Posts Tagged ‘udmb’

We see everything from our own perspective first. If you are like me you also take a moment to view things through the eyes of your “audience.” It is this perspective that can be the most revealing…if you allow it to be.

I am a very lucky person. Some would say blessed, others would say successful or fortuitous. My humble hat has always been glued to my head…frankly, at this point it is difficult to tell where the hat ends and my head begins. I have always put the band, DMA, whatever, first, and me second. It’s just how I am. Perhaps it is my deep rooted insecurity, or heck, maybe I’m just too pessimistic to enjoy the “NOW.” <oh, you didn’t know those two things about me — insecurity and pessimism — did you?! …oops.> Whatever it is, it is who I am: others first, me second.

This past Friday, however, I did something I have never done before–I pursued “rubbing elbows” with a celebrity. I actually got myself right up against the metal barricade in front of my students, had my phone camera “at the ready,” and was not going to miss getting a selfie with Joe Biden!  Nope. This time I was going to swallow my fears, be selfish, and GET THAT PICTURE!

But I skipped a lot so allow me to backtrack…..

Joe Biden, former Vice President of the United States of America, is also an alum of the University of Delaware. I have had the privilege of meeting him before: 2 football games (one in which I was able to chat with him for 15 seconds at the conclusion of Band Day halftime) and 1 basketball game that resulted in my taking a photo of him with the UD Pep Band. At the same time, perhaps more importantly, when I was able to meet and speak with his son, Beau.

I thought it odd at the basketball game when he came up behind me, gave me a hug and kiss and said, “Heidi, the band is always fantastic!” Odd because how on earth would Joe Biden know my name??? I brushed the thought aside immediately because the answer was obvious: someone told him my name prior to him coming over to the band. Still, it was overwhelming to say the least!

Back in January I was asked to put the band back together for a welcome back rally of sorts at the Wilmington Riverfront. He and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, took the train home from Washington, D.C. one final time after the 2017 Inauguration Ceremony. Between undergrads and alumni we were able to get over 200 bandos at the event.  It was one of those “positively life-changing” experiences that folks would not have had if not for band! When I was asked to scrape together what I could for the public announcement of the new Biden Institute at UD I knew I had to make it happen.

100 UDMB members stood on the The Green behind Memorial Hall on a gray, cold, raw Friday at noon. “Delaware Forever” and the “Fight Song” echoed up and down the grassy expanse, sound bouncing off the Georgian brick buildings. Over 2000 students were in attendance–all yelling “Biden Is Back.” It was a great event to usher in the new initiative at UD and in many ways, excite the student body about getting “off your rear and making a difference in the world!” <Biden’s words, not mine.> The air was electric despite the November-like conditions in April. The event concluded with another round of the “Fight Song” and then I saw it–I saw the way The Man exited the stage….and I was all over it!

I seconded guessed myself a few times, thinking, “Let the kids get up there.” “You look like a fool trying to get a selfie with him.” “Why do you even want to do this?!” Finally I shut the voice down. Screw it. Be one of the masses. He doesn’t know you, he doesn’t care. It’s part of the political game.

Secret Service — WOW! Those boys are serious dudes! My hands were freezing and I kept switching the phone between them and shoving the free hand inside my coat pocket….and I was being watched like a hawk! Again I pushed the thoughts of backing away from my mind. He was three people to my left, it’s now or never……..

I extended my right hand has he approached….he looked at my hand and began to reach for it…he looked up with that Joe Biden smile, you know, that million dollar smile we’ve seen for decades…we made eye contact…. and his entire face changed from one of political persona to one of “Hey! I know this person!”

The next minute was one of him going on and on and on about the band, about the program I continue to provide, about making sure I was not going to stop doing what I was doing.

I stood there with a big, stupid smile on my face saying ‘thank you’ and ‘ok’ and ‘yes sir’ because I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO! All I wanted was a selfie with Joe Biden and I got pulled into a freaking bear hug!

I’m still overwhelmed by the entire moment. I was at an event with a man known around the globe–a man who has done more with his life than I can even begin to fathom–and HE pulls ME into a hug after going on and on about me and the UDMB!

