A Tale of Band Camp
A few years ago I was asked to say something at the annual band awards banquet for the high school my daughters attend. What follows is what I told the students and parents that evening.
Good evening. I’ve been involved with the band for a few years now, I think it’s been 4 and I think that I have a few more years to go. I’ve been asked to speak on how the band has affected my family. Let me see. My wife has Herter’s (the local instrument store) on speed-dial. Since I’ve been going to band camp for 4 years, I’ve got a pretty impressive collection of things people have left behind, towels, wash-clothes, sun-screen, bug-spray and, of course, lots of memories. I don’t know what cork grease is supposed to be for, but I know it works pretty well as lip balm. When people come to visit on fall weekend’s we tell them to bring warm clothes because we’re going to be watching the band, and by the way, there’s going to be a football game. Our van has been used to carry kids, instruments, pop cans, and cookie dough. I’ve experienced the excitement and tension of solo and ensemble and the total exhaustion when it’s done. Our house has been a practice room, recording studio and most recently a marching practice field. We’ve dropped kids (ours and others) off at 6:30 in the morning for jazz band practice.
Seriously though, it has been an incredible experience and I’ve gotten to know some great kids, parents and instructors. People I consider my friends.
During my first year at band camp, your director told me that what he teaches is leadership. Music is just the medium that he uses. Over the years I’ve come to agree with him and if you give me a few minutes, I’ll tell you why.
We’ve been told to seek out the work for which you are passionate about and we will never really work a day in your lives. That’s nice, but the reality is that there a lot of jobs out there for which there is no way you can be passionate about them. I’ve got a bigger challenge for you; bring your passion to the job. If you are going to be janitor, parking lot attendant, or a burger flipper (all things that I’ve done) be the best janitor, parking lot attendant, or burger flipper that you can be. You learned this at band camp. On Monday when you’re told “go to page one!” you race back to your position, ready to march again. Page one is your favorite page. By Thursday or Friday; is page 1 still your favorite page? You’ve gone back to it dozens of times but you still cheer and race back to the start because the show is coming together and that excites you. You bring the passion to the job and it makes camp a great place and time.
As a freshman, when you first start marching it is hard, which direction is left, which is right, what’s left flank, about face? It feels like everybody knows more than you do and you feel intimidated. But then they start helping and encouraging you and pretty soon it starts to make sense. There are a couple of things to learn from this. First there will always be people smarter and more knowledgeable than you are. Secondly, we are all in this together. When you get out of high school and get into the working world, find those smart people and stick to them. You will learn a lot, and believe it or not, smart people like to help out and pretty soon you’ll have people sticking to you, learning from you. Just ask the seniors in this room.
There is an old story of two guys sweeping the sidewalk in front of a construction site. When asked what they were doing the first guy said “I’m sweeping up the dust.” The second guy turned around to face the project, spread out his arms and said “I’m helping to build this great cathedral.” If I were to come out onto the field and ask each of you what you were doing, how many would say “I’m marching from here to over there” and how many would say “We are putting together a half-time show and it’s going to be awesome!” Have a vision of the whole thing; don’t be satisfied with knowing just what your job is. Find out how it fits into the big picture and work toward that.
For those of you who are part of Student Leadership Team. How did you get here? You started out just where these incoming freshmen are. You learned to follow. Remember “Basics with Barry” right flank, left flank, about face. You had to learn to follow before you learned to lead. That works in the “real” world too. You will always be working for someone else and if you own the company, you’ll be working for the toughest boss out there, the customer. Learn to follow, learn what is important, learn how to help out, learn what the big picture is, you’ll learn to lead.
Finally, how many people here can tell me what “forced fun” is? For those of you who don’t, let me explain. When the camp day is over there is still one thing left do, have a bit of fun. You can’t opt out and say “I’m too tired.” You have to join it. As adults, sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in the demands of life, jobs, and all that other things that have to be done that we forget to have some fun. I think that sometimes we should all be forced to have some fun, no opting out, join in, enjoy.
We have 3 daughters all of them were involved in school music programs. One is working in the banking industry, one is pursuing her DVM and one has decided to follow in the footsteps of her band director and become a music educator.