So here we are.
Just like that, it is over. I finally took all of those “last’s” every senior talks about. The last first game. The last Catwalk. The last Sigma Sigma Concert. The last Down the Drive. The last CHARGE. And the last Alma Mater at the end of a game. All of it. Over.
I cannot believe my career of home games is completed at the University of Cincinnati. For me, this game marked the end of a 9 year marching career through high school and college. Five of those years I played trumpet, and the remaining four gave me the honor of being a Drum Major. For me, the game…no, week…no, the past month has been a very personal time for reflection and time to look back on all of the things I have been a part of while being a part of a band. I think many other graduating seniors have this reflection time too. It probably is nowhere even close to the length of time I spent because I am slightly more emotional than the average 23 year old, but it definitely is a time to reflect for most of us. And for those of you that have not reached this graduating year yet…Just wait, your time will come.The memories that fill my head these past few days have been so surreal…
I know it sounds corny, but it literally feels like a few months ago when I was putting on my black Drum Major polo the very first time for a performance on September 3, 2011. At the field, my Head Drum Major, and very good friend, Corey Knapke looked over and waved me to the wall where Army Fanfare begins. I will always remember the scene as clear as if it was yesterday: Band Day. HOT. So damn hot we could not even wear our full uniforms for the game and a few band members had already passed out from the heat. I was so excited to see the CHARGE from a Drum Major’s standpoint. I was even more excited to just conduct in front of a capacity crowd against Austin Peay (I just wanted to conduct!). Corey gave me not one, but two good luck taps that day while this little moment was taking place. He said “Look around you.” And Corey being Corey (I swear the man’s life could be a movie) paused just enough to allow me to look around at the filled stadium and then come back around to him. He then said, “This is what it is all about.”
I can remember my very first time conducting in front of the band at the 2011 Rookie Day. I was on the back podium for the traditional “Let’s speed through pregame and hash out the entire thing the first day” routine. I will always remember the feeling of conducting Cheer Cincinnati with tears in my eyes because it was the first moment as Drum Major where the weight of the position had really hit me. As I walked off the podium to get ready for H & T, Laura Pinzone ran towards me and asked, ‘Well how was that!!??” …and with the biggest smile on my face all I could say was, “…Amazing!”
I could type up a ton of huge moments, but it’s the random moments that I will honestly never forget and will always bring a smile to my face and probably a few tears as well. Every time the low brass joins the trumpets on the first hold of Army Fanfare. The emotion, excitement, and beauty it brings. Every time I hear it, I fight back tears of pride. Or how about the times where a Drum Major cuts off the band right before the singing portion of “Hey Baby”…but the band keeps on going with an acapella version of the song. Or just the relieving feeling of having an entire water cooler of water being poured onto you after a long band camp. These random memories and so many more will be what I never forget.
Like the time we were at Paul Brown Stadium for a UC Football Game. We were getting ready for Catwalk, but instead of having one set of directions, we were given 9! All the times Mike took one for the team and completed most Christmas Break basketball games, gigs, and literally finding all the details someone else had missed and made sure they were hashed out. Or when Laura had to toss on the “hat” of being the band’s nurse because someone had gotten hurt, fallen, or passed out.
I can remember the random afternoon in the middle of May where I read the email announcing I had received the position of Drum Major, and quickly checking the email to see that it was not a joke. Then, I immediately started calling family members, AND NOBODY ANSWERED THEIR PHONE!!! I literally had to go down the list of family numbers until my older brother finally picked up the phone. My mom soon called me back. Telling her I had finally achieved one of my dreams, and hearing her hold back tears on the other side of the phone will always be etched into my memory.
How about the memories we all made today? Mike, Laura, and I all stood on the wall for Army Fanfare, and I once again conducted Cheer Cincinnati on the back podium, overlooking the second C-Paw, with tears in my eyes. There were a number of times I just stopped for a few seconds and looked around the stadium. Filled to capacity, and as noisy as it ever has been. I have never EVER felt that much electricity and energy inside of Nippert Stadium.
Or how about that halftime show?!? Playing “Can’t Hold Us” in front of the student section. As the band slowly marched closer, the students started to sing. By the end of the tune, the entire student section was singing and filling the stadium!!!!!! I have never seen something like this in my involvement with band!! How awesome is that?
How about the moments after the game? The last Alma Mater. I took another few moments to just look around me, under the lights, on the turf. Tears welling up in my eyes. I knew this was my final time I would ever feel like this, be in this moment, and just own this type of moment. The final march to Dismissal was emotional. Choking down tears was getting hard at this point. We completed dismissal in a different way this time. Instead of the three Drum Majors spreading out, we all stayed close together, to support each other to not break down in emotion through our regimented call and response. After that, I hugged a lot of people (sometimes, you just have to break uniform code in times like this!). Mike, Laura, and I had our moment together to have one cry together. I hugged my mother for the longest amount of time in the history of my life, and I ended up taking pictures with my favorite group of twirlers!
All of these memories come up whenever I started thinking about the Louisville game, and everything I have completed in the past. All of these memories brought back the familiar tears of pride, joy, happiness, and a sadness that everything is really about to end for my marching career.
Honestly, I could sit and type out 100 memories from being a Drum Major, and I could type up about 1000 of just being a member of this band. The late nights, early mornings, long bus trips, hard losses, last minute wins, funny times, parties, hard times, stressful times, and even “I forgot my name tag” story times. This is what being involved in band is really all about in the long run. Having the time of your life, at all times, and knowing what you are doing is special no matter how big or small your roll in the organization may be. In the end, it is the memories, friendships, and life lessons we will end up remembering. Which is quite an awesome parting gift when you think about it.
So here is to all those memories. If you are still reading this, and I applaud you for reading this novel, then just remember to give whatever you put your time into everything you absolutely have inside of you. If you do not, you wish you did. If you do, it will be the most rewarding experience you will ever have.
If you can go through a piece of your life where you end up tearing up because of the amazing memories you have made, because of the pride you have in what you have accomplished, because of the dreams you have made come true for yourself, and because you know deep down in your heart you gave everything you had to something because it made you happy…then everything you did is completely worth it and so rare that you need to cherish it for the rest of your life.
So what do I think? What do I know? Well, I know this:
The UC Band is DAMN Good.
And I will never forget it.