The past few days have been hot and humid. That’s not good news for someone recovering from quadruple by-pass surgery.
When I was younger I loved the hot muggy days of summer, the hotter the better. Today the heat and humidity zap my energy, and I can do little but rest and take it easy. This comes as no surprise. I was warned that there would be days like this. Well, they’re here.
The weather notwithstanding, it was a very good day.
The mailman brought two thoughtful get well cards. When I opened them, the personalized notes lifted my spirits. Later in the afternoon, the UPS man delivered two wonderful gifts: a package of fresh cherries from Harry and David’s, and a package of body cream for the seven inch scar on my left arm and the ten inch scar on my chest.
Kitch and I continue to be overwhelmed by the kindness and good will of our friends, relatives and fans of Windsor Park Stories. Five weeks have passed since the operation, and we continue to receive cards, e-mails and gifts ever day.
Take yesterday for example. Late in the day we received an e-mail from the husband of one of our very favorite former students. We have not seen this couple in about 10 years, yet our friendship remains strong. They have two children, and they live in Florida.
On this day their note was touching on a number of levels. They wanted to secure a copy of a documentary we produced several years ago, Building Power and Class.
Produced in 1993 and 1994, this film is a story about a man and a dream. It is a story about a teacher who demanded nothing less than excellence from his students as they prepared for the biggest challenge a marching band could ever face. It is a story about teaching life lessons not in a traditional classroom, but on a practice field…on a bus…in a gymnasium in Ohio that became a bedroom for more than 300 band members and support staff.
It is a story about leadership training, dedication, hard work, self-denial and personal inconvenience. It is a beautiful story about students responding to the elevated expectations of their teacher.
You see, this band was preparing for the Bands of America competition in Indianapolis, Indiana. No, they were not going to compete, nothing as straightforward as that. Their moment in the sun would come when they were introduced as the guest exhibition band.
In the end the band has its moment and it is more fulfilling than they ever expected.
The band director has his dream fulfilled, and it is better than any Hollywood ending.
During the months that I followed this band, I experienced a transformation that was seismic in every way. Things that I learned would make my life more difficult and far more rewarding.
George Parks, the director of the University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band, made me a believer in his philosophy of education and his teaching style. His example helped me to refine a leadership pyramid that was rooted in five values: affirmation, enthusiasm, service, flexibility, and loyalty. This pyramid became central to everything I taught for the next 10 years.
I tried to make these words come to life in every classroom and real life situation, because I believed that students could change behaviors and improve the quality of their lives through achievement. On this point the musician and the teacher were on the same page.
George Parks believes that students are capable of achieving great things, but first they must dream the dream of achievement. His words, often spoken to his band, resonated with me:
"It’s never too late to be what you might have become."
"The essential condition of everything you do is choice, love, and passion."
As I made the DVD, a flood of wonderful memories filled my mending heart and all because two parents who home school their children wanted to have Building Power and Class. They wanted their children to see it…to feel the magic of this wonderful band…to hear the music, and most importantly to be introduced to the values. What a marvelous, inspirational request.
Throughout the evening and into the morning hours I worked on the DVD master of Building Power and Class. It was a very emotional experience.
First thing the next morning I called George on his cell phone. He just happened to be in California at a Drum Major Academy. Although, I woke him from a sound sleep, he graciously accepted my call and my offer of the first DVD to be struck from the master.
As he forced his eyes open and cleared his throat, he spoke these words: “How appropriate…Your film gave us the vision of what our band could be.”
In two weeks, George Parks will greet 370 musicians who want to become members of the University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band. During his band camp in August, he will show them Building Power and Class as he has done for the past 14 years only this time they will be watching a new DVD that records what it is like to be a member of The Power and Class of New England.
Hundreds of miles away on a hillside in Northeastern Pennsylvania, I will hear the music and the words as I have every day since they were first recorded. Only this time they will help to heal my heart and revitalize my spirit so that I can capitalize on my second chance at life to live the values I learned during that magical time.
It was a hot and humid day today, but there were refreshing breezes that came in the form of two get well cards, two gifts and a beautiful e-mail from a parent in Florida. They connected me with a moment in time that changed my life forever.
In a garden we realize that Emerson was right:
Our chief want in life is someone who will make us do what we can.
Thank you Kevin.
Thank you George Parks.
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