The last 3 weeks have been full of sweat, sunscreen, marching band drill, and a ton of high schoolers. It sounds like a ridiculous way to spend the last few weeks of summer break. But I wouldn’t trade these moments for anything. I have worked on staff for high school band camps the last 3 years, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is something truly remarkable about starting from kids who have no clue what this activity is and what it could mean, and ending a few weeks later with a driven, improved, drastically changed group (and a good amount of awkward tan lines). I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always have the biggest role in this transformation. Sometimes I’m just the nearest adult dealing with fake illnesses or sassy remarks. But just the chance to be around these kids, on their level, learning as they learn, and growing as they grow can truly change your heart.
Because I had the pleasure of working for my Alma mater, I decided to sit down with the students and have a life chat. I felt like it was important to take a break from the set-to-sets and endless busting of chops to really discuss what this commitment means. I told them about my time in high school band, about the transformation from 2009’s “This is Halloween” to 2012’s “Concerto,” about the importance of pursuing this passion into college. And as I was speaking, I realized I was talking more to myself than I was to them. The conversation turned from my personal experience with this activity to what marching band truly stands for. This undertaking is a huge part of who I am, and has genuinely shaped how I got to where I am today. This activity is so much more than playing music and walking around on a field. And it’s your job to figure out what that means to you. Every year is different. Every year is another opportunity to dedicate your heart to the outcome of that season. Every year is a chance to become better – a better musician, a better marcher, a better member, a better leader, a better person. And it’s all up to you.
So I told them exactly what Dr. Hicken tells us every year at Furman, “make this band better than how you found it.” As an alum, I have made my contribution. And I didn’t come back to work for them to address all that I left undone 3 years ago. I came back to empower those students to take charge and take ownership of the program that is now theirs. And as I head back to school on Sunday to start my own band camp at Furman and to begin my junior year of college (SCARY), I realize that I have grown to be a part of Furman’s band and Furman’s campus just as much as I did in high school. It’s my turn to contribute and pour into the Furman community. If anything, I wasn’t telling the high school students about life and marching band. I was being told to make my mark.