23-Aug-2008 Uncategorized

the return to marching band

If you know me, you realize that I am not a typical 38 year old guy. I don’t choose to go down the beaten path that all others have taken. Why should I? It’s more fun if you run to the beat of your own drum. Why should I do what’s expected and predictable with my free time? That’s boring. There’s a bit more to my motiviation for doing something as esoteric as joining a college marching band, so let me take a moment to explain.

I’ve always treasured my memories of marching band from high school. Director Tim Cunningham made every individual fiercely proud to be a part of the band. He came to my high school during my junior year replacing our previous director who we’d all vilified as the biggest jerk on the face of the earth. Cunningham immediately trusted the veterans with section leader roles –me included. Everything that had been wrong with the previous director was instantly forgotten. Whenever Mr. C. spoke it was charming and witty and always brimming with enthusiam. He LOVED the band. I wanted to love band that much, too. It was that during that renaissance that I really found my passion for music — and also realized that the band was also my family. My fellow band members became my brothers and sisters and I still wish them all well since we’ve gone our separate ways.

My high school career was followed by a short two year stint at the University of Houston marching band which was subsequently followed by five years at Houston Baptist University. I gained a LOT of musical skill when attending HBU. Notsomuch at U of H, but meh. HBU’s Director Dr. Robert Zwick was tough but fair and concise when he conducted the band. Sadly, I no longer had an outlet for performing upon my graduation from college in 1995.

It wasn’t until this past May in 2008 that I seriously considered joining a marching band somewhere. It had to be a college band, obviously. I wasn’t going to do something dumb like rocker Tommy Lee did during his 2005 show Tommy Lee Goes To College. That show was contrived drivel. Tommy Lee never even enrolled!

I know the exact moment. It was a wave of enthusiasm emanating from a band. It happened when I attended a University of Minnesota hockey game thanks to an awesome manager that I work with who holds season tickets. The pep band was driving the audience wild and crazy. They really had an amazing enthusiasm that I hadn’t seen in a long time. That evening, I did some Googling and YouTubing and confirmed that the University of Minnesota Marching Band shared the same unfettered enthusiasm that I’d seen that day. I was intrigued. I browsed the UMN’s web site and learned that I could join the university’s College of Continuing Education if I wanted to attend a class. Which class? Why not marching band? I filled out the necessary forms and, sure enough, I was enrolled with very little effort. That was yet to come when I received correspondence from the band office notifying me about the two week “Spat Camp.” This boot camp for rookie band members is held on campus — which meant I was going to have to live in the dorms for at least the first week while grueling 13 hour days comprised of performing and marching drills played out. In fact, that’s exactly where I am now, typing this blog entry while sitting in Frontier Hall dorm room 323.

Here’s a little taste of what’s been going on this week.
I arrived on campus Tuesday morning via taxi from my condo in Uptown. I’d shopped for everything that I was told that I needed (thanks to lengthy band letters) in the days prior to band kicking off. I’d even acquired a “beater horn” for parking lot marching rehearsal from a guy off Craig’s List. My old trombone is stored in Houston at my secret storage facility when the Batmobile and my gigantic action figure collection lie in waiting. Upon my arrival at Frontier Hall, I discovered I was the first rookie to arrive. I wasn’t sure when registration began, but luckily I was only off by an hour. I barely slept the night before as I went over everything I needed to know over and over.

To be continued…