal reasons:

  • coming off a much needed sabbatical
  • fully recovered from a second hip replacement
  • finally getting on top of my health and feeling AWESOME

I started camp, however, the same way — apprehensive — but at least I was in a more positive frame of mind.

As camp progressed I did, however, notice a distinct difference between what I perceived the trajectory to be this year versus what it has been for the last…I don’t know so let’s say “number of years.” This could be directly related to my attitude and my approach or it could be something else or it could be a combination of many things. Regardless, something was different.

Rehearsals have been productive; only two performances in–with only one of them being the full show–and the energy is skyrocketing. Communication among the student leadership is topnotch–stronger and more proactive than previous years. In short, there just seems to be a whole lot of JOY out on the field, as well as OFF the field!

One of the reasons may be the inquisitiveness of the student leadership: they ask PROPER questions; they are engaged; they “do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether they want to do it or not, and without being asked.” They are not afraid to inquire about WHY of things in order to understand more–which brings me to the reason for this post.  I received an email from a student wanting to know why I felt this year was different when compared to last year. More specifically, the student still sees many, many mistakes that need to be corrected. To use the student’s own words:

 “I’m curious as to what you see from your point of view that we don’t. This has just puzzeled me as there is still so much room for improvement for this band.”

The student is, of course, correct!  It’s September 19th and we haven’t even scratched the surface with regard to cleaning. There is SO much to be done.

It is about perspective; it is about experience. It is not something I expect anyone IN the band to understand. When you are WITHIN the experience you cannot also stand OUTSIDE of it and “see” the “bigger picture.” If you could…the whole world would be a much different place!

If you place 100 senior band members in a room and ask them what was their favorite year, odds are in favor of over 98% of them saying “their freshman year.” Why? Simple–it was Christmas for them and nothing is better than Christmas! With that said, one of the hardest learning curves for anyone is to put Christmas away and begin the journey of moving quickly from stage 2 to stage 3.  <To understand these references click here.> Stage 3 is challenging for many reasons because the personal reward is indirect. Asking college students to push through their I/ME stage of development is HUGE! Many do extremely well, others can struggle. By simply asking the question, it is clear this student is on the way to stage 3–only a little push is required!

But I haven’t answered the question…or have I?

Every band is different. The minute you change one single thing, even if it is the EXACT SAME BAND with only ONE person not returning and no new people being added, the composition of the whole has changed! My dear friend George Parks, former director of the University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band, used to ask the rookie class “How many of you have seen the UMMB? How many of you want to be in THAT band?”  Virtually every hand would shoot up into the air…and then he dropped the most unexpected statement ever: “Well, you can’t be in that band. That band is GONE! But YOU will be part of making THIS year’s UMMB great!” Of course, no one in the rookie classes ever understood what he was trying to convey. To use my good friend Rob Hammerton’s words:

“Odd thing to say, if you want to rev up your troops on the eve of battle … but his point was: this year’s band is not last year’s. It’s not even the same as last year’s.”

It is best not to analyze the situation, merely to accept it. The 2016 UDMB is NOT better than other years, it is merely different. It is the differences that can make something seem more magical than something else. This does NOT mean other bands were LESS–for every band I have ever had the privilege of working with has been “the best” as far as I’m concerned–it merely means that the proverbial stars have aligned ever so slightly more and there is something intangible about the composition of the various elements that make this band seem to be “more special.”

Of course, it is still early in the season and anything can happen…but I have the feeling this group won’t need to be coaxed to the edge and won’t need to be pushed–they already know how to fly!

Been a number of months since I’ve posted and, as it is with everyone else in the world life has certainly kept moving along.  Today I started the last summer workshop I share with Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser.  It is always a bittersweet weekend–we love hanging together, working with young adults, etc., but we both know this is the last stop before the world crashes in upon both of us and we split up for the next 10 months.

But that is for another post….

As I was teaching the first 45 minute block outside in the “land of heat and humidity” (My God it was like teaching in a steam room!!) I noticed a man standing off to the side just watching…and smiling. I knew instantly who it was and waited for the right moment to interject within my instructions “Is that Mr. Glen Rhine back there?” His smile filled his face, he nodded and bowed. At the first moment of “#3 teach clean everything I just taught you,” I went over to say hello to my old friend from my days in the Buccaneers.

Back then, in the 1980’s I watched a man spend all his time working on the small things: hand positions, guiding techniques, foot placement, horn angles, etc.  The nitty gritty of the activity. Back then I thought he was missing it–I thought he had no idea what he was talking about. We needed to work on the BIG stuff, not the fact that my index finger wasn’t exactly next to my middle finger. Who cares about that? No one can tell!

Oh what I didn’t know! Oh if I knew then what I know now!!!  Success is in the details–the nitty gritty details.  Sure the band is loud but the trumpets don’t stand at attention the same way. They look sloppy.  Fix that, add the sound and BOOM!  Greatness!!  …if only it were that simply, but I know you get the point.

