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Last lessons for my senior band members

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Tom and Ami Moody Photo Goddard band plays during a competition this year.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

In a million years, this is not how I thought your senior year of band would wrap up. I know it has been a few weeks. Like me, you all have fallen into your new routines in this odd circumstance none of us would have predicted.

There’s one more lesson I would like to share with you. I think it is one of the most important we can learn, and things like the weirdness of your senior year show why that is.

The lesson is this: The two certainties we have, is that nothing lasts forever, and we never really know when something will end. This goes for everything, from our time in school and activities to friendships, to the memories we have, to the memories of us.

Please realize, this observation is not some fatalistic “life sucks and then you die” take on things. It is actually the very fact that nothing lasts forever that allows us to create meaning in the moments we live and the things we do. Notice I used the word “create.” Meaning doesn’t happen by accident. I would like to share some of the meaningful moments I’ve had with you.

Falling short a bunch of times, winning a lot, falling off the risers, playing gigs with Mr. Everitt, not knowing all of your fingerings freshman year and getting called out, pretending to be sick when freshman summer band got hard, restoring an old instrument, showing up the day of a shooting threat, getting roped into the very first Wind Symphony and coming at 7 a.m., all year, making all-state, practicing an etude for five straight hours in a desperate attempt to make All-State.

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Dating the wrong person for far too long, learning to let things go, being patient with the freshmen and bringing them up right, learning how to manage loss and disappointment, learning to ask for what you really want and stand up for what you’ve earned.

Sorting shoes over and over again, being left alone on a part at a football game as a freshman, becoming a band family member in high school, learning to fill the role that’s needed even if it wasn’t the one you really wanted, dancing in line at Pageant, realizing that some time between not knowing fingerings and note names your freshman year and now — you actually got pretty good.

Hanging out before school and being way too loud, hanging out after school and somehow being even louder, getting driver’s licenses, being the cool kid giving rides to the freshmen — and some seniors.

Being brave and not giving up even when you were expected to learn four years of band in one semester, doing a dinner concert, straight up looking like Rey on “Star Wars” day, being with me through one of the biggest systemic changes in our band, running out late to a.m. rehearsal EVERY SINGLE DAY and blaming your sisters, finding out it was your fault every dang time.

Getting your first job, quitting your first job, spicy, living in the world of two school activities and making hard choices to honor both, getting off your freaking cellphone during tuning exercises, hanging with me through every crazy idea I brought to the classroom, having lunch on trips.

Coming out to bowling night as a freshman and it was obviously your first time out with friends and no parents, watching you become more independent, bowling in Hobbs, getting better, learning, figuring out you still weren’t that good, working at it again.

Getting hit in the face with a flag pole, making your first catch, not getting picked, finally getting picked.

Obviously, this list could go on. I have tried to keep it vague enough to be “ours,” while still specific enough that I hope you knew, “That was me,” at least once. The thing I want to point out is that most of these things aren’t huge. They aren’t winning every major marching competition we went to in the state of New Mexico at our division and winning five caption awards along the way (in one year).

They aren’t the trips or the concerts. They aren’t having a record number of GHS band students make all-state. They are all of the things that so often get lost in the grind between the Big Moments. That’s really the lesson people will often miss.

We learn that not everything lasts forever. It is the subject of almost every eulogy and graduation speech and commencement address. But, then we go and live our lives by accident. Living life on purpose, minute to minute, takes the same kind of mental energy that a duration of 13 exercise does, for every moment possible, for the rest of your life.

I have always said, in the end, I’m not really here to teach you music. I’m here to teach you how to be a better you — music is the tool I use to try and get there. The strange thing about that statement is I will never know if I achieve it or not because you can’t tell me now, or tomorrow or next year. The person you are is the total of your life, and you aren’t there yet. Life is longer than you can imagine right now, but it can be over before you know it and you can miss it on the way.

So, in typical Mr. Everitt fashion, to say these are the “last lessons” is a lie. But it’s a lie that can help things make sense.

This isn’t goodbye in any kind of ultimate sense, but it is goodbye to the people you were, and the band family as it was with you in it. That is gone forever. Although I am forever grateful to all of my students and all of the groups that have come through the band hall doors, I will forever remember you as the class that always supported me.

I made more changes to the band program during your four years here than most band directors make to theirs in 20. It would have been so easy for you to become bitter, to fight the changes, to quit. Instead, you rolled with every single one of them and brought those around you along and up.

Most of you lack the understanding and experience to know what it means to have that kind of support and trust from the people you work with when you are trying to change a small corner of the world. I hope someday you do experience it if you ever really need it.

I’m sorry we didn’t get to finish out the year, but it makes the moments and grind we did have even more special. If you come to a game or a concert in five years, when everyone in the current band is graduated, you will still see your fingerprints in how the band does things and what they are achieving.

You had less time to leave a legacy than most, but you made the best of every moment before it was gone forever. You were in this band on purpose, and the band will be changed for a long time because of it.

I know your senior year isn’t over, but the band has to move on and learn what it’s going to be without you, just like you are moving on and learning who you are in this changed and changing world. I think you have put your time in. My students have to call me Mr. Everitt, but not my friends and colleagues.

As always, I love you and I’m proud of you,

Kevin Everitt

Goddard Band Director

 

By Kevin Everitt
Special to RDR Sports