Like a Father

November 28, 2010
The Saturday night air blows through the field, the cold breeze just grazing
across my face. Chills jolt down my spine, raising the hair on my arms as the
crowd continues to cheer. A voice is heard over the loud speaker, "Drum major,
is your band ready?" signaling our cue to salute. The salute is crisp, clean,
like a well oiled machine. I climb the podium ladder, each step feeling miles
apart. This is the time. The next 8 minutes of my life will represent
everything; 7 years, countless hours of practice, and the success of 250 others
riding under my wing. I make eye contact with my director. He looks on
confidently, yet with great understanding. He knows I'm ready, he believes in
me. Before I know it, we're off. 5...6.... 5 6 7 8.

I've never really been a head strong kind of kid. For as long as I remember,
it's been play now, work later. Life was a treat. Coasting through school
classes on c average grades seemed to be the norm by the time I hit high
school. By then, I was your typical ready-to-drop-out freshman, who was, well,
ready to drop out. The only things keeping me were friends, parents, and the
law. Along with the bare minimum classes on my schedule, I had elected to take
band, mainly because I expected it to be an easy, blow-off class. But what I
didn't know about the Westlake high school band was that it was notorious for
being one of the best marching bands in the state of Texas. It was understood
that in order achieve that reputation, long arduous work had to be put in from
every member of the band. Understandably, I was terrified. I had coasted
through school on the basis that the work I did didn't affect anyone other than
me. Knowing that band was a cohesive unit, and that each member contributed to
the overall success of the organization, I was going to have to change.

Despite my determination to avoid the "personal" conversations with the
directors concerning my lack of initiative to "fight for the team," it proved
itself unavoidable. The fruitless talks and deteriorating class grades didn't
do the trick. I continued to trudge on, and on, and on, through the eternity
that was two years of high school marching band. Though frowned upon, my
inherent laziness worked, at least before. The upper class-men who had carried
us through victory after victory for the past two years were now gone, and I
suddenly found myself straining under the weight of all the high expectations.
Despite the immense pressure, it wasn't enough to break the deeply embedded
laziness that I had come to know and hate. To me, it wasn't worth fighting for.
There was no reason in my mind that would justify my going above and beyond
what was needed. I needed something more. I needed something that I couldn't
find within myself.

It was a Thursday morning. The frigid November air felt almost as dull as the
morning marching routine that we somehow managed to call a rehearsal. We had
just returned to the band hall where the melancholy atmosphere was finally
beginning to lift as frozen fingers were melting back to life. Mr. Taylor
stepped out of his office, pointed his arm in my direction, and drew me into
his office with a stern curling of his index finger, the kind of motion that
says "you, here, now." Having never been in his office without leaving on the
verge of tears, I began mentally preparing myself for the worst. The
conversation began the same way as always. Though there was a different feel to
it all. A sense of desperation began to appear in his voice, something I've
never heard before. He lectured me on the situation at hand before telling me
exactly what I needed to hear. He told me that I will never know the true
extent of my influence. He said I could be the difference between the well
known and well hated 11th place finish at Bands of America, and a long desired
first place title. I had the power to change lives, and he knew it. I walked
out of that office not with tears, but with desire; desire to be what no one
expected me to be. I wanted to be the change that the band needed, so that I
could leave high school knowing that I not only changed those around me, but
that I changed myself.

We ended my junior year with our worst result yet. There was an irreparable
gloom hanging over the band after receiving our 26th place result at BOA far
worse than the 11th place that was previously considered unacceptable. The pain
and frustration I felt was superseded only by the emptiness felt by the senior
class. They had to face the fact that all the hard work they put into band
culminated into embarrassment and disappointment. That would not be my fate. My
legacy wasn't going to be 26th place. My legacy would be here, now, on this
Saturday night. It would be all those years of hard work flashing before the
eyes of the 250 others riding under my wing while the results are being
announced. It would be 7 years of dedication paying off in the last eight
minutes. It would be doing what no one thought I could do. My legacy would be
my director knowing he made the right choice as I step down from the podium at
UIL State Finals.





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