Glen and I had lunch together for the first time in 30 years. What a great hour it was to catch up with him, to hear he’s still out there teching high school bands, to hear that he’s even more passionate about not just fixing the nitty gritty but in teaching the students WHY and HOW–not just WHAT!  He sat there and he told me about how much he has learned since taking yoga and how it has helped him to break down and analyze backward marching–how each and every muscle in the foot needs to do certain things in order for the backward initiation to occur.

I sat there in amazement and joy as I listened to a 66 year old man speak with such passion about teaching high school band kids how to march.  And there was the lesson: He said,

“Heidi, at our age we don’t NEED to be doing this! We do it because we WANT to.”

Do I NEED to be out there with sweat running down my entire body as if I was standing in a shower? No.

Do I NEED to be out there not only in the heat, but the rain, the cold temperatures, and even snow, jumping up and down like a crazed person trying to get a college marching band to wake up and put out some energy. No.

I do not NEED to do any of those things….I WANT to do them.   Thank you Glen.

 

Anyone who as ever participated in marching band or drum corps or any of the pageantry arts knows the feeling. There is a “buzz” that starts a couple of weeks before the activity begins. There is anticipation, excitement, and even a sense of nervousness in the air. You simply cannot wait for it to begin!

And then, quite suddenly, you’re in it–and it’s exhilarating!  With regard to marching band it starts with Band Camp. Friends you haven’t seen since the end of spring semester (or even the end of last season) are greeted with renewed joy. New members are welcomed into the “family” with open arms. You hold your breath and wait for your four favorite words: “Set up page 1.”

Very quickly the week and change of Band Camp comes to an end and the semester crashes into you like a freight train. Suddenly the excitement of the first game is careening toward you and you can’t wait to get back on the field in Delaware Stadium. The first game comes and goes in a blur–you are pretty sure you did well but you don’t remember too much about the day. You just know you missed a few dots, cracked a few notes and did your best to play “Delaware Forever” right after the 4 snare taps. You know you’ll dig in and “get better” over the next few weeks.

And then suddenly it happens…the second phase: “you can’t wait for it to be over.”

That’s correct–we love this crazy thing so much but one day the rain starts, classes get harder, papers to write begin to pile up, and exams just never seem to end. The stress of college life takes over the thought of marching band begins to irritate you. Temperatures start to drop and you’re wearing so many layers you can’t hold your instrument at the proper angle. With each passing week all you can think about is “when is this going to end?”

But end it does, bringing us to the third phase: “you can’t wait for it to begin again.”

You find yourself at the start of the last week of rehearsals. Seniors are starting to cry and talk about how they cannot bring themselves to write their “Last Will And Testament” for the band banquet book. Juniors are realizing they’re NEXT. Sophomores are wondering if they’ll be selected for Field Staff. And Freshmen can’t believe they ever doubted for a second that they would survive band.

Marching Band–oh what a crazy thing it is with which we have such an intense love-hate relationship.

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…

The eve before Thanksgiving. I’m sitting here in my family room with the fireplace a blaze…it’s still snowing outside albeit much less than earlier in the day. Delaware got its share of slush…the usual for this part of the eastern corridor. Tomorrow I will enjoy the company of friends–the turkey is ready for the oven, stuffing is ready to be baked, dessert is all done (bread pudding with whisky sauce–note the spelling of “whisky,” it is important), and cranberry relish is all chilled. There’s not much left to do except relax…FOR ONCE!

While rummaging through Facebook I came across a posting of a video that made me think just a little outside the box and allowed me to find a way to tie a bunch of different thoughts together into one topic:  traditions. As a band director it is a word that I tend to loathe. A dear friend once said that  “if you do something two years in a row it is suddenly a ‘tradition.'” Well said George, well said. Thanksgiving traditions–we all do it. Just re-read the above list of all the food I’ve prepared and there you have it.  (Please note the absence of pumpkin pie…um, gross. Apple is fine, but pumpkin…blech.) Families gather together all across the country and do “traditional” things. Once upon a time, not all that long ago, I would gather with George and part of his family out at a local Delaware golf course sometime during the 4-days. Regardless of weather or temps, we HAD to play golf!  It was a TRADITION!

But this time of year there are more traditions that cross my mind. It is the end of the season for the UDMB and the last home game is filled with traditions: seniors turn their capes around, seniors perform a senior show, the drum line marches the graduating members OUT the pregame gate–the way they first entered as Rookies, and the list goes on and on.  The band has a traditional song–it’s OUR song:  “In My Life.” It holds meaning to every member that can never be conveyed to someone who has never participated in the UDMB. Sure the outside world thinks they “get it,” but not in totality. The UMASS Minuteman Marching Band has “My Way.” These traditions are worth keeping and holding dear because they bridge the generational gap in a way that is indescribable.

