Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Hoover Street Rag Presents: A Guide For Incoming Freshmen (Band Week Edition)

Summer is coming to its usual shockingly early end, and the end is so near that freshmen will be reporting to Revelli Hall only one week from today. Only seven days till Band Week! With that in mind, Jeremy has helped me come up with some suggestions for those about to embark on their first year with the MMB.

If you've just been sitting around eating Cheetos this summer, you're about to pay for it. The days when you have three marching rehearsals are going to be deeply unkind to you, and there's not a lot you can do to alter your fate at this point. However, anything you do will help at least a little. Running is a good idea, cycling helps too. Any aerobic activity will help you out. Just make sure you arrive well-rested on Tuesday.

We're Talking About Practice
Learn the audition music now, not the night before you have to perform. The airless closets in the dorm basements misleadingly described as "practice rooms" will not work miracles for you. As a very beneficial side effect, the multiple music rehearsals each day won't wear you out as easily.

Your most valuable piece of equipment isn't going to be the Yamaha issued to you by the band, but a pair of broken-in tennis shoes with good support. The asphalt out on Elbel Field is going to be your home, and it doesn't have a lot of give to it. Even worse is the reserve field with its wicked lumpiness, just looking to roll your ankle. Even apart from that, you'll be walking to and from the dorm to Revelli Hall, up to the Union or wherever for lunch, and around campus whenever you have a free moment. Only slightly behind shoes on the list goes sunscreen. You can end up with a really wicked sunburn out there if you aren't careful, especially if you're fair-skinned.

Food, Water, Etc.
Obviously you're going to want to stay hydrated, and the MMB does a good job about giving enough water breaks when the weather is hot. Many people bring their own water, and that usually was fine for me for the first couple of hours, but then the water in the bottles went from "tepid" to "soup", and I turned to what is called The Trough. The Trough isn't actually a trough, per se, but a metal pipe with holes in it which is set on a stand and hooked to a hose. It may taste a little rusty, but it's exactly what you're looking for when it's 92 degrees and you've just gone through traditional step by the numbers for the 16th time. Always drink more water than you think you need.

Also, don't go crazy at lunch or dinner. Remember that you're going to have to march again soon enough, so you need some more fuel, but not so much as to weigh you down. I never really had too much trouble, but I know some friends who deeply regretted overindulging at Blimpy Burger. And drinking more water at lunch is generally a good idea.

This maxim from William Revelli will be drilled into your head soon enough: "To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, to be late is to be forgotten." Get everywhere at least ten minutes early and you should be just fine. You'll need the extra time to get your music out, your gloves on, and to warm up. And if you have to get your instrument before heading to Elbel Field, make it more like 25.

Other stuff to keep in mind:

  • Make friends with your rank leaders. They usually know a lot of people in the band, and sometimes they have cars. It's hard for a director to know everyone, especially someone brand new to the band, so Boerma will likely depend heavily on the grad staff, the section leaders, and the rank leaders when it comes time for auditions.
  • Don't stress over First Look. Yes, it's the first marching/playing audition to determine who makes performance block for the game, but don't sweat it too badly. You've been in the band for such a short time when it happens that it often comes down to luck and the wisdom of crowds. There are plenty of people who are put in the reserves after First Look but end up making block for the rest of the year.
  • Learn the traditional songs and memorize them immediately. The top 8, in order of importance: "The Victors", "Let's Go Blue", "Cheer #1", "Temptation", "Varsity", "The Star-Spangled Banner", "Hawaiian War Chant", "Respect", "The Yellow and Blue". Figure out the different arrangements of "The Victors" (Parking Lot, Trio, Pre-Game, etc.) and learn the part of "Temptation" played before 4th down first.
  • Get your computer set up as soon as possible. So much intra-band communication depends on email that you're going to miss something if you're not at least catching up in the computer lab.
  • Partying during Band Week is a very, very bad idea. The alcohol will already have you dehydrated before practice drains you further, landing you in a special kind of hell with your hangover as you pound your legs down during high step. No one will be sympathetic. Some may point and laugh.
  • The medical staff is there for a reason. Make use of them if you get injured, and get yourself taped before practice rather than trying to tough it out. Stretching every night before you go to bed will also make your mornings that much easier.
  • Make sure you meet the people on your hall in the dorm. It's easy to ignore them with all the things going on with the band, but you're going to live with these people for 8 months and you might want someone to eat lunch with when February rolls around.
  • This isn't really a Band Week suggestion, but bring a winter coat. That first 40-degree day in October will come much sooner than you expect, and you're going to be out there for an hour and a half.


