Pain

I felt something I haven’t felt in a long time, during our last warmup arc before our finals performance on Sunday.

And before I start, let me just say that I have never ever cried after a performance before. I didn’t cry after prelims and I didn’t cry after finals. I don’t think my emotions are wired to work that way. Or maybe it’s because I want to be the “strong” one to catch all the crying people and hold them close afterwards. Or maybe it’s because even in the moment, I shut down and become numb. It’s only in the aftermath that I feel something.

So it was odd for me to feel that something before we started our last warmup. It was this pang of despair and sadness, fleeting, but so piercing. This was it, this was the last time I would warmup for a show with the same 31 other people around me, and the pain of it made me want to double over. That I had put so much of me into this drum corps just to be rewarded with how much it hurt to lay this season to rest.

And I began to think: would it have been easier for me to have never marched at all this season? Would it have been easier if I had never found the Bushwackers? Would it have been easier to have never found drum corps at all? Would my heart still be so heavy but so full that I can feel it bursting from its seams?

For the first time, I don’t know. Any other season, I would have said it was worth it. And for some reason, this 6th season of drum corps is harder for me to stomach, and leaving everyone at the end of the season is harder than ever. I’ve suffered physically, emotionally. Had the time of my life. Was it worth it though? Because now I’d do anything to march PianoForte again, even the first few sets of Angry Young Bushwackers that I always hated. I’d do anything to spend tomorrow again with all the people I love who are all part of the 2016 Bushwackers but that tomorrow will never come.

I convinced myself a long time ago that feeling, feeling sad, happy, angry, frustrated, afraid, in utter despair, feeling anything was better than feeling nothing at all. To feel is to live, to love, to make the time pass on. Without feeling, the world is sickly still and I’ve wanted my own world to end sometimes when I can’t feel a thing.

The end, it hurts. It hurts a lot, and it always does and it always will. The end is part of me now, and it’s part of all of you Bushwackers too. We are the beginning, the middle, and now the end of the 2016 Bushwackers, and there isn’t a thing we can do to avoid what we all did on the field together this summer.

We need to feel that hurt. We can’t shut ourselves off from these experiences because we know how abruptly the end comes, but instead we can internalize it, make that last rehearsal day, that last warmup block, that last show, retreat, that last bus ride together, we can make that part of who we are.

While I lie in my own bed tonight, capturing the last inklings of the 2016 Bushwackers season, this thought is what will comfort me as I sleep. That we are every trial and tribulation we have encountered this year, every laugh that caught us off guard, every friendship forged in a matter of seconds, every moment that made the crowd stand on their feet. To feel as a 2016 Bushwacker is to be a 2016 Bushwacker, and that is an honor I would never give up.

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Long Term Benefits of Band

I feel like less and less people are taking a chance and committing to a season of corps, or a season of WGI. As soon as you think you’ve got someone hooked, they’ve already quit, leaving you with not only a hole in your section, and in a lot of cases, no one eagerly revving up to take their place.

We constantly sing the obvious praises of why band is so great. Doing a cool loud thing for thousands of people. Getting mega ripped. Growing as a musician and a performer.

The truth is, the pageantry arts gives back your time spent rehearsing and traveling and living the pageantry life in a thousand subtle ways, 900 of those you might not even notice right away.

Half of it is the way music grows from a sheet of white speckled in black to a moving experience on the field to a detailed and meaningful memory. Once you perform a piece of music, it’s never the same for you again.

In 2012 the Surf opened with “In the Stone”. Earth Wind and Fire tune, and signature Bridgemen tune. Huge risk for the Jersey Surf, for any drum corps, to do a tribute to another corps, especially one of the most idiosyncratic corps of all time. And here we were, kicking off the downbeat of our entire show with “In the Stone”.

