Photo by Ruby Arguilla
I’ve been auditioning students all this week, and no matter how well prepared you are, it’s like a landslide. In the beginning of the week it’s exhilarating, students come in and we can actually talk to them, help them relax, help them understand we’re people too. But toward the end of the week it gets to be physically exhausting. No one wants to be the first to audition. Everyone thinks, if only I could practice for just one more day I’d have a better chance.
The Jazz Band and the Wind Ensemble require a certain level of ability, but the Marching Band is for everyone. No one is ever turned away from the Marching Band. If you’re committed to it, you deserve a chance to play. If someone needs help with their playing, we’ll put them together with an upper-class member of the band, and usually in two weeks they’ve made enough improvement that they’re able to play Harvard songs. If someone is very interested and dedicated but has very little instrumental training, we’ll find something else creative for them like taking photos or working on the prop crew.
I see my job as helping students find their niche at Harvard. We had one student come in a few years ago who was a tabla player. From what I know of Indian music, he seemed extremely competent, but I wasn’t aware of any group currently on campus that was using the tabla. Then I thought of a piece the Jazz Band was doing from Duke Ellington’s “Far East Suite” where a tabla player might fit in. Then, from that one performance, he found other students who were interested in playing Indian music.
It’s interesting that at Harvard, where there’s no performance major, we have as many high quality musical groups as any other place. You know, once there was no Band. Harvard didn’t create the Band, the students did. All these groups are student-initiated.