Remember Brad from Michigan

(I’m a little late for True-Story Tuesday.)

In my junior year of high school I became the junior drum major of our band. As a result, I attended a some drum major classes lead by George Parks and leadership classes lead by Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser during a band camp I attended that summer. (All of which were quite good, by the way. Assuming little has changed in the past seventeen years or so, I recommend their classes.)

In the drum major classes we focused on directing things like hand movements and such. Most if not all of us were required to direct the others in a song, and a surprisingly large number of people were being criticized for their technique, especially for not keeping rhythm well.

I was determined to not be criticized for that, so I practiced quite a bit for it. When my turn came up, during one of the final classes, I was ready — I had the technique down pat.

I forget the song, though I believe it was “America the Beautiful”. Anyway, I directed everyone, and I thought I had done an excellent job, though I was aware most everyone thought they did well until they got their feedback.

George Parks noted that I had directed well technically and asked the other students what they thought. There was no hesitation — “He showed no emotion.” Murmurs from everyone confirmed it. George Parks began explaining to us that directing is more than just getting the technical details right.

He asked for my name again and where I was from, which I told him. “Remember Brad from Michigan,” he said. “Right it down — ‘Remember Brad from Michigan.’” (We all kept notebooks to note the important bits of information from the classes.) Not “Don’t be a robot” or anything like that. Oh no. “Remember Brad from Michigan.”

I was immortalized in the notebooks of drum majors from around the country as the guy who showed absolutely no emotion when he directed. That probably explains why I tried so hard not to direct like an automaton.

(Come to think of it, my experiences as drum major could provide a wealth of stories. Like how I directed the song “All Night Long” in Muskegon like it was a 33⅓ RPM record played on 45. Or how I hopped a fence and roll-glided all the way from the end zone to about the middle of the field at Festival because I was late for the awards. Or … well, you get the idea.)

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