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I never once thought that swinging my arms to a beat would transform me. Of course, I knew that being a drum major would consist of constant conducting, but keeping tempo was only scratching the surface of the duties I was responsible for. I vividly recall the moment I realized the true importance of my role, at a university summer marching band camp. One day, after countless anecdotes, our instructor, who sat on a table in the middle of the classroom, sweaty and tired like the rest of us, said carefully, “There are 125 drum majors in this room and all of you are capable to seek and gain more.” Our instructor kept talking about how we had to approach that upcoming marching season with a desire to do more, and choked up with tears, he ended his speech with three words: Don’t waste it.
I remember the room falling to an emotional silence, and I specifically remember my eyes welling up along with him. To the others in the room, his lecture felt like another melodramatic motivational speech, but to me, those three words initiated my transition towards adulthood.
To this day, I repeat those three words every time I climb the drum major podium during marching band rehearsal. It’s not only motivation, but it’s a constant reminder of how I have to push myself and 100 other people towards greatness. I have to step out of my comfort zone and reach towards not only my goals but the whole band program’s and what makes that so impactful is that it all starts with my arms hitting every single beat of the music, which easily can be applied to every part of my life. Every time I conduct, I can feel myself leaving all of my old habits behind and replacing them with ones that can positively affect how I and the ensemble perform. Every time I conduct, I feel myself striving towards excellence, all with my hands tapping upon the humid air, repeating his words in my head: Don’t waste it.
My instructor’s words remind me to take responsibility for mistakes and to learn from them, rather than letting them dictate my emotions. And, most importantly, those three words encourage me to hold onto a desire to excel, learn, and develop, which displays a level of maturity and self-assurance that I never thought that I could achieve.
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