Season #27 Complete

This year marked one filled with many firsts for me...  In addition to my wife and I welcoming the arrival of our first child and enjoying all the new things that come along with raising a little boy; we both saw our 30 adopted percussionist children take the jump into the world of WGI Percussion. 

While significantly less life altering, I cannot express the joy and excitement of watching as they became the first ever Open class unit from Maryland to compete in any WGI sanctioned event.  Not only did they compete, they made Finals competing against teams that were previous Open Class Finalist at WGI Championships.  To put it plainly, their success was affirmation of the years of effort made by the membership to be intrinsically motivated students and performers. 

As an educator, it was humbling to see a program mature in front of my eyes in the brief 5:45 of floor time.  They were poetic professionals who absolutely performed with no fear.  As such, they were rewarded with a second run.  As a designer, to have my design evaluated by Ike Jackson was also something of a dream.  The 5 minutes we had with him were among the most eye opening in my life.  

We're always chasing firsts.  Whether it's the first of a specific life experience or even the ranking placement; it's a natural human feeling that we search out.  We're a slave to the dopamine fix we get from meeting those goals.  And the wonderful thing about life in general is no matter how long you've done anything, those firsts still seem to show up.  Good and bad.  And while I've been a part of many great staffs and programs over the years, season 27 will remain at the top of the heap for a long time... in part, due to the reminder to take in those small "Firsts" as the real achievements.  A season filled with first:  WGI Regional, Open Class, Philosophy Changes, and a Circuit Championship in Open Class.

This activity has given me literally everything I have in my life.  My career, my wife, and now my son.  And that all started with my "first" (8:5) step. 

Here's to 27 more seasons of firsts. 

Remember, remember, the 5th of September?

Well, here we are! September. No, not Labor Day weekend September mascarding as August, but real, Indian Summer, football is back, pumpkin everything September. For most, that means back to school and morning traffic. For me, September means new beginnings. 

For as long as I can remember, September has always been my favorite month. This goes back well before my marching career ever began. Before I spent every summer on the proverbial hot plate parking lots in Smalltown, USA. Before we moved to what eventually became my childhood home. September has always meant a time where I could reset myself. 

It's no surprise that I was a dorky kid. When I moved to rural Carroll County in May of 93, I knew no one. We moved to a young neighborhood in Sykesville with lots of families with kids near our age. I'm sure my parents thought process was, "they'll have all summer to make friends before school starts." That just wasn't the case. Since my parents both worked, we spent nearly our entire summer at our grandparents (which we loved) leaving no room for the friend making process. On one of the few days we were actually home that summer, (and in what I can only assume to be the saddest attempt at companionship in recorded human history,) my younger brother sat alone in his bedroom window yelling to passing neighborhood children, "will you play with me?" A child (who later became his best friend for most of his formative years) confidently and sternly yelled back, "No! You're ugly and weird!" I knew then, at the ripe age of 7, that I was not the cool one. (I'm still not.) I just thought to myself, "if my brother was 'ugly and weird' in this new town, and I have red hair, then I am royally and unequivocally screwed in the friendship department. 

I tell that story only to illustrate how desperate I was for forced interactions. I've never been good at just talking to strangers. The thought of being rejected as my brother had was, and still is terrifying to me. However, September brought school and group work, or as this geek thought, "the social lubricant" I needed to mix it up and make a friend or two.

Nadda. Zilch. Zero. That's how many friends I made in my first 2 weeks in school. Impossible, you say? Nope. Totally possible. 

Here I am, 8 years old dressed in the finest purple and black silk dress shirt that I can only assume came from Tom Haverfords "Rent-a-Swag" business, copper hair (you know that shade of rust that drives all the ladies crazy), and black dress slacks covered in collie fur. To say I was "stuntin' on 'em" would've been an understatement. Despite my ridiculously forward fashion sense and boot camp haircut, I was essentially invisible. 

After what felt like years, (it was probably 3 weeks) I finally caught the break I was looking for. Who knew it would be located in the bathroom of an Elementary school. Boys bathrooms in most elementary schools have very low urinals to facilitate a more cleanly evacuation of fluids if you will. Even at the nearly ground level height, the urinals that resided at Piney Ridge Elementary were too tall for me to comfortably use without pulling my pants to the floor. (Little known fact, I was essentially the same height from age 8 to 14. I think I grew like 2" in that entire span.) While I seemingly had all the looks to make friends, I wasn't about to squander them by pulling my dog-hair-covered black dress slacks to my ankles to pee into a public urinal a-la some Norman Rockwell painting.

At that exact moment, in walks my first friend. Well he really walked out... out of the stall. For anonymity purposes, we'll call him "Bill." Like a lifeline from heaven, Bill could clearly see my urination conundrum and immediately offered some sage, 8 year old advice.  "Always act like you're pooping, then no one knows you can't pee at the urinal" he said. "That's what I used to do. Now I just sit because I choose to."

Like some kind of prophetic pee wizard, Bill saved me from one of the most embarrassing boyhood trials; going to the bathroom at school. In doing so, whether he knew it or not, he was my first friend. That was September of '93.

At 31, now I go to the bathroom at work just to take a mental break from excel sheets and death by PowerPoint training. To this day, sometimes I just sit down in a stall for the solitude of knowing "...I just sit because I choose to." 

September has always been the month that has brought me new first. The following year, I would start band and discover a love for music and forever have the "social lubricant" that I was looking for. Music is inherently universal, but band, more specifically marching band, will forever be a place where social outcast and athletes meet and forge common bonds through teamwork and determination unmatached in most arenas. The culture extends to the families and surrounding community. But in September, when the air is crisp, as if to finally soothe the band camp sun burn that still lingers, all is again right.

As all but one of my clients have taken their first steps in public performance this month, I find solace knowing that in someway, hundreds if not thousands of people are experiencing new September firsts. Whether it be baptism into Pit Crew Parenthood, surviving your first boosters meeting, or putting on wool uniforms to do something seemingly so trivial; I'm happy to know that in some way, I had a hand in those experiences.

Here's to peeing in public and making friends.

Good luck doing it in bibbers.


First of Many Updates

Here is a quick note to get this site off the ground.  After 17 years of marching, teaching, and designing, it only seemed appropriate to start capturing some of those memories and experiences.  If at nothing else, this will serve as a way for me to reflect on what worked, what didn't, and the journey season to season.