Hmm, what to talk about tonight, my drum major lovelies? I’m not too sure as the feelings are strong tonight, (as was the coffee, oops) but I have a decent idea: traditions and how to uphold them. In this last band camp, I came across a frequent issue to where students began to take one of the band’s oldest traditions and change it in a humorous way. While I personally do not like change, I am welcoming of it, as long as it doesn’t interfere with any of the existing traditions. As a leader, open-mindedness is important, as is standing strong on your program’s culture and tradition.
Many bands have their own dismissal tactic, from loud shouts and calls to attention, to a simple, “Dismissed.” at the ends of rehearsals, ball games, and competitions. These vary from place to place, school to school, and sometimes, from year to year, depending on your director and tradition. My school, for as long as I can remember, (about 10 years) has always had the traditional huddle with a call to attention, and a loud ‘fall out’ command proceeded by a simple phrase of, “(My school’s name) County pride! Get some!” It’s always been a neat and traditional part of our day to day band life, until the morning session dismissal the day after my director left. Instead of a shout of, “One!” Several of the members around me decided that, “Two!” and a drunken slurring of the motto was appropriate for the time. Both shocked and upset, I placed my hand on one of the kids’ shoulder, and shook my head disapprovingly, saying firmly, “I don’t appreciate that. Please do not do it again.” He nodded and understood—I was furious. Most of the members in my band have never seen me angry or upset, which in essence, is the goal. Though the kid walked away sore, another popped up in his place, upset that I had gotten on to him.
Band is a tight-knit community. When someone picks on one kid, you may as well be picking on all of them at once. Trust me, fifty-plus pissed off kids is not a good route to take, especially when you’re the one that’s trying to lead them.
”Why does it matter?” The boy shouted at me, as other kids began to take notice of the conflict unfolding. I should’ve held my tongue and walked away. I should’ve just nodded and carried on, but I didn’t. My mouth is one of my biggest flaws when it comes to my band. I run it way too much. Getting closer to the kid, I stood my ground beneath him, (this guy is nearly 6 inches taller than me… I’m sure that I appeared extremely intimidating…) I narrowed my eyes and said, “It’s tradition. You don’t mess with a tradition, to be funny or not.” More people began to stop; hot, sweaty, and cranky teenagers are drawn to a conflict easier than bees to honey.
”Who cares?” He shouted louder. At this point, my fists were clenched as tight as my teeth, and my heart threatened to make an appearance, it beat so hard. Who was he to challenge me? I thought we were friends, after all, he was only a few months younger than me to be sure. I’m the drum major, and he under my authority…
”I do!” I say, tears at the brink of my gaze. I walk away as quickly as possible, and soon other members trail me, asking from behind, “Hey, are you okay?”, “What’s going on?”, “She’s pissed…”, and, “I think that you’re right… it is tradition…” I ignore it and walk into the band room to drop off my metronome and towel, and quickly lock myself in the girl’s locker room, not to be seen for the next hour. Stepping into the shower, I cranked up My Chemical Romance as loud as I could—the sound bounced off the concrete just perfectly enough to hide my shudders as I pushed myself against the cool of the stall, hoping that it with the hot water down my back could fix me.
Don’t succumb to fights and public conflict within your band. It is always best to hold off from conflict until you can be alone with the person who you are disagreeing with—over lunch, over a meeting… Just don’t cause a scene. The worst you can do with any situation is turn it negative. If you do happen to have a situation like mine, don’t do what I did. Don’t hide, don’t let it bother you for very long. Chances are that people will forget about it in a day or less, and if you present yourself to be unaffected, you feign the idea that it was even an argument in the first place. Actually, the day after, I apologized not to the kid I chastised, but the one I fought with. He meekly said that he was sorry too, and that the stress of the day had gotten to him when it happened. Here, a week and some later, we’re still band family, and we’re still friends. Apology and sincerity are among the most important aspects of being a drum major, but the ability to hold your cool even in the most intense of situations is even more important.
Be it about tradition or not, don’t be me. Don’t open your mouth, (publicly) and don’t run away from it.
Yet another amazing day in the life of Neon Finch, world’s most quickly learning drum major, (and holds the record for most mistakes) another lesson learned can only make you more intelligent and sensitive to the people around you. Take advantage of your mistakes. For me, I’ll hold my tongue next time.
Keep up the downbeats, lovelies! Keep it cool, as well.
Two weeks of band camp, and so many senior year memories made. Lord, it’s been a tough camp too, for more reasons than just the weather—this year, my band director of 15 years quit his job as our band director. He left us for an administrative position at an elementary school, a degree he’s had for quite a while now. Though we are sincerely upset to see him go, I am proud of him for making the decisions best for his family, and thankful beyond words for his presence in my life. He made me a better player and a better person, morally. Thank you, Jeff Williams.
So, given this the hardest task of my band camp this year, I would like to take this post to explain how to cope with the loss of a director/staff/member.
Yes, it’s Hard:
It’s difficult to just, ‘move on’ without a member of the band. It just is. These people are your extended family, if not blood family too. I mean, these people are there for you in your weakest times, through nervousness of auditions, insecurity of your abilities, and outside frustrations. When suddenly that force is cut off, you feel alone, left out, or unimportant. Please realize that it isn’t your fault. Sometimes things happen for reasons you may not completely understand… and trying to force that person to stay could actually be detrimental to them. Instead, support them in their endeavors, because they always supported you in yours.