That’s why whenever I hear the tune, whenever I even think of it, I hear the “bridge”of the song comforting me: “Never, never my darling, never you’ll be alone…”

Or, for you, perhaps it’s that Taylor Swift tune you always did stretch to at shows. When it comes on in your car, you remember feeling like you could could take on anything.

What about when you hear your corps song playing? You stop everything you’re doing and listen, because every inch of that music and the people you played it with means home to you.

Often enough it’s the shenanigans that came with the music that also shape you into that person you’re thankful you are now.

The late night bus chats. You should have been asleep, and you paid for it the next day, but in your boundless conversation you learned a little bit about your bus buddies…and a whole lot about humanity.

The really terrible rehearsal day that no one ever stops blaming an entire state for. The one where everyone was throwing up and your techs didn’t notice it was 117 degrees on the turf until after the runthrough. The day that would have been the worst day of your life….had you been all alone, without a show to prepare for and make better, without a purpose.

That terrifying visual where you thought you were going to die because you had to depend on someone else’s body for balance. But they never let you
fall, not once.

Or,

That time you ran down that super steep tunnel together in Dayton and spilled out from behind a curtain with drums and a floor and pretty much had the best 7 minutes of your life?

Its difficult to explain this to someone who’s never stuck around, or never even tried out for a full season.

Somehow we can’t articulate that the reasons people should do this activity are small and random and sometimes without reward. Because what we really want to say is:

“You should do this because you’ll never be able to forget anything about it.”

And so sometimes I wonder if the best we can do for the future of band is to keep leading our friends and our students to the kool-aid and just praying that they will trust us and drink.

Care and Handling of a First Year Teacher

Do you know someone who is a first year teacher? This guide is for you. Knowing how to properly care for your first year teacher is of utmost importance! Read on.

1. Food

Your first year teacher spends the majority of their ridiculously short lunch and planning periods either on lunch duty or furiously planning for next weeks lessons. Or next period’s lessons. They might even forget to eat their lunch entirely. They might forget to eat breakfast in the morning. They might forget to eat dinner at night when they’re furiously either planning or desperately trying to go out and doing something that isn’t planning.

However, it is ridiculously important that first year teachers actually eat food. Nutritious food.

Ways you can help:

–Pack their lunch for them, make sure it is tasty and includes protein and fruit and vegetables, plus a treat! And a mint at the end, if you please. Nutritious and varied lunches are key for teacher’s lounge bragging rights.

–Make them dinner when they get home, because they most likely don’t have the energy too. Or take them out to dinner. Or mail a pack of 60 frozen burritos to their apartment. All of these are acceptable and will be appreciated.

–Surprise them with a Wawa gift card. You will basically have become our saving grace if you do. At least $500 to start will get us through the week. $450 of it will be spent on coffee.

2. Venting

First year teachers have a LOT on their mind. In the workplace they are required to act as if nothing is wrong and smile and pretend everything is okay. When they come home they are a volcano of feelings ready to blow!

Here’s what you can do to help create an environment where the new teacher feels safe saying what they need to say:

–Save them a place on your couch for them when they come over. Make sure there are lots of blankets and also make sure your pets are on hand for them to snuggle.

–Listen attentively and definitely agree with what their saying even if you have no idea what they’re talking about. All those acronyms and something about “Common Core”. Don’t worry about it. Keep nodding and showing empathy.

–It doesn’t hurt to also have your refrigerator well stocked, as they will be over for several hours just talking to you. Even a brief visit of four and a half hours of nonstop talking should be punctuated with a snack or meal or seven.

–They also might use your bathroom several times while they are over, just so they can remember what one looks like.

3. Emotional Support

Your first year teacher is almost certainly frustrated, confused, constantly struggling to keep up on their lesson plans while simultaneously battling behavioral issues in every single class and perpetually fearing failure. And that’s only half the story. Not surprisingly, your first year teacher probably cries a lot while simultaneously being told it’s ok and also not ok to cry. Not surprisingly your first year teacher is very confused.

