Our son Nate remained in Provo til Spring to finish out high school as drum major for his high school marching band. Two years ago when he became drum major elect he invited me to go on tour with the group his senior year …this was the trip that mattered most, and now I know why.
Within weeks of his election to drum major, Nate learned that Timpview’s revered band director of 22 years, Dr. David Fullmer, would be moving on to coach University bands and that our family may be moving two states away for a new job. It pained Nate that so much change would happen at once and that he’d have to choose between finishing what he’d started two years earlier and having solid family support his senior year. What to do? Fly off and restart in Oregon? Or stay and see his hard work as drum major come to fruition? He made the decision to finish what he began.
As a Mom, I’ve had both kinds of tears over Nate’s involvement with Dr. Fullmer and his tightly run ship. At first there were tears of joy as my 14 year old son threw himself into summer band, waking early, sweating it to memorize scales, pass off music and work it in the hot summer sun. This was teenage military boot camp and what mother of teens doesn’t smile upon emerging self-discipline? None, I say.
My heart warmed as Nate chided our family with Fullmerisms like “to be on time is to be late Mom. The only way to be truly on time is to be early.” On the day of his first (and last) tardy, he was called to midfield with other late teammates and told to “raise your hand if it was someone else’s fault you were late today.” Those who did were told to drop and give him fifty pushups. “No one is responsible for your behavior or your performance but you. Is that clear?” Phew. So glad he didn’t raise his hand, Nate and the group began running laps around the practice field to let that life lesson sink in a little deeper.
But I think I may have cried a sad tear or two when I’m the one being taught by Dr. Fullmer thru our son. When he censures me in fluent Fullmer, I usually smile..but then sometimes not. What seems preposterously impertinent one second melts into the raw awareness that, “wait a minute, wait a minute…he might actually be right. Maybe I do need to clean up my act or remember that ‘it’s not all about me.’
Timpview has been known over the decades as the band that enters a competition, sweeps the awards (even from much bigger schools), and then sometimes– doesn’t stick around for the honors. It happens. They wow the crowd with difficult music, great show design, great musicianship, artistic elements and precision footwork. And they remain one of only two high school bands in the state to wear white shoes with dark pants because they WANT their fancy footwork to be seen and appreciated. Yep, they are THAT band.
The same was true of this band tour. Timpview, now under the direction of Jared Hearld and a completely new staff, entered the Red Rocks Band Competition in St. George, which is considered by Utah high school bands as the State Championship. They came, they blew everyone away…and there was no one left behind to receive the overall award or the caption award for best drumline.
No, the band was gathering back at their hotel for a night of reverie and honor. It was Seniors night (the bandimony meeting) where upperclassmen remember and share band wisdom of the ages with the rest of their band family. They laughed, they cried. It moved us all.
The next day at the Las Vegas Invitational, an even bigger band competition, a family recognized our tshirts and asked why no one remained behind the night before to receive the awards in St. George. I was at a loss for sure. It seemed a little snobbish to me that we split the scene. I knew Nate missed Sadie Hawkins the weekend before to stay behind and receive awards at the Davis Cup Tournament, but this time there were even more significant honors to bestow back at the hotel.
After a thrilling qualifier and then finals with schools from Utah, Nevada, and California, Timpview placed fourth with less than a 3-point spread from first to fourth. It was tight at the top. Parents and staff watched intently for each super-cool trick or stunt to come off well. We tried to anticipate what the strengths and weaknesses of this years show would be to the judges, and wondered what could be done to build the program for next year.
The next morning at breakfast, band members had the voice recordings of field judges and were listening for feedback. Being a personal improvement junkie myself I longed to be right there listening but was involved elsewhere in the room. I asked Nate if he’d like to go over and listen in and he responded, “No, it’s never been about the awards Mom or what the judges think.” WHAT? You kiddin’ me? You reach this level of excellence and you don’t even want to know what the judges are saying???
“No,” he said. “There are really only three factors in winning any competition a person enters and two of them you have absolutely no control over. They are: 1) whoever shows up to compete with you, 2) the preferences of the judges, and 3) your performance. It was never about the awards Mom, just the performance. We do it all for the crowd…and that’s all that matters.”
He left me…in shock and awe. In another minute or two I knew the truth by how it felt. Yet it was uncommon truth. I felt that too. I batted the idea around in my head over the long drive home.
To pursue the marks of success (ie, awards, honors, $$$) resonated with something profound that Victor Frankl observed after years in a Nazi work camp.
“Don’t aim at success—the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.
Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. Listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run—in the long run I say, success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.” (Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning, p.xiv)
And so it is. Dr. Fullmer got it. Nate gets it. And now I’m beginning to understand.
Find your purpose, your inner “why” and pursue it with all you’ve got. For Timpview’s Band it is giving the crowd their very best show, every time.
Success in your endeavor and the encumbant happiness must follow precisely because you are so absorbed in your purpose that you’ve let go all thoughts of “am I happy now?” or “am I successful yet?”
Work hard to make the world a better place because of your gifts, and in time you’ll have both success and happiness… because you’ve forgotten to think about them.
Thanks for sharing with me!
Shameless Plug: Armed with my magical “dirt drink” Exodus GI Cleanser, and Feel Good Foods Glutamine, on the first chilly night I administered to members of the Flute section who’d been sidelined by tummy troubles and closing airways. When Nate learned what’d happened, he apologized to his teammates for the gritty texture and added, “but it does work”. Within about 10 minutes that hole in the flute formation was again filled and the band marched on. On day two I began getting requests to mix the drink for members of the trumpet section and then drumline. Even a few of the staff and band parents were blessed by these ready gifts from the earth to quickly relieve upset stomach and aching joints and muscles. Woot, woot for Exodus, Body Balance and Glutamine... and Timpview Marching Band!
Nate’s favorite performance of his high school band career was their 2011 show at the Las Vegas Invitational, Sophomore year. Nate’s the second Tuba (Sousaphone) from the right at the start. After that, good luck. Ha!