I had just completed one of the Attitude Concepts for Today workshops and had been dropped off at my hotel; it was one of those rare days when I could grab a few hours of reading. So, off to the pool with book in hand and much anticipation about digging into this material which awaited me. The weather was typical, summer “hot and muggy” and even the people at the pool were fussing about the “unbearable heat.” I hadn’t been reading over ten minutes when I heard the faint sound of drums and an odd mixture of horns, and (like any good band director) began to concentrate on those sounds more than what I was reading. After a few inquiries, I discovered that the local high school band was having one of its summer rehearsals just down the street…..or as the desk clerk put it, “That crazy man they hired to conduct the band has those kids out there day and night playing those *!&*#@!! horns….he’s out of his mind….you’d think the whole world revolves around band!!!” (It was all I could do to keep from taking just a short moment to enlighten her! There simply wasn’t the time to set her straight; I had to rush down the street to watch the band. After all, IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE!!)

My thoughts of reading and self-improvement quickly fell off the priority list and I hot-footed it (literally) off to watch the band and meet a new friend and another enlightened music educator who had found the true meaning of life and a “oneness with nature!”

About 75 students were “on the field” working diligently to learn 32 counts of drill which had obviously been written prior to integrating the guard into the routine….as pointed out several times by the flag instructor! There were the usual “holes” in the band due to summer softball games and family vacations. I listened carefully as EVERYONE got the lecture about responsibility and how it was a detriment to the entire program when people did not attend rehearsals. Of course, the people who WERE in attendance felt the proper amount of guilt for their absent fellow members…Yes, I felt guilty too.

After some 45 minutes of organized struggling, Mr. Director called the students together in a fit of frustration and began to explain that the reason his drill was not working had nothing to do with the fact that it was written in such a way that nobody could get to the next person in the number of counts available, but was because of their attitude and lack of commitment….and, furthermore, as a result of this deplorable behavior, they would get no water break, but could just plan to stay until this all got worked out!!! He went on to say that if they loved him as much as he loved them, they would run back to the starting position by the time he counted to ten….and then he proceeded to count out loud, “ONE…TWO…FOUR…SEVEN!” They all took off with a shout of newly found enthusiasm. It was great to watch this. I think they would have made it by “10” if one of the drummers had not stooped over to pick up a stick and stopped his forward momentum—a tuba player (close behind, running at full steam) saw a chance to get some extra attention from one of the flag girls and tried to hurdle the drummer. Besides forgetting just how heavy the tuba was and what effect that would have on his maximum attitude, the drummer had figured he didn’t need both sticks and stood up just as the tuba player launched….results: Two more “holes” in the drill plus another 10-minute tongue lashing about mature behavior and thinking before making a stupid mistake like RUNNING with an instrument back to position!!!

Of course, through the whole trauma nothing had been altered in the actual drill, and to this day I don’t know what the director was thinking when he blew his whistle and demanded that they “get it right this time or else.” With fear in their hearts, the band went through the exact impossible routine….except this time they did it with a sense of STYLE. There’s just nothing quite like seeing people get excited about chaos!

To save total embarrassment (Parents were starting to show up.), the director called the band around him and waited with patience as he looked into their eyes with disgust. Everything came to a deafening silence and he spoke, “We have been out here for four hours…(more silence)…I could have spent this time enjoying my family…(heads drop from the weight of the guilt)…all of you need to ask yourselves if you really want to have a GREAT BAND or not…(new freshmen begin to ask—upperclassmen quickly informed them that this is only a figure of speech)…Is four hours a day asking too much when I spent until 3:30 a.m. writing this drill for you? Perhaps I should have taken that job as conductor of the Chicago Symphony—What do you think?!?!….(girls began to cry; four guys in the back nod their heads “YES”)….If everyone is not here ON TIME tomorrow night, I would hate to say what might happen!!! If you think I’m kiddin’ around about this, just try and see!!….(the band stood motionless)…O.K….then, there’s just one more thing: I won’t be able to attend rehearsal tomorrow night because I have a softball game, so you will have to work out this drill on your own!!! BAND DISMISSED!!”

Any of that sound familiar? Humor is always based on exaggerated reality, so we can laugh and learn at the same time. The amount of CARE shown by our students is indicated by the fact that they join the band in the first place. It is not a requirement and most of them will not go on to play their instruments following the high school experience.

So, keep up the GREAT WORK and play a little softball along the way!!

Vol 1, #1, p.28 (Aug-Oct 1985)