Things You Can Do:
If the member is not deceased—(I’ll get to that in a moment) There’s actually plenty you can do to commemorate that person’s leaving. Doing something as a simple as pooling money for a gift can not only let the member know how much you care and appreciate them, but it can also serve as a type of closure for you and your band.
-Come up with a gift idea, like a giant card made from posterboard, a picture of the band, or a personalized knick-knack.
-Throw a banquet party. Ask your band to bring food, plates, cups, desserts, decorations, anything that can help make a party go out with a bang!
-Be personal. Write them an ENCOURAGING letter and tell them not to open it until after their departure. Surprises make it worth the wait!
-Create your own idea. Originality is key to helping the celebration feel more authentic and special to them.
Don’t forget lots of hugs and kind words… Chances are, wherever they’re headed, they’re probably nervous or scared of what’s ahead. Change can be nerve-wracking. The more you encourage them, the easier it is for you to accept closure, and the more supported the member feels.
If the member has left the band due to death, this type of departure can be especially distressing to you and others in the band. While there is no set way to really say goodbye, there are a couple of things you can do to ease the pain of others.
-Commemorate a piece at a performance to the member. Beings as they were in band, they probably enjoyed music, so this is a heartfelt, universal way to say goodbye.
-Ask your directors to hold a grieving session. Councillors and religious members are important too, as holding a day for rememberance and vigil is a common way to help the grieving process.
-Flowers. Though this is cliche, this can actually help. Adding to the funeral flowers not only gives you a part in remembering the member’s life, but it helps to pay for some of the ones used at the event. Flowers are expensive.
Things Not to Do:
This paragraph should be short. As a leader of your band, you should already know not to do the following, but just incase you forgot, or need to show those not as in-tune as you are…
-DO NOT harrass whoever is selected for an administrative position next. Phrases like, “Well, that’s not how (insert previous director’s name here) did it…”, and “You’re not ____…” can be extremely detrimental to not only them, but your entire program as well. It’s probably not a good idea to make the person in charge of the band’s future upset with the band.
-DO NOT poke fun or point out each little flaw of the person. They’re probably already really nervous and scared about the new job, and they don’t need some punk adding to those worries.
DO NOT do anything you wouldn’t want done to you as a director. No ugly ‘senior pranks,’ no rumor starting, NO. Just don’t do it. NO. Be a good drum major, and OFFER TO HELP THEM. You know how things go, and they’re going to need help adjusting to your band. You know how crazy they can get, sometimes.
…I don’t really have much more to say tonight. There will be more about my band camp adventures later, but for now, it’s late, and I’m on vacation.
Stay strong, my drum major lovelies. The world is full of change, and it happens a lot. Don’t be the regular reaction to it. Be innovative, be thinking, be caring.
Oh, and don’t forget, keep up the downbeats!
Sorry for the long wait, again! I was just recently on a detox vacation, (which was very much needed, by the way) and got back late Friday night, the same time that my HTC decided to die. I’ve tried to fix it, but there wasn’t much we could do for it. So, here, the night before the first day of my last band camp, I’m bringing you another late night blog.
While on vacation, the place that we stayed was absolutely beautiful, but along with it came weak to no signal. This, of course was a bit of a hindrance to me in the first few hours. Here I was, a week before Band Camp 2014, with no way to stay in touch with my section leaders or my directors. While I did fret for a bit, once I got settled in and calmed down, things went better—I was finally getting a moment to not worry about college auditions, what art was due the next week, or what schedule I needed to follow.
But, as the story goes, nothing good stays good for very long. While I am in high school band, my directors also have a contact with my mother, who miraculously had signal, which is good for updates that I wasn’t able to get. They left a voicemail notifying her about the upcoming events for both my younger sister and myself, as well as dropping a note that my conducting scores were availiable for pick-up during the week. This was wonderful news, I had wondered when the music would arrive. We didn’t worry about it much, of course I couldn’t pick up the scores while I was out of town, but I began to worry when I recieved a text from one of the upcoming section leaders, stating that the other section leader, (in the same section) had asked her to text me to tell me that they said my scores were ready.
Unfortunately, the first thing through my mind was, “Why does this person know about my scores, and why are they asking someone else to text me when they have my number?” I always give my number out to my section leaders, so that they can contact me for any reason—comments, concerns, questions, anything. Lovelies, this is one thing to be leary of within your program. When you have issues that occurr when there is no way to physically reach that person, (phone call or in person) you need to take a breath, and think out a solution that doesn’t revolve around your ‘job security’. My main worry was how someone else could be affecting my personal business. It was selfish and stupid to think that my scores were personal business, they’re just pieces of paper with ink on them, I shouldn’t be worried that someone else can look at them. After I recieved this text, I picked the wrong choice, and instead of replying, “Okay, thanks!” I replied with, “Why does (insert name) know about my scores? If you could please send him my number again so that he can contact me directly next time, that’d be great, oh, and thanks.” BAD. DO NOT DO THIS.
Shortly after I recieved a text from my director about my scores personally. I’d never felt so ashamed in my life. Next time, I’ll learn to keep my drum major ego in check, and be more careful about what I send to who and how I say it. Lovelies, it will do you good to always hold your tongue in an event like this, and make the best of every situation. The same goes for any other type of digital social media—Facebook, Twitter, etc. DO NOT POST ANYTHING YOU WOULDN’T SAY TO YOUR DIRECTOR PERSONALLY. You will find yourself in a lot less trouble this way, plus you look classy and no one will know about any problems you may be having behind the scenes.
Wish me luck tomorrow, and keep up the downbeats, drum major lovelies!