Wednesday, September 5, 2007

My first post and first week in Austin

Originally posted Monday, August 27, 2007

My first week in Austin has been nothing like I expected. I left home last Monday morning and arrived here that afternoon. I spent that evening relaxing in my hotel, reading The Audacity of Hope, Barak Obama’s newest book, for a discussion group this Tuesday, and watching CNN. Last Tuesday I went to a two hour Longhorn Band marching clinic and ate lunch with the prospective members. Wednesday the real work started, and make no mistake, the Longhorn band is extremely hardcore. I rehearsed with them all day Wednesday and Thursday and was exhausted by Friday. They use a marching style completely different than the one I learned in high school, full of “snappy” (their favorite word), awkward motions. Somehow they also came up with a marching technique that involves marching forward on one’s toes, and apparently I suck at it.

I think the worst part, though, was the fact that they demanded so much time, and would continue to demand a lot of time from full members during the semester. I am taking 18 hours of homework-intensive math and science courses this semester, would like to have time to discuss research with my professors, and might even look for a local BEST Robotics team to work with as an assistant coach. It simply is not possible to do all of this and march in the band, so I ended up not trying out last Friday. This was not an easy thing to decide, mainly because I really wanted to march with my “squad” (Longhorn band prospectives try out in groups of 4). I had spent two of the fullest days of this summer, at least, marching with them, and wanted to be there for them even if I wasn’t going to join the band. But, one of the assistant directors very clearly said no to that when I discussed it with him Friday morning, so that was the end of it.

Since then, I’ve been resting, taking care of the shortening (finally) list of things I need to do/get before classes start, and meeting some of my roommate’s friends and people in the dorm. My dad and sister visited Saturday evening and Sunday morning. They brought my laptop and my official mug (it has my name on it), and I showed them around the dorm and my corner of campus and went to dinner and breakfast with them. Now I’m just waiting for classes to start.

It bothers me that so many blogs are full of only accounts of people’s activities and, whenever they seem like they might be about to approach some truly thoughtful topic, they cover it up with pointless vagueness. So, here and now, I will promise to solve both of those problems in my own blog by concluding each post with some insight that I, at least, find meaningful and by being specific about it. So, here goes…

Anyone who knew me in high school will know that I was an interesting contradiction, the band nerd that didn’t appreciate music. It never made any sense, even to me, that I could be in band for eight years and enjoy it, but never cared to turn on a radio or buy an MP3 player. After deciding not to try out for the Longhorn Band, I believe I have finally figured out what was going on: I was never in band because of music. I was in band, from the beginning, to be with the other people in band. I have repeatedly talked and written about the importance of the people in a band, how they are volunteers that must be respected (during the Hartfield/Ferrito years) and how directors will be more successful if they make the members of the band their friends. I just never realized the underlying meaning of my own words. This was why I have always (and likely, will always) consider my first director, Gualberto Besanaiz, such an incredible example of the ideal leader. He understood the idea that a band, or any group, really, is only as good as the people in it far better than anyone else I know, and seemed to make friends of his supporters and followers effortlessly. I have cared about band as much as I have for as long as I have, and been successful along the way, because I could not let down my friends and fellow band members. Being in the Longhorn band was not a high priority largely because I don’t yet know or care about many people in it; I do, however, know and care about the members of my would-have-been audition squad and wanted very badly to perform with them, at least once. And, of course, I have no powerful feelings of attachment to any band just for the sake of the band. A band, as an abstract entity, means very little to me. This discovery seems to serve as interesting evidence for a hypothesis I have been considering for a long time, that one’s subconscious mind is a vast source of ideas and reaches abstract conclusions long before those conclusions reach the conscious mind. (I plan to elaborate on this hypothesis in upcoming posts).

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