Normally, the Homecoming football game is like any other football game for me. I go to practice four hours before the game, watch–“watch”–the whole game, perform the Pregame show, halftime show, etc. As a freshman, sophomore, and junior, Homecoming wasn’t really meaningful. Not to say that it didn’t come with some memories.
My freshman year, it was the band’s 100th anniversary–its centennial year. A few hundred alumni came to perform with us, all dressed up in their centennial shirts…only to discover that it poured during that game and they all had to wear their rain coats instead.
As memorable as those little moments are, I think this Homecoming will be my most significant yet. Partly because some of the pictures that were taken of me during a photoshoot this summer have been randomly showing up in Homecoming ads. Partly because I’m a senior and this will be the last time I’m already “home” for homecoming. After this year, I’ll be the outsider coming back to campus, which is very weird and sad to think about. But this Homecoming is also partly exciting because I was chosen to be a Spirit of Maryland Finalist, which means I’ll be recognized at Homecoming. The reason I wanted to write this post is because band is the reason I’m in the running for this award. One of my essays was about my greatest accomplishment at Maryland, and it was with the clarinet section. I’ll leave you on this note though: I think they call it “Homecoming” because Maryland truly does feel like home, and the people here truly do feel like family.
SPIRIT OF MARYLAND ESSAY:
My greatest achievement at Maryland was realized on a cold October day in a crowded, Spartan band room. We were nearing the end of marching band season–sorry, football season–and our director was leading us through one of our last music rehearsals. I could tell that the 20 or so people in my clarinet section were restless. As the season goes on, our music gets more and more difficult. As a squad leader for the clarinet section, I knew that the marching formations that I was teaching out on the field were getting more complicated. Add that to exams, work, and everything else that people were involved in, and you get a group of college students who find it hard to focus for a whole two-hour rehearsal.
I heard some giggling behind me and felt a light tap on my shoulder. It was one of the freshmen in the section. We had 10 new members that year–more than we had ever had before. At first, the upperclassmen were shocked and slightly nervous. Ten new people out of a section of a little more than 20? How were we going to teach so many people and keep them interested?
Well, on that October day, the freshman sitting behind me smiled and handed me a piece of paper that she and the others had obviously been working on from behind their music stands. I quickly transferred it to my stand and surreptitiously took a look.
They all had drawn a “Clarinet Family Tree.” It was complete with couples in the section, alumni who had graduated, and each of the classes at different levels, with all the freshmen at one level as brothers and sisters.
This feeling of family, of knowing that I had helped bring 10 new Terps (and other current Terps) into what they thought of as an accepting, surrogate, Maryland family, is my proudest moment here at Maryland.
It wasn’t easy. Spending 16 hours a week at practice with the same group of people isn’t always conducive to lifelong friendships. We definitely had difficult times. Whenever I hear “I Want You Back” by Jackson 5, I always think of the times I had to convince my squad to stay after practice and rehearse the rotating diamond form for that halftime show. There were other times when we were exhausted and things on the field just weren’t going right, or when football season and basketball season would overlap and we’d have band for up to 20 hours a week.
There were great times too, of course: winning $25,000 in the Hawaii Five-0 contest, performing the entire Thriller dance in front of 50,000 people, scoring touchdowns on our clarinet intramural football team, or just making sure to all eat dinner together after every practice.
It wasn’t just me that got the section to be so close that it felt like family, but I’d like to hope that I helped. I’m a Squad Leader again this year, and am working on a new generation of Terps. (Although in case you were wondering, all 10 of our “New Men” came back to band this year.) My dream is that these new freshmen, too, will feel as at home at this university as I do, and will pass this feeling on to new Terps in the years to come.
This post is dedicated to the clarinet section! Love you guys!