Monday, July 23, 2012

An open letter to the Blue Band Prospective Rookies

Wow. Today is certainly a tough day. It's only 10:14 in the morning, and already I'm exhausted.

I have had the great fortune to be a member of the best collegiate marching band in the country, the Penn State Blue Band. I am proud to call the musicians that I march next to my friends and (literally) my family. I came to Penn State because of them, and could not imagine a better college experience.

The events of the past 8 months are horrifying and debilitating. I feel frustrated and cheated. I can imagine that we both feel similarly, but not the same.

Maybe you've loved the band since you first saw them, maybe you just wanted free football tickets. Either way, do not let us down now.

Practice your hearts out. High step across your front lawn (believe me, it pays off!) Know that even though there won't be a bowl game waiting at the end of the season, the pride of wearing a Blue Band uniform is a much more meaningful experience.

My non-BB friends make fun of me when I talk about marching in Beaver Stadium-- I get so excited, and they just don't understand. There is absolutely nothing like it! Your first time, you'll be scared, you'll probably be sick to your stomach, and you'll be cursing yourself for ever thinking that you wanted to do this, but as soon as your black Nikes hit the turf, you'll become a Nittany Lion like you've never been before.

Picture it.

You've been put through the most stressful experience of your short life thus far. You've gone into a white room with no windows to play your solo. You thought you botched it, but hey, you've still got the marching portion, right? You hardly slept last night and you woke up early just so you'd be sure to get to the Blue Band Building on time. You made your nametag, complete with "P. Rookie" in the corner. All of a sudden, Ian Kenney is shouting commands, and somehow your nervous feet are cooperating. As the dust billows around you, you try not to think about what awaits you the next time you blow your nose (it ain't pretty). You do this all. Day. Long. The time whizzes by, and before you know it, you're returning to the field for the last rehearsal of the day. You line up with a few other P. Rooks. You march down the field playing a portion of a fight song while trying to concentrate on your step size, and not the cluster of guides and staff members who are watching nearby. You realize you're about a step ahead, so you stop playing! The audition is over, and now all you can do is wait.

You sit on the wet grass. A combination of nerves and a cool summer breeze make you shiver a bit. Somewhere the piccolos are still auditioning. Your eyes glaze over. You're sure you are actually going to die cold, alone, and bandless on this dusty field. You're sure you messed up that audition. Just when you decide to take matters into your own hands and walk off the field, Dr. Bundy's voice comes over the loudspeaker. He explains that they wanted to take everyone, but couldn't. He encourages you to keep playing, and to audition next year. Then he begins to read the names of people from other sections. Again, you think you will die. You begin to walk towards the light, but then your section is called, so you say "Now's not my time, Jesus!" People hear you, but are not alarmed. They are thinking the same thing.

Name after name is being called. He must have said at least ten, and you know there are only a few more spots left. Another name. Not yours. Another. Your breath is shortening, and goosebumps rise on your skin. This is your whole college experience! How could you have been so careless to not practice as much as you could have this summer! You could have played more! You could have done more.

And there it is. Your name. Dr. Bundy called your name. First your last, then your first. You are now a member of the best collegiate marching band in the country-- The Pennsylvania State Marching Bllllllllllllllue Band!

The week before, you've made friends, you've learned drill (how'd you do it so fast?!), you've been fitted for your uniform. Maybe you've even heard the voice of God when Dr. Bundy calls you out by name for being just a hair out of line. Today you suited up, endured uniform inspection (who knew the spat buttons go on the outside of your shoe!), danced your way to the Bryce Jordan Center, and cheered along with Mic Man ("When I say blue, you say white! Blue!" "BAND!" "Blue!" "BAND!"), and now you're sitting on the concrete, underneath the stadium, awaiting your fate.

Too much is happening. You're on sensory overload. Some trumpets are singing really, really loudly. Saxophones are doing some kind of irish jig? Piccolo huddle! Then you hear a whistle. OH MY GOD. IT'S HAPPENING. Quick! Where was that person who marches in front of you? You're being squished from all sides as 300 people run like lightning towards the opening onto the field. Everyone looks the same! Oh, there's that guy... name... name... not sure, but I know he's in front of me! You grab his shoulder and hold on for dear life. Someone shreiks, "Drums are out!" Can you remember when you 3/4? Which side is west? Where is my plume? Ah, yes, on my head. Where am I??

You're right where you're meant to be.

Before you know it, your first pregame is all over. If you're like me, you can't even remember it. Those 20 minutes were fueled by years of practicing, dreaming, and a healthy dose of adrenaline.

 We need you. Penn State needs you. We will march proudly into Beaver Stadium on September 1st with a world-class band to march our trademark drill and support our Lions. We know what has happened, and we know that Penn State football is changing. We are as strong as ever and will continue to support the young men who have worked so hard. Will you join us?

Do not think for one second that you don't want to audition for the Blue Band because of what has transpired. Don't wait a year to decide. 300+ students (and thousands of BB alumni!) will agree with me-- there is no comparable experience like supporting your college by being in the Blue Band. What are you waiting for? Those knees aren't going to pick 'em up themselves!

In my cranky post-announcement state, my friend Ryan seemed to have the perfect words to end on:

Keep our heads up,
eyes forward,
hearts open,
and pride shining through.

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