Perspective. Starred Thought: “You will never know the impact you have upon another person.” Perspective.

…I still haven’t gotten a selfie with @JoeBiden though…

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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.

This is not a religious post–but it is about the definition of the word. In fact, let us begin with that:

According to Merriam Webster, the basic definition of the word ‘faith’ is strong belief or trust in someone or something.

There are times when a series of circumstances tests our faith. Days when nothing seems to go right, when every conceivable and inconceivable obstacle appears out of nowhere and is thrown directly in front of you. It takes every ounce of energy you have to avoid running into that brick wall that you are convinced was not there one second ago. By the end of days like those you tend to get into your car, drive out of a darkened parking lot, head home to a quiet house and question why on earth you even bother trying.

Fortunately there are hints of wonder that walk side by side with the challenges—you just have to look hard enough to see them. One of the beautiful gifts I get is watching my students “figure it out.” First, yes, it is a GIFT one receives as a teacher. Second, “figure it out” is sometimes the most important lesson you can ever teach a student.

Today’s young adults want their world to be black and white. “What do I need to do to get an “A?” “What exactly is expected of me in this class?” What do you want me to do at this exact moment in time in order to not be wrong?” This is our world now…but the truth of it all is that there are no answers to the above questions.  The world is NOT black and white friends. The world is 1 million shades of gray.  This means that putting the gray matter located inside your skull to work is the only option you have at having a prayer at survival.  Sadly many of our young adults are not ready for primetime–they have been set up to FAIL by previous teachers, and yes, their parents.

My dear friend Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser likes to preface sessions with “Truth or Sugar?” …and always the group says “TRUTH!” The reality is that the truth is a killer.  So while the truth that today’s young adults have been set up to fail in many ways is brutal, it is NOT the end result.  It is, however, the starting point!

So where do we go from here? UP! That’s where we go! And as we climb the ladder which seems to have no end in sight, no arrival point, no moment of “I’VE MADE IT!” we keep climbing because of this little thing called ‘faith.’

Perhaps a recap of yesterday will help with understanding where all this is coming from this evening:

The derailment began when the band buses were not only late but apparently the drivers did not know they needed to bring the band to the stadium BEFORE the game…we’ve used this company since BEFORE I was director. Then I got a text that the pit equipment truck battery was dead and they were waiting for it to be jumped. Then I called Motor Pool to find out that they were waiting for me to tell them to go to the CFA to jump start the battery even after they had been called by my GA 20 minutes earlier. Then everyone EXCEPT the trumpet section arrived at the practice fields–still short 1 bus. Then the pit truck arrived during warmups so we changed up the entire practice schedule and did Pregame first.  All of this occurred in the span of ONE HOUR!.

Next we finally get the pit fired up (literally–we be electric now!!  All mic-ed up and putting out decibels!!) and start to rehearse the Overture. 15 minutes later—evacuate to the Field House due to storm cell with thunder and lightening.  Rehearsal over.

None of this would have been bad had it been any other time of year. However the last time we rehearsed with the pit was the last day of Band Camp 6 days ago. The rehearsal on Wednesday had us still on met and we did NOT “run-thru” any of the tunes except Overture–we were still breaking things down and running “chunks.” If you are following you have started to break out into a cold sweat because you know what all this means:  the first real run of Overture, Masquerade and the encore Malaguena would be under the proverbial gun DURING halftime!  No chunks; no met; 1 -2, GO!!!!!

And they did….and I finally calmed down.  Those of you who know me are aware that I get wired with nervous energy at the first game. I don’t want them to fail at anything. I don’t want them to go home thinking “we’re no good.” I don’t want them ever to feel embarrassed. Usually I am excited to see/hear what they do because I KNOW they are going to be incredible right out of the gate.  Last night was not one of those times.  Last night I was a nervous wreck. They weren’t ready; they didn’t have a single full rehearsal in 6 days; they had no idea what to do when the team scored; they had no idea how to get on and off the field. …and the list went on and on.  I was a virtual train wreck heading for the end of the line that was hovering over the edge of an abyss.