Joe said...

Wait a minute Jeremy, weren't you the one who went to Mongolian BBQ during band week our freshman year? I don't know if you're the right person to be giving advice on how to survive the week of hell.

Jeremy said...

Yes, and the rehearsal afterward was the worst of my life. It hurts to think about.

Unknown said...

Great article! I'll forward it on to this year's section and see what they think.

Suggestions for addition, though:

1) Unless you're really good at your instrument and make pregame off of that alone or you are just THAT good at marching, you won't have to play the national anthem until a few games in. That can probably go lower on the priority list, I think. "Varsity" is similar in that regard.

2) Forget about high school for a while. You were drum major and the section leader of everything at your school... and so was half of the rest of the band. You might remember your high school marching style, but unless it's identical to the Michigan styles you can probably throw most of what you know out the window (except the 8-to-5 step size). They build you from the ground up.

3) First look isn't voted on by the whole band anymore, unless it has changed again. It's just like every other challenge, and it is far less intimidating now than it used to be. Unfortunately this limits the creativity some folks will go through to pass the time on the sidelines.

4) You will probably spend a little or even a lot of time on the reserve field. The harder you work, the more likely you are to get off the field, but even then seniority might keep you away for longer than you'd like. Don't get discouraged! Nearly everyone has done time on the reserve field (you'll hear this a lot and probably still won't believe it), and it's a great time to get to know and work with other people in the band.

5) Bo Schembechler said it best: "You are about to experience the best four years of your life" (something to that effect anyway)

Anonymous said...

If only the "internets" and "blogging" had been available back in the summer of 1994 when I shyly stepped into Revelli Hall for the first time to play the tuba... perhaps I'd have had the benefit of this all-too-accurate info. Brings back memories. Other tips: bring your advil or other pain killer of choice. And enjoy ... as you sit in your office 15 years from now, you will think of the shape you were in after a season of marching and sigh ... and email the many friends you still have from those very first days of band week. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Basically just hope you get put in the reserves. That way you can grab ass all day and play pick-up games of football.

Allison said...

Corey's points are all pretty spot on, especially number 2.

I would also like to add that while it may be cheaper to go eat alone in your dorm room, some of the best early bonding comes from going out to lunch with your section mates. This is especially good if you're shy.

Austin Mama said...

Band week will be one of the most physically challenging and rewarding experiences of your life. And when it ends, there will be a short relief until school starts, at which point you will have to attempt to balance challenging classes, mounds of homework, MMB, and sleep. Work hard, but don't stress too much about any one thing. Just take it all in, and do your best - it will get easier. Remember, the people you will meet on Elbel will be your family for the next 4 years. These people will change your life - you will laugh with them and cry with them, and define yourself with them by your side. They will be your college roommates, your dearest lifelong friends, and if you're lucky you might even find your future spouse. Cherish every minute of your time with one of the greatest organizations on campus - the Michigan Marching Band. Welcome to the University of Michigan, Go Blue!

Anonymous said...

The reserves is a good place to perfect the bone toss. Picture the drum stick toss but with a trombone. A good way to remember your time spent in reserves is to put a notch in your bell for every week you spend there. I'd recommend doing this with your MMB horn.

Unknown said...

I'd add one more important piece of advice to the list, one that will last for the entire year, most likely - depending on the competitiveness and seize of your section, you may spend years in the reserves before getting onto the field. Whether through the natural sifting of talent or the politics of the organization, everyone does time on the reserve field. Don't get discouraged if you're always challenged or reserves. You can still have a great career and memories.