By Paul W. Barada
---- — A few years ago I conjured up a piece called, “Stuff Nobody Ever Told You about Going to College.” It started out as a speech before it became an article. I was asked to be the speaker at the induction ceremony of the latest group of local students into the National Honor Society – a group I wasn’t invited to join, I might add, when I was in high school.
Fortunately, the speech was so well received that I turned it into a feature article and also have used a portion of it for this very column. One of the points I made was that no matter how talented a student may be in high school, there are going to be other incoming college freshmen just as talented and some who are even more talented. What’s more, nobody’s going to care how talented or smart or hard- working a student is when he or she gets to campus. Nor are there trophies for doing things like simply going to class.
As I’ve been reflecting on the contents of the foregoing paragraph, I recall one of my own experiences that precisely illustrates the point about finding out there were many students who were way more talented than I was. When I was in high school back in the Middle Ages, I was a pretty good trumpet player. I really was! I played first chair for three years when our high school band was nearly 100 musicians in a school of only 500 or so students. By the time I was a senior, I was planning to go to IU and major in music and be in “The Marching Hundred.” Keep in mind that this was back in the day when being in the high school band was a cool thing to do – partly because the band was extraordinarily good. We went to contest every year and always won a first division or first place rating.
During the spring of my senior year, I was invited to be in The Marching Hundred. I was thrilled! Throughout the summer between high school graduation and the start of my freshman year at IU, I practiced the trumpet every day so as not to lose my “lip” or finger dexterity. I practiced exercises like long tones, lip slurs, and fingering from the bible for trumpet players called the “Arban Complete Method for Trumpet.” I also worked on a very difficult audition piece, which I could never really play well, entitled “Sounds From the Hudson” written by the cornet virtuoso Herbert L. Clark. I could play some of it, but certainly not all.
In those days being in The Marching Hundred meant going to band camp a couple of weeks before the start of the fall semester. I recall vividly the first day of rehearsal in the huge band room beneath the massive art deco IU Auditorium. I immediately discovered that the title “Marching Hundred” might have been accurate fifty years before; but, even in the fall of 1967, there were nearly 300 musicians in the band, 30 of whom were trumpet players! The very first piece we played was the school song, “Indiana Our Indiana.”
Back in high school, we had played the Indiana fight song. The Marching Hundred version didn’t look anything like the tune I was used to playing in high school. In high school we didn’t play it very fast, and it was written in the key of C. At IU, the fight song was written in the key of E flat and started on high B flat! The tempo was twice as fast as we used to play it and I was fumbling around trying to figure out which notes were flatted. After one time through, Dr. Gregory, the band director said, “OK, let’s take it up to tempo.” Up to tempo? Was he kidding? Well, suffice it to say, I quickly discovered I wasn’t in the high school band any longer. With a great deal of work I finally got it and then discovered that it wasn’t called the “Marching” Hundred for nothing. Have you ever tried to read music, play an instrument, swing the instrument from side to side and march so that your stride was exactly eight paces every 10 yards? It ain’t easy!
But the point was, I learned one of those valuable life lesson about finding out that, no matter how good you might think you are at something, there are always going to be people who are better. Furthermore, no one’s going to care how good you thought you were in high school.
As it turned out, I loved my time in the Marching Hundred. They took all 300 of us to some away football games in large and comfortable Greyhound buses – it took a caravan of buses to hold all of us. They even flew the entire band to Miami, Florida, when Indiana played the University of Miami in the Orange Bowl. It was not the Orange Bowl game, however. It was a regular pre-conference game against the University of Miami – before they were a national power. The game just happened to be played in the famous Orange Bowl. As a matter of fact, we were the first Big Ten band to play in that famous stadium. But that was back in the days when playing in organizations like the Marching Hundred was a cool thing to do. The Miami crowd loved us – and IU won the game besides – a relatively rare event, still today…
I have also found that the life lesson about other people being more talented than you are is true in many areas of life. Actually, it’s a very good lesson to learn because, the sooner one learns it, the less painful the realization is. I learned it at the tender age of 17, but that’s actually one of the reasons I wanted to go to Indiana University. I wanted to see if I had what it takes to make it at a major university. Rushville High School with it’s enrollment of 500 or so students was one thing. Making it at IU, with an enrollment of over 30,000 students, was another matter entirely. It was a great learning experience in many ways that still have value today.
That’s –30—for this week.