Delivered to the Big Red Marching Band on 6 December 2018
When I went off to college freshman year, I didn't have any desire to consume alcohol, and I naively thought everyone else at Cornell would be the same. So, I was a bit shocked when many of the non-official evening social activities were centered around its consumption. I want to be 100% clear I was never hazed, and no one ever pushed me to drink when I didn't want to. Still, I felt very isolated and alone because of my choice, and I didn't feel accepted, even if that wasn't what people intended, so I quickly stopped going to the few gatherings that I did attend. Anyways, one week there was this event called "Bandstaph drink off" and people just kept inviting me to go, and I'm like "I don't drink; I'm not going to an event which is clearly about drinking" I was also in the song writing class at the time, so naturally I use this exchange as inspiration to write a song about not drinking. I proceed to perform this song in class, and at a JAM open mic night, and I never told a soul in band about it.
Eventually I go away on my Engineering co-op in Washington DC, and my 21st birthday happened to fall that November. I celebrated it with a milkshake with my sister, who also lived in DC at the time, but I also decide that there's no time like your 21st birthday to release a song about not being drunk. So I take some ridiculous photos for cover art and publish it on youTube. Once again, I tell no one, because yes, I am that passive aggressive.
Fast forward to spring 2018, it's the night of clarinet rooms, and I'm in my room in Kleenex, probably working on my compiler like a good CS student. I had considered going over for the party, asking if people have non-alcoholic drinks, but no one did, so I decided to skip. Then I got a text from not one, but two of my non-band friends asking me why I wasn't there despite living literally next door. So I get up and out and entered the large crowd in search of my friends. I find them pretty quickly, and then together we travel the house, room by room. Everyone in my section's nice enough to prepare a nonalcoholic version of their drink, so I'm having a great time. And then the three of us head down to apartment A, and my "Party Song for the Sober" is right there, playing on the TV. The irony aside, no one knew I was going to be there at that party, which meant that the only reason it was playing was because someone actually liked my song. The song, born out of spite, I assumed would have pissed people off, but instead people loved it, and that meant the world to me. I'll forever look back at that party as one of the best I've ever been to, even if I was the only sober one there.
Early on in my freshman year in the Pep band was having a student Arranger's day, and I was really excited: the band was going to play stuff that we arranged! This could be my chance to get a song I really like into the folder, or at least hear it played once. I threw myself into my work, picking a piece I liked, spending hours transcribing it, then arranging it, and then sending it in for feedback. My sister was pep band conductor at the time, so she was the one who got back to me with feedback, and she had some good suggestions, so I made them and sent them in, and she would get back to me, and so forth. Eventually, we thought it might work better as a cheer, so I cut it down into a cheer, but was still hoping we'd get to play the full version, and with a week to go, there wasn't much time to make more changes. Anyways, on October 4th, 2015, student arrangers' day was here, I was hyped, I came to the band center, got out my clarinet, and grabbed the new music, but my arrangement wasn't there. I didn't know what was up, so eventually I ask Vincent about my arrangement, and that's how I found out that we weren't even going to play the cheer version. I left immediately and cried for the next hour. I had been so excited, and then for all my hard work to be thrown aside in a blink of an eye. I felt dead inside for the next 24 hours and couldn't really be bothered to go to pep band events for considerable time afterwards.
It's summer 2018, two years later, and the next student arranger's day was happening that fall, during my engineering coop. I knew then I would never hear anything I'd arrange played because it would have to be added to the folder for me to hear it, and that wasn't going to happen. But then I remembered this one song from a rainbow dash pony music video, and I thought, "That's the song our band needs." Two days later I sent in a rough draft and the roller coaster was off again. Feedback, revision, repeat. On the day I left for my co-op, I ended up at a bandstaph meeting for just a few minutes, where I ran into Ryan, and he told me about much he liked the arrangement, even saying it was the best one they received. I was honestly quite shocked by this praise, and I left for DC optimistic that I'd at least get a recording. Over a hundred miles away, Student Arranger's day eventually came and gone, and due to a technical issue, there was no recording. Either it was going in the folder, or I'd never hear anything. On September 30th, I get the email from Kevin: "We are adding it to the folder so I'm sure you'll hear it in the spring :)". I was so excited I yelled in excitement, some people across a parking lot overheard, and they also started screaming in excitement, so I raised my arms, and triumphantly ran, hollering, towards the metro. When I returned to Cornell, I threw myself back in to pep band, and on May 8 this year, 946 days after that first arranger's day, I finally got to hear "You're gonna go far kid" for the first time.
I've decided to tell these stories to you tonight because they demonstrate that even in a band as awesome as this one, not everything is perfect. We all have bad days, our mishaps, our scars, but damn; band has a way of taking even the worst of experiences and making them wonderful. I love this band, and I say that as someone who's had both good and bad experiences, but at the end of the day looks back and sees all the wonderful joy it's given me these last 3 and a half years.
I'd like to give a shout out to Jessie Wu and Jessie R who were always there for me, to my rank, rank Z, to the entire clarinet section for their willingness to wear pigtails at rehearsal one evening, to the happy bus captains for enforcing rule number three, to everyone who keeps the band running day to day, to all the wonderful people I've met during my time here in band, and to everyone who barely knows me and is sitting through this speech. Thank you band!