How you can help (this section is in dos and don’ts)

Do: Let them cry alone, if that is what they want.

Do: Give them a fuzzy blanket to wrap around themselves while they are crying on your couch, and also back rubs are ok if indicated as such.

Do: if you are a teacher as well, tell lots of stories about how you screwed up but still have a job, if applicable. The funnier, the better. The worse, the better.

Do: Provide chocolate and also juice and macaroni and cheese.

Don’t: Say “Don’t cry”.

Don’t: Give examples of teachers who have gone viral for their misdoings on media and say “at least you haven’t done THAT! Heheheh”

Don’t: Hold back on the chocolate. Quality and Quantity are both important factors here.

4. Free Time

First year teachers have no previous years of teaching to steal lesson plans from and often spend their entire first year creating their own curriculum that will work for them.

Nevertheless, first year teachers especially need time not spent planning to rewind, relax, pursue a new or old hobby, etc so they can briefly remember what it’s like to not put in 12 hours of unpaid work every single day.

Things you can do:

–Take your first year teacher on an outing on the weekend. Could be as simple as a trip to the Lego store or a billion dollar trip on a rocket ship up into orbit for a few years, but if it’s the latter, let them know in advance so they can get the sub plans together.

–Take them swimming. Who doesn’t like swimming?

–Write tomorrow’s lesson plans for them. Even if you know nothing about the content area. We’ll appreciate how it plays out in school the next day, it might be kind of funny.

This is in no way a complete guide, but hopefully provides you with some basic information on caring for your first year teacher!

Good luck, and remember to buy chocolate!

What Really Counts

It’s been two years since the Jersey Surf rolled into our finals housing and I stayed up late writing a piece about what finals week meant, what ending the season and going back to “the real world” meant, and what it was like to write-and live, without inhibitions.

And while it’s still far past my bedtime, things could not be more different right now. I’ve aged out. I’m in a bed in a house, not surrounded by 149 other sweaty people on a floor. I’m not in Indiana. I’m fat because I only rehearse drum corps two and a quarter days a week. I’m preparing to start my first real teaching job in just two weeks, and there is little I can do to the escape the fact that I am adulting.

While my finals week; the DCA finals week, is five weeks away, the DCI finals week starts now. Three days until prelims, four days until semis, five days until finals. My open class friends start prelims today. Zero days left.

The hardest feeling to deal with, to avoid, during this week, for far many of us than we would like to admit, is the one of regret. A mix of two ingredients, despair and anger, that builds up over the ten weeks of summer until we feel like we cannot clean out the sting from our thoughts or the fear from our hearts that we have not lived to our personal potential.

No matter what happens that summer, it comes for you this week. Regret. Age outs, those who have waited 21 or even 22 years for this week, get smacked in the gut with it. This is supposed to be the happiest experience of our lives and sometimes the bitter is too strong for us to remember how it was meant to be.

Our days are numbered, and thinking of this only makes regret painfully strengthen. For some that means just one, just two more performances; only a few will get a third, or even a fourth. And when the numbers run out, it’s done, and the dream is over.

There are too many numbers in drum corps. The score is numbers. Placements are numbers. The number of holes in the drum corps in mid July is a number. The average number of steps to a yardline, the number of sets in the entire show. The number of corps that competed in Atlanta. The number of buses in a corps fleet. The number of potato wedges you got for fifteen minute snack before ensemble when you went to the bathroom zero times because ensemble was 400 yards away. The number of friends you made on the free day. The brass score. The ninety minutes of EPL. The number of laps you ran because you were–

Stop it. Drum corps is NOT about the numbers. Drum corps is not about who can get higher ones or who can stay ahead of the people with lower ones or who can perform more shows or how many more people come and watch the other corps and who has seven hundred people at their next audition camp.

Drum corps is about living. Drum corps is about those shivers you get when you walk into the dome because you have something to say to those people out there and you know you won’t leave until you’re physically drained from screaming it in their faces.

