Riding out the storm…
by Aaron Noe
Last night we took the field at halftime for the first time in about two years. The energy in the air was electric. The students, bursting with mixed emotions of joy, anxiety, elation, and anticipation, took the field and gave everything they had for the 7 minutes of music and drill we had been working on throughout the summer months.
Looking at the events of the past year and a half, I’m reminded of a story I came across years ago by minister and author of The Power of Positive Thinking, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale:
Sailing to the Near East last summer, I often talked to the ship’s 1st officer. He told me a ship riding out a storm keeps going ahead by relaxing in the waves…
“The ocean is a tremendous force,” he said, “and a ship is only a very small force, but we know how to make our powerful engines adapt themselves to the timing of the seas. We don’t drive them relentlessly through the waves; instead, we adjust our speed to the timing of the waves, so we are practically carried along by the seas.”
This technique applies to people as well as to ships. Get yourself in timing with your difficulties and look at them without tension. Then get in harmony with God and so ride out your difficulties without strain.
To say we have been in a storm over the past year and a half would be an understatement. It feels like it has been a series of category 5 hurricanes. Our proverbial ships have been tossed about in the ocean and many of us (myself included) have been pushing full speed ahead and have been running the risk of burning out our powerful engines.
After last night’s performance and re-reading Dr. Peale’s words, I’m reminded that we need to get in tempo with the pulse of the waves, time our engines and let the sea carry us along. There are decisions being made which significantly impact our programs. Just as a ship’s captain who cannot always see a storm approaching, we are caught off guard when a storm erupts. Our instinct is to power through. But an experienced sailor will tell you this will only burn out your engines and leave you stranded in the middle of sea.
In 1944, Reinhold Neibur penned his famous Serenity Prayer. It opens with:
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”
Many of the waves that toss our ship in the ever-turbulent seas of change are out of our control: limited in-door playing time, social distancing within the ensemble, bell covers that impact tone and intonation. At these times, we have the tendency to power our engines and move through the waves.
Last night was one of those moments where I got to ease back the throttle and allow the sea to push our ship through. In some ways I liken it to being in the eye of the storm.
A moment of serenity. A moment of relief. A moment to hear the music.
I savor these moments.
Short glimpses of what is to come (and it will surely come).
A chance to look back and see how far we have traversed the storm.
And a moment to allow my engines to rest and be prepared for the next wave.
As we begin a new year with new opportunities, knowing we have a ways to travel before passing through this storm, I hope you will join me in trying to time our engines to rhythm of the waves. The time will come where we will be able to comfortably create the sounds we love in the concert halls we cherish to the audiences we love. But as we push through this storm, be sure to throttle back our engines from time to time, "relax in the waves," and savor the glimpses of what has been accomplished and how far we have come “...so we are practically carried along by the seas.”
I wish all of you the very best this 2021-22 school year.
May your band rooms be filled with the joy of music and bonds of friendship that only come from BAND.