The following is a letter emailed by a band director to his students on the the day that would have been their UIL Contest. In Texas, UIL is a critical and meaningful performance – a culmination of months (really, years) of teaching and learning. Though we miss our students every day, these ‘milestone days’ can really be tough.
We get it.
We feel it.
We miss them too.
Good morning, Honors Band.
Today would have been our UIL Contest day. Of course, it’s not and we are all apart from each other instead of together making music. Man, I miss you guys so much.
If we had come back from Spring Break like normal, we would have continued to chip away at our music. We would have continued to get our pass-offs done, we would have had early morning sectionals, and we would have had a section win our “pass-off challenge.” That section would have already had their reward lunch! (Where would you have decided to go? I was looking forward to seeing where you would have picked!)
Along the way, we would have performed our Pre-UIL concert, played it for the student body and had at least four clinicians come work with you. We would have split out until it didn’t make sense to do it anymore. I would have ended up in the percussion section at least once a rehearsal trying to fix crystal glasses or help with crotales being dipped into a bowl of water. The trumpets would be tired of my coffee breath as I got in there with them to help with mute changes. And our alto soloist and bassoon soloist would have played their Swirling Prisms solos about a million and a half times working to get the vibrato and intonation just right.
Then one day the red pens would have shown up on your stands and by golly, you know what that means: “You better mark it in red ink!” We would have marked so much that some of you would request a new, clean copy of the music!
We were already sight-reading really well before the break, but you better believe I’d have you reading two grade levels above that and I want you to know that while it would have been a challenge, I know you would have risen to it.
Then, rehearsal would have become “four-headed band director” where any of the directors could stop rehearsal for anything and they had to make it QUICK! “Hurry up, we gotta check this chord!”
But eventually today would come. We would probably see you in our normal class period, then you’d come back after lunch to get changed. You all would look so professional! A 7th grader would have trouble with his tie (again!) and a sweet 8th grade girl would say “turn around” and help him get it clipped just right.
Man, I miss you guys so much.
We would have hopped on the bus and driven nine short minutes to the HS. We would have stayed outside for what seemed an eternity (but, the weather looks great for today!). Then, we would have warmed up in the choir room. I would have told some dumb “dad jokes” to keep the mood light and everyone would groan. Then it would be time. Time to go to the stage.
Honestly, the next part is always a blur. You would play and it would be AMAZING. Those things we fixed? Almost all of them stayed fixed! That chord that we worked on forever to balance, it finally settled in just perfectly. The oboe and clarinet solos in Tonadillas would have been absolutely brilliant. And the march — the new one that almost no one has performed yet — would be one where every director in the audience checks the program two or three times to make sure they remember what it is so they can go back and play it with their bands.
But at the end, your parents would be on their feet and someone’s momma (or two or three!) would be crying. (It very well might have been my wife!) I would be looking at you with a smile a million miles wide, so proud of the performance you gave (but still a little queasy about sight-reading!). The directors would make their way up to you and start giving you thumbs up and high fives and helping you exit the stage to go sight-read.
A percussionist leaves the crotales and a bass drum mallet on stage. *Sigh*
Then another blur for sight-reading. But, you all walk in with class and professionalism while I talk to the judges and they try to keep you at ease. You’re nervous, but man oh man, you’ve GOT THIS! Your parents fill the back of the room — and I mean FILL the back of the room. “Home Crowd” has never been truer. (Someone’s dad tries to record the sight-reading process and our UIL Official has to tackle them! Lol — no recording in the sight-reading room!)
When you finish that last note, your parents aren’t sure if they can, but they applaud you again and again. You put the music back in the folder and start to walk to the bus. Parents are beaming, directors are beaming, even students are beaming. It’s done! We did it!
Can we go right back in and do it all over again? That was SO MUCH FUN.
Eventually I’d come out to the buses hopefully with the “big trophy” and we’d all celebrate. We’d cheer for our outcome and feel that satisfaction that only comes with a job well done.
Then on that nine minute ride back to the JH, we’d be so happy for ourselves. The phones would come out and you all would be texting your parents to let them know how we did. You’d be taking absurd selfies and STOP THAT duck face, seriously! But, it’s really okay. We are just excited about everything that just happened.
You’d get back to the band hall, change back into your normal clothes and BEG me to let you stay in the band hall for the rest of the day, but like the tyrant that I am, I make you go back to class (probably 8th period).
Then it’s quiet in the band hall again. Yes, it looks like a tornado went through there, but it’s quiet. And it’s over. And it’s come full circle to where it started.
And I could not be more proud.
Man, I miss you guys so much.
Eric Rath is an active educator, clinician, adjudicator, arranger and composer. Mr. Rath has served as a band and orchestra director as well as a percussion specialist at the Middle and High School levels. Previously, Mr. Rath also served as the adjunct Percussion Instructor at Amarillo College. Mr. Rath has works for band published by Alfred Music, FJH Music, TRN Music and BRS Music. Several of those titles are included on state recommended lists including Texas, Louisiana and Alabama. His percussion ensembles are also widely performed and have been adopted as recommended repertoire in a vast number of states.ericrathmusic.
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