Drum corps is about forgetting what went wrong yesterday and growing today out of a blank plot of soil and an untouched seed and the water from your water jug, which you freshly filled before block.

Drum corps is about becoming the hero you always looked up to when you were young and afraid of being yourself. And without fail, you achieve this no matter what brings you down because inside you is that hero you wanted to be all along and didn’t realize you already were.

This is the final week and your time is cruelly finite but this is not the time to think about how many days are left or how old you are or how many points it takes to get into finals or semis or how many people you wish you hadn’t burned bridges with or even the lonely single potato wedge you got for snack.

You are living. You are ending each rep with a smile or a face so fierce it masks your joy. You are seeking out the people who matter to you most and telling them how much they mean to you. You are getting seconds at every meal.

You are dreaming of the day you perform this show for the last time and worry about nothing because by the end you have nothing left to give and it is a beautiful day to be alive.

When you remove the quantification in your life, even if only for a few days, you don’t need to think about what should have been more or what should have been less and you become so happy with how things ARE.

My DCI babies, don’t you look back. Your world has culminated to this point and now is your time to shine.

Yes, it will end, sooner than you want it to, but love it so fiercely you cannot bear to tear yourself away and you will not regret a single thing.

Indoor Drumline and the Art of Performance (WGI Performing)

Performing.  Werking it. Getting it.  There’s really no instructional manual to being a great WGI Percussion performer, besides constantly being reminded to point your pretty little face at the top row of the bleachers and stretching your body until your harness won’t come off your shoulders unless it’s pried with a crowbar.

See, to get to the next level, you have to admit something to yourself.  You have to acknowledge that since the time you first heard an MP3 snippet of the show music or played your first opener diddles or marched the first page of drill that this season’s show imprinted on you.  Whether you like it or not, a show becomes more than just something you’ve done and more part of who you are.

This isn’t guard, forever obsessing over 5 minutes of recorded music.  You create the music.  And now the music is going to create you.  You have to let it.

It can start with something as simple and pedestrian as a head bob.  There’s a pulse to what you and everyone around you plays, ideas strung together by measurable time.  So you bob your head, slowly, not too deliberately.  It gets you feeling in it.

You start reacting to your own accents.  Not even on purpose.  Your nose scrunches up.  You grit your teeth.  Crash choke, it hurts, your eyes narrow like lasers against the gym wall and you have this scowl twisted in your lips.

You’re running a lot, even as you play.  Visual phrases contract and swell.  Running makes your heart beat faster, makes you work harder even as you get lighter on your feet.  You’re weightless, flying around the floor.  Head still bobbing, maybe, but there’s a smile on your face now.

Not the forced kind someone told you to have.  It’s your own smile. The kind you make right before you laugh out loud.  It’s so genuine, full of joy.  And you’re running across the floor and locking eyes with someone in the crowd; for 12 counts, you have a conversation from thirty feet away and don’t speak a word.

The entire battery comes together in a block, makes a statement.  The big loud part.  You are full of bravado, full of sass.  You say, “Look what I can do, I’m killing it!” with your eyes and your chin.  Lift your head and your mouth opens and closes in this weird sort of grimace as you hit plus one and freeze at the end of the opener.

Your face softens as the keyboards tinkle out the beginning of the ballad. And maybe you sigh softly, close your eyes, catch your breath.  Whatever the pit plays alone is beautiful, pensive.  It moves the story along.

What story?  Maybe your show is designed to have a storyline.  Where you’re supposed to know what’s going on.  Not always.  Usually with percussion shows you have to make up your own story, starring you, the main character.  Your life is escalating and twisting and dying and resurrecting, all in the span of six and a half minutes.  And yes, it’s all about you, whether you want it to be or not.

