Today’s blog post is a very special post written by Julianne Clements from Bentonville H.S. in Bentonville, Arkansas. Julianne was one of the four Drum Majors for the 2013 Bands of America Honor Band in the Tournament of Roses® Parade. Our thanks to Julianne for sharing her story with us, and with all of you! We know there are great things ahead for Julianne and we are looking forward to hearing all about them in the years to come.
One of my greatest journeys began last year. I auditioned to be a piccolo player in the 2013 Bands of America National Honor Band. When I got accepted, I was overcome with joy because this was to be the biggest accomplishment of my life. Marching in an ensemble with 300 students from everywhere, working with world-class staff, performing in front of over a million live viewers; it was one of my childhood dreams coming true before my eyes. My dream didn’t end there, so I decided to just go for it and try out to be drum major of the Honor Band. I knew it was a long-shot that I would get the position, but I wasn’t going to shy away for fear of failure. The day I received notification of my selection as one of four drum majors, I was so enthused and excited I could not take the smile off my face. I could not believe that out of all the applicants from around the nation, I had been chosen. It was truly an honor and privilege that I will be grateful for the rest of my life. My dream had come true, but the excitement didn’t stop after making the ensemble. Never could I have pictured that one week could mean so much in my life.
I first met with the group on December 27th. We rehearsed nearly nonstop for two days in order to give our first performance on the 29th. During those days I learned more about myself and the world than I have ever before. I learned that people expect perfection from everyone, including themselves. And that even though I know perfection is impossible to reach, I still believe that this drive found in all of us is what sets us apart and drives humanity to greatness. Demanding and expecting perfection doesn’t constitute infinite failure, it means that excellence is the only outcome that is possible. The staff members there did demand perfection, because they already knew how great the band could be. After our first performance the band too realized and this is what drove us to strive even harder. We thirsted for more; for more time with the other amazing students, for more time with the incredible staff, for more time getting to know everyone who made this group, the National Honor Band. One of the greatest things the staff expressed was that we were THE National Honor Band. No one else was a part of that, and no one else could be. We were it. We could either give it everything we have and make it the greatest experience ever, or walk away knowing we could have done more. I think every single person realized their full potential in that week and we truly became the 2013 Bands of America National Honor Band.
My favorite moment of all with this band was the final stretch of the parade. The 300 students I had met only days before came to the end of marching close to 6.8 miles. Some held up 50 pound instruments, others drummed; some moved their fingers, others moved a slide; some danced, others tossed a flag; but I conducted this ensemble. I stood in front and saw all 300 of my peers march for nearly two hours and still have smiles on their faces. I witnessed the band play Firework for the very last time and just give it everything they had. It brings tears of joy to my eyes to remember that final moment of the parade. Even though we had played that song a million times, even though the musicians were exhausted, even though some were bleeding from blisters or shaking with pain, we came together at the end and played that song one last time for us. There was not an audience or any need to continue playing, but we danced away and blasted the music with all our heart and soul anyways. I have never heard an ensemble play with such true exuberance, such joy and such exaltation. We played for the family we had become and for the struggles we had triumphed over. We played because we had become the Bands of America National Honor Band. Never have I been as inspired by an act as in that moment. It truly is indescribable; the way we all smiled when it was over and cheered each other on, it just blew me away. We had persevered and achieved something truly magnificent.
I don’t know any other group of students that could celebrate the New Year at 9:00 PM and be perfectly happy with it. I don’t know any other group of students that could rehearse for an entire day and still, after 8 hours, run back every time the staff called reset. I don’t know any other group of students that could make close, lifetime friends with a few people, and yet still be friends with everyone involved. I don’t know any other group of students that could make wearing trash bags look so good. I don’t know any other group of students who could change the meaning of eating an orange so much that every time I see one, memories flood my mind. I don’t know any other group of students that could have so many different backgrounds, or accents, or languages, or experiences and yet still come together to perform in complete unison. I don’t know any other group of students like the 2013 Bands of America National Honor Band.
300 people learned to step on the same foot, in the same way, at the same time. 300 people learned to breathe together, eat together, and just be together. 300 people became a family that shares the memories of a lifetime. 300 people’s lives were changed forever by the other 299, and I am one of them. My life was forever changed for the better by this ensemble. If all of that can happen in a week, well then I truly believe anything is possible.
-Julianne Clements, Drum Major, 2013 Bands of America Honor Band in the Tournament of Roses® Parade