Tonight I came across a video that made me think about all of this.  Every corps has their song. Star of Indiana had “When You Wish Upon A Star.” Santa Clara Vanguard: “Send In The Clowns.” The Cavaliers: “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” And many more.  Any member of any drum corps will tell you that when they hear the melody of their corps song it stops them in their tracks and their hearts skip a beat.  Some call it tradition…I call it love.

Tomorrow the Madison Scouts will perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade…yet another tradition. The video I saw this evening was of the group playing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”–their song.  (click and enjoy.  For those on Facebook this one is even better.  )  Within seconds of watching/listening all I could do was think of this coming Saturday evening when I will spend a few hours with some very dear friends at the Reading Buccaneer Banquet. I still have yet to wrap my head around being inducted into the corps Hall of Fame…perhaps I will Saturday night. I do not know if the corps song will be sung…I hope it will be. Our song is set to the melody from the movie theme of “An Affair To Remember,” and my affair (if you will) with the Reading Buccaneers from 1983 – 1990 is one I cherish more than I can ever explain. As I posted upon hearing the news, the evening will be just a tad bittersweet due to “absent friends.” …but I was lucky enough to find a video of the song being sung that captures the depth of tradition, the bittersweetness of it all, and how a simple song can mean the world to people who have shared the same experiences.

Traditions…sometimes they ARE a good thing.

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.

his-bucsA few times over the years of posting thoughts and ideas and commentary and the occasionally rare criticism I have made the following remark:  “My humble hat is stapled to my head.”  It’s true…ok, perhaps not stapled but most assuredly Gorilla Glued on.  I am always quick to deflect congratulatory statements from others, passing them off to the band members because, in my heart, I truly believe they are the ones who deserve the kudos.  I’m merely the caretaker, the custodian, the one who guides the ship but doesn’t make it run.

Perhaps there is some flaw in this approach but I have never really liked the whole “It’s not them, it’s not them, it’s me!” thing.  The reason for this is simple:  without THEM, there is no ME.  I have learned a little over the last few years to simply say “thank you” when moments of congratulations present themselves.  It is hard for me…and only those closest to me know and understand that.  The outside world sees the demanding, dictatorial, rules with an iron fist woman who stands before a crowd of 20,000+ and sucks up the applause.  If only you knew how much truth lies in the notion: “It’s not you, it’s the position.”

And yet, every once in a while a moment comes along in a person’s life when one has to remove the humble hat and take a bow.  …bare with me, this will be challenging.

On the afternoon of November 1, 2014 I received a phone call just as the band was marching under the West grandstands and heading to the pregame entrance gates.  I looked at the number, didn’t recognize it, yet, against my better judgement, decided to take the call for reasons unknown to me.  I had only a few minutes before the pregame show needed to start and there I was answering the phone.

On the other end was Lois and Lou Tierno with the news that I was to be inducted into the 2014 Reading Buccaneer Senior Drum and Bugle Corps Hall of Fame.  I was, perhaps for the first time in my life (or at least in a very long time) rendered speechless. I’ve been removed from the corps for years…24 to be exact. My time with the organization was a scant 8 years: 5 on soprano bugle and 3 as drum major. Not really a lifetime commitment as so many other inductees have made.  But I suppose my contribution to the corps continued long after I departed by sending students to learn from them just as I did, and then those members going on to become staff members, just as I did.  In retrospect I supposed I’ve always been connected to Blue in some manner.

I do not speak much of my time with Reading–it holds a very dear and special place in my heart that is difficult to explain to those who have never been part of such an organization.  I was 19 when I joined–one heck of a cocky trumpet player who didn’t know that she didn’t know.  I was fearless.  Some might say the person I am today was “born in Blue”–a raw young kid who was shaped by so many gifted (and patient) instructors, who left before she was finished “cooking” but had the support in place to continue along the path on her own terms.  I grew up in the Bucs, that is clear.  I was “broken” there and then mended, molded and reshaped into something much more than I realized at the time.

My mentors were many: Matt Krempasky, Darrell Weyman, Chuck Runkle, Glen and Andi Brumbach, Carol O’Brien, Amy (DeLong) Snook, Robbie Robinson, Ken Sherry, Ralph Pace, Jerry Kelsey, Ron Gehris, Grant Hill, and of course, George Parks (and so many others…and the moment you begin to name any you leave out ones you should have included so my sincerest apologies for that).

I learned about family from my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. This idea of family became more pronounced during my time with the corps. In turn it was enhanced and reinforced during my time at UMASS with George. But all those lessons and values and ethics did not crystalize until this kid simmered a bit more over the years, and began to pass on the lessons to my own “kids” at the University of Delaware.  In the end, all I ever really needed to know I learned at Reading.

I’m honored, humbled, and most grateful to be part of the 2014 Reading Buccaneer Hall of Fame.  I could share stories for hours and hours about all the joys and tears of that time in my life.  But that is for when we sit around the nursing home and not for this moment. And while it is bittersweet not to be able to share this moment with absent friends, I know they are standing on the deck of the ship we will all board one day when we will once again rule the seas, together.

Aye me Buccaneers…for we are indeed, all good men.