Telling your story without a word leaving your lips, that’s what performing means here.

http://www.marchingmonk.com/about/blog/blog-posts/indoor-drumline-and-the-art-of-performance

The Ballad

Two minutes and fifty four seconds were removed from the DVD and Fan Network cut of the Jersey Surf 2014 Pay It Forward show.  The entire ballad, based on Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today”, is blocked out due to the licensing of the source material.

The ballad is the main story telling portion of the show, however, so this is pretty inconvenient.

To those of you who saw it live this summer, you are truly blessed!

For those of you who didn’t, and couldn’t access the videos before they were taken down from the InterWebz, this post is especially for you, so you may fully understand the impact of this show for both audience and performer:

In the preshow, the drum corps is plumeless.  One guard member sits in the confines of a circle of flags on the 50, intrigued by her surroundings.

Several hornline members leave the sideline and enter the stage, self-absorbed, blind to human life around them. Some are on angry phone calls and don’t notice the damage they spill as they stomp around. Some run and run with no true goal, too occupied to notice the needs of one another.

The concert bass in the pit taps like a heartbeat and all characters freeze and turn to stare at the “gift” offered by a guard member carrying a long blue box.  We sense it is important, but do not know why. The ability to give is deeply buried within us, but we are not yet conscious of our own power.

Two trumpet soloists receive a “simple gift” of a plume to end preshow and begin the program.

Throughout the first half of the show, parts of the hornline receive the gift of a plume from the dancers.   Having now experienced the gift of giving, they become enlightened to their own ability to Pay It Forward.
The ballad begins with the members of the hornline who have been plumed frolicking with each other, sharing their joy with one another.  The other half of the hornline staggers around in despair, alone, unable to reach out for help.

The mellophone soloist is amongst the plumeless.  They are joyously offered one but choose to spurn it and turn away.  The plumed members turn to look at the scene in hope and sigh their disappointment as the gift is refused.

“Broken windows and empty hallways,” begins the mello solo.

“A pale dead moon in a sky streaked with gray.”

“Human kindness is overflowing”
(The other plumeless receive plumes; they fill with love and gratitude before your eyes.)

“And I think it’s gonna rain today.” The soloist retreats to the corner of the stage, turned away from the corps.

Now the rest of the drum corps, fully plumed, kneels in circle pods all across the field and turns towards the side 2 front corner, gently echoing the soloist, asking them to take the gift.

…”Human kindness is over flowing
And I think it’s gonna rain today.”

The brass lower themselves to the ground in wings across the field; the sorrowed soloist speaks again.

“Lonely, Lonely.
Tin can at my feet
I think I’ll kick it down the street
That’s the way to treat a friend.”

Section by section, the brass layer into the melody. As the soloist prepares to make their final decision, we reach the most important hit of the show, full brass in and loud:

“Right before me the signs implore me:
Help the needy and show them the way!
Human kindness is overflowing,
and I think it’s gonna rain today.”

As they push into the final blow away, the release bursting into an echo that drowns the stadium in its silence, the soloist, broken out of their life of darkness, runs toward the drum corps, joining the end of long, curved form that stretches around the field. They kneel.

“And I think it’s gonna rain….today”.

The soloist receives a plume, all brass gesture towards them with hand outstretched in a long sweeping ripple, for they have become enlightened at last.
The closer seals the story.

A drum break begins the 4th movement, the dancer presents the plume once more, horn players move into a succession of arrows, pointing at the drum line. The message is clear.

Pay It Forward begins with YOU.

We all have this power within us to make the world a better place, even if it’s just one other person at a time, even if it’s for just a moment.

And what if we all promised to do our best to make those moments happen? Every day?

The brass spreads their feet and soars over the drums:

“Lean on Me,
When you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on

For
It won’t be long
Til I’m gonna need
Someone to lean on!”

Dear Neighbors

Dear neighbors who are unhappy with the sounds of a high school marching band rehearsing near their house,

I’m sorry that this is a problem for you.

I’m sorry the band isn’t allowed to use rehearsal fields that are further away from your homes and is forced to use whatever campus parking lot space they have access to.

