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dude, you have no idea.

brian silva commented this to my entry yesterday:

Your success makes me feel so hopeful and glad that inspirational teaching still goes on. I have spent too much time in the OMB. Teching for Evergreen this week has been great fun, but it's the same negative environment. Teaching is supposed to inspire and motivate long into the future. Some people get so hung up on the product and the idea that the only way perfection comes about is by beating mistakes into the students until they're so afraid to make them that they perform well. They perform well this way, but not inspired. They have it in them: they look out for each other in a limited way, and they want to learn. But the ones that struggle slightly and end up in the path of the wrath end up getting destroyed.

Thanks for reminding me that teaching can be and is inspirational.

i thought about just commenting back, but i want to pay tribute to my kids, and show some measure of pride of what i've done there. it really deserves its own entry.

Brian, you have *no* idea, man. i could write a whole thesis about it. i don't know how much josh told you about it, but... yeah. it's amazing.

last year we were the smallest band on the field, even in our class. it's hard to put out volume when you have no trombones or mellophones and either three or less of any other brass instrument or low reed.

obviously the circuit didn't give us a lot of credit, but mark and i have always emphasized how important it was to not worry about the scores... and a lot of directors will say that, but the kids knew that we actually *meant* it, you know? if they went out and did a kick-ass show, we were proud of them, and they knew it. I told them flat out (even though i shouldn't have) that i liked the kids at West Salem... they had their merits... but they weren't Willamette. They weren't my family. Both staff and kids.

there were two really huge points of the season last year that i'll remember for the rest of my life.

the first was after maybe the second competition... some people were bumming about the fact that our scores were low... they expected it, but it was still discouraging, especially in our current society where competition and winning is everything.

so the whole band was out on the field doing the retreat thing, i think, and we gathered around our spot on the field after to talk to the kids, and after we were done talking, the color guard captain said that the color guard had something to present to the rest of the band. She said, "we know that some of you are pretty bummed about not placing high and getting credit from the judges, so we thought we'd try our best to give you the credit that we think you deserve."

And they sang a love song to the band. With hastily put together choreography they had worked on earlier in the day. Rather off-key, rather loud, and with a lot of giggling.

it was so touching, and it opend up the flood gates. Our lone bari sax player was in tears and started talking about how thankful she was to be in the band, how it was her escape from her shitty home life, how she always hated having to go home, how the band accepted her and loved her and made her feel like family.

And then other people started talking. We had to cut them off after about twenty minutes because it was getting late, and it ended with the whole band giving each other a *huge* hug with the staff crushed in the middle and eventually people falling over.


the second memory was the last performance at OSU.

at that point, we had all thought that that was going to be mark's and my last year at Willamette, and we had waited until the last week to tell them. it fired their emotional spark and their last performance.

and boy did it kick ass. they absolutely kicked ass, and they knew it. and they were so happy. it was a strange mixture - everyone was so glad that the last show had been so great, but no one wanted the season to end.

we got in our circle, and so many people were crying, you know? and i ciouldn't stop crying either. they made me so proud. my kids, my family.

they rose beyond what *anyone* else would expect them to be able to do simply because... i let them know that they could. i believed in them and trusted them, and it made them believe in themselves.

all of the other bands in this circuit... they look at us and sniff their noses. not only are we a small band, which this circuit tends to dissrespect anyway, but we're *willamette*. I know they look down at us - the directors, and the other band students. i know people in the OMB that have taken in Willamette graduates and have said, "welcome to a 'real' band."

fuck them. none of them really get it. they may have the numbers, the more talented kids who have parents that can pay for private lessons, etc. etc. but willamette has something that *none* of those other bands can touch, something that no score can evaluate. and that is what makes Willamette my home. i'd wouldn't be as happy working for any other band in this circuit than here.

You should come to one of our ensemble rehearsals sometime this week and check it out. i think our ensemble block starts at 18:00. rehearsal ends at 20:00. we'll most likely be trying to do run throughs of what we know each night. it'd be nifty to see you there.


( read spoken (4) — speak )
Aug. 22nd, 2004 12:59 am (UTC)
Further Inspiration...
From what you're describing, every budding teacher (and potentially decent human being) should be required to spend some time witnessing the way the Willamette band works. Your comment about competition is so amazingly relevant on the small scale and in our culture as a whole... we have such a focus on crushing other people and organizations in order to prove ourselves worthy and reap personal gain. It is going to be the death of us as a people, a culture, and a nation.

These kids are going to take a wonderfully supportive, cooperative, and humane environment as an example and spread it through their lives. There can't be any better situation.

Unfortunately, I have another week of camp at West Salem and Evergreen this coming week. Is there another time after this week I could come see the band gather together?
Aug. 22nd, 2004 09:40 am (UTC)
Re: Further Inspiration...
sure, man. you can always come to our rehearsals.

our regular rehearsals are monday and thursday, 15:30-18:00.

before school starts we have a few rehearsals that follow that schedule, but some that don't because of labor day weekend maybe. i'll drop you an email and let you know.
Aug. 22nd, 2004 05:05 am (UTC)
Mendel, I fucking cried when I read that. it's so true.

Those kids... have been through so much. On and off the field. The program has... been through so many ups and downs, it's honestly amazing that it's even still around at all. and it's changed sooo much since i first went there... but it is most definitely this roller coaster that has made the program what it is. yes, these kids still walk to school past homeless people and drug dealers, and half of them won't graduate... but it's different. and it's in a good way.

people in the OMB that have taken in Willamette graduates and have said, "welcome to a 'real' band." It's not just that... i don't even TELL people i'm from willamette in the first place.

and, by the by, i am planning on helping at camp this week. i think it will be rejuvenating, all around.
Aug. 22nd, 2004 05:07 am (UTC)
p.s. another thing. i absolutely believe that there is one main reason why the program has held together like it has. two, really: you and mark. it is so obvious that you are so dedicated to making things work and care so much about the kids and the show and what you're doing out there... it's inspirational beyond words.
the last runthrough of my senior year i marched in tears, not because it was my "last runthrough" but because of the speech you gave before, where YOU were practically in tears. i'd never experienced something like that before, and you know i haven't experienced it since. (john freeman, actually, beign the lone exception. he had tears streaming down his face after semis)
( read spoken (4) — speak )


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