(ok…perhaps a tad melodramatic….or not.  I was a mess!)

And then they played the first note of the Overture after the auctioneer narration and the music box…and I giggled.

And then they played the final crescendo…and I chuckled.

And then they played Letter O of Masquerade…and I outright laughed.

And then they unloaded Malaguena…and I wished I had a horn so I could join the soloists on the sideline.

And then….postgame was even better.

Have a little faith.  I didn’t yesterday. I had lost most of it. I was caught up in the insanity and lost sight of faith: faith in the one thing that has always been a constant for me—this band pulling up their boots by the bootstraps and ‘figuring it out.’

It was always there…I just couldn’t see it at first because I wasn’t looking hard enough….

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…

Delazure 2015This time of year is always challenging for me.  Some of it is the winter blues that everyone tends to get to one degree or another. Some of it is the end of two incredibly intense seasons (summer–DMA and fall–UDMB) that always come to a screeching halt once football concludes.  After months playing the role of Director where one must create in one form or another on a daily, if not, hourly basis, the holiday vacation is a welcomed respite.  The challenge are the 6+ weeks AFTER the holidays….they drag on and on and on with little to no direction, offering little to no motivation.

This year I did have the “distraction” of adding a bit more metal, plastic and this time, ceramics to my body. Nothing like a hip replacement to give you something to focus upon each day. Nope, nothing like it AT ALL.  The hip has certainly taken priority and given me goals to achieve, such as going up the stairs using my legs and not hauling my body up by my arms.  You know, small goals. Yet the annual Winter Blahs still took hold pretty tight because of one missing component: I live to create.

I know, I most certainly could do all sorts of things to quench this desire but it’s not the same as standing in front of 300-400 students, be it DMA or UDMB, who are “in it with you.” Nope, just not the same. Yet today I realized something I have always known but tend to forget: Creating is much more than just the nuts and bolts of pageantry–stop being literal and think outside the proverbial box.

“Providing opportunities for the students that they might not ever get to experience unless they are in the UDMB.” This is my personal motto…ok, so I stole from someone else but if he were still with us I know he would approve and applaud. All sarcasm aside though, I do truly believe the above statement is my “bigger” job. Let me explain:

During the winter two organizations exist that my role is to merely oversee. Pep Band is directed by Jim Ancona. I jokingly tell people I just pay the bills. In truth while I do indeed pay the bills, I also know that back in 1995 when we (Jim and I) decided to make the Pep Band a formal ensemble, it was critical that I supported Jim and his decisions, that we were a team even though he did all of the “heavy lifting.” Today I still pay the bills. Rarely do I need to cover any games as we have three Graduate Assistants who help Jim, but I do break out the horn from time to time and join in on the fun. What I know more than anything though is that just by showing up to a game and LISTENING to the band play, cheering along with them, and “cracking wise” with them is more important than anything else—they see me supporting their endeavors. And THAT is the bigger picture.

So today I spent time at a men’s basketball game hanging with the Pep Band. I was unable to stay for the conclusion of the game because I needed to drive out the New Jersey to see the other group at their first competition of the 2015 season: Delazure indoor guard.

Again, my role is to pay the bills. I have this wonderful creative staff (Sarah McAdams, Phil Cavalcanto and our new designer, Joey Heininger) that does all the writing. I do my best to get to as many shows as I can–something I have come to realize that a number of my colleagues around the country do not do…something I will never understand.  I may not write the drill or the work, I most certainly am not out there teaching them movement (maybe after the other hip and knee get replaced…….nah, not even then!). But they ARE my students and they deserve my support in as many ways as I can provide it.

Their show this year is titled “A Winter’s Gift,” and it is stunning.  It is the fastest-paced show we’ve every produced, it is layered in more ways than you can count (with much more to come) and in a word, it is beautiful. But it was the title that struck home with me this evening…a winter’s gift….

Perhaps that is what it is really all about. I live to create, I love to create…but creating doesn’t have to be the nuts and bolts all the time. Creating can be providing opportunities for the students that they might not ever get to experience unless they are in the UDMB…or Pep Band…or Delazure.  That is my winter’s gift.