On Saturday, November 10, I was invited to conduct the Illinois Music Educators District II Honor Band in Rock Island, Illinois (Augustana College). For those of us who do these types of things regularly, I thought, “another honor band.” But something was different on Saturday. When I arrived at the site a bit early and went to the registration area, I saw the enthusiasm of the students, I saw the directors making sure they had the correct information to share with their students as to which room they should report. One gentleman in particular, who I have known for many years and is now retired, most impressed me. He was so excited to be there, to have his students (he now volunteers to do some accompanying work) participate.
And then came the flashback.
It seemed like yesterday that I was one of those directors, the guy checking in his students for them to participate in their district band event. I remember how important it was for my students, how it served as an affirmation to the level of proficiency and excellence they were achieving as a member of their high school band. How they would chat about the rehearsals, concert, and conductor after the event. It was then that I remembered that this was “not” just another honor band. It was “their” honor band, and it was MY responsibility to bring a sense of honor to the event.
Rehearsals were fantastic. The students were over the top. It was the first time in all my years and all my honor bands that I did not have to ask any one student to be quiet, to pay attention, or to look up. We began working on musicality from the first moment at 9:00 am, and we didn’t stop until rehearsals ended at 4:45 pm. The last 45 minutes were especially rewarding because after we “ran” the concert in rehearsal, I turned to the students and asked, piece by piece, what could we do better? “What needs to be worked on in the limited time we have left.” The students offered great suggestions and had incredible insights. It lifted the band to the next level. The sense of their ownership in the process had a significant impact on the group as a whole.
As the band performed the concert, it was one of those special times where every member was right there. I felt like I could have done anything from the podium and they would have been right with me. They performed at their highest level and the applause at the end of their first number was thunderous. It was a special concert.
After the event, I had numerous people stop and congratulate and thank me. As my wife and I walked to our car after the concert, people literally saw me, stopped their car, got out and congratulated and thanked me for such a performance. It was, in a way, surreal.
As I changed out of my tux and walked back to the car to make the drive home to Chicago, I thought about the day. Where it started and where it ended. I thought about how my perspective on the whole day started and ended, and as I shut the door and put the key in the ignition, I realized that today, the honor was all mine. Thanks IMEA District II directors and students for such a terrific day of music making. It was a lot of fun!