I’m sorry that the noise from their proximity interferes with your life to the point that you feel that a solution to satisfy yourself must be found at the expense of the students.

I wish I didn’t have to be sorry.

I wish that you would find minimal, rather than maximum discomfort in the situation.

I wish you would walk outside your homes to visit the band, not with stones and PVC pipes but with curiosity and an open mind.

Should you choose to come over to the school to visit one of these offending band rehearsals, here are 5 basic things you may learn about high school marching bands:

  1. Marching bands play LOUD.  That is what they are supposed to do.
  1. A typical high school band student has been preparing to be in marching band for FIVE YEARS.  Instrumental music programs start in 4th- 6th grade usually, with marching band being offered starting in 9th grade. This isn’t a novice activity.
  1. Band is hard.  Yes, those kids are sprinting, doing a funny dance, and playing their instruments at the same time.  They’re good at it, too.
  1. They’re good at it because band is a competitive sport. They compete every weekend from late September to mid November, culminating in a championship competition.  High school band is no joke.  These are the big leagues.
  1. Bands provide entertainment and support at football games and pep rallies in addition to pursuing their own competitive agenda. Therefore, kids are doing band at least 4 or 5 days a week, in addition to their other school and home responsibilities. Time management develops as a survival instinct for band kids.

Perhaps you become intrigued on what you expected to be a brief visit.

Perhaps you sit down and you watch the rehearsal continue as the sun falls down and the cold creeps in.

Perhaps when practice is over, you find a student and ask them about their experiences.

As you continue to expand your knowledge, here are 4 more things you may learn about marching band:

  1. Every member carries a personal importance to the ensemble.  A marching show is basically a theater production with 20, 40, 80, 300+ cast members. There’s no such thing as a bench warmer or a JV in marching band.

    7. The skills that kids learn in band help them for the rest of their lives.

    It’s less about becoming great at playing your instrument while moving around the field and more about learning how to do something that requires great attention to detail perfectly.

It’s less about winning a championship and more about learning how to win over your own confidence.

  1. Band creates family. Kids who spend weeks doing band out in the hot sun, cold rain, and icy snow don’t leave each other behind. Band saves lives and will continue to do so.
  2. Band is about taking the energy and effort of many and combining it into one unified entity. Everyone has a unique job to do, but for a band to succeed, each member must put the good of the whole before their own interests.

Did you know that you, the neighbor, are part of the success of the band?

A band cannot operate without the success of its community.

Many people volunteer their time with the band. They mend uniforms, build show props, provide meals and snacks for the kids on long days. They cheer for them in the stands at every game and competition.

We know you have your own life. We know you have never been in marching band and feel that because of your inexperience you will never belong.

However, you live so close by to the high school that you ARE part of this community, and we welcome you to it! It does, of course, come with responsibility and a sense of teamwork.

When you insist that the marching band must rehearse elsewhere, you must realize that there is no other place for them to rehearse. Should you push the issue until they must stop rehearsing all together, you have not fulfilled your responsibility.

When you insist that the marching band must shorten and move their rehearsal times, you must realize that if they do so, they might not receive the time nor instructors that they need. Should you the push the issue until they cannot rehearse enough to be successful, you have not fulfilled your responsibility.

We know the drums rattle the walls of your house. We know that the instruments are blaring in the evening when all you want is some peace and quiet.

It is important for us all to become experts in finding the positive in a negative situation.

Instead of agonizing over the sound every evening, why not bring Gatorade to the rehearsal field after practice is over? You will make many friends.

Instead of calling the police over a scheduled high school activity, why not come to a football game or competition to see what the band has been working on all this time? They would love to show you what they can do!

Dear neighbors, you can make a positive difference in the lives of these kids, just as they make positive differences in the lives of each other!

What will you choose to do?

Sincerely,

A lifelong bando996126_10152265736113730_580005003769543891_n