Saturday, September 24, 2011

Week 4

September 24, 2011

Well, things have certainly been interesting, to say the least.  It's been a grueling series of weeks for myself and the band and I'm more than happy that next week the team is going away, I'll say that much.  I remember a four-week series ('09 I think) and at the end of it we all need a little time away, even though we'll still be on our 4 day/week rehearsal schedule, things won't be so hectic.  We had our first true one-week show this week and honestly had you not known that piece of information, I don't think you would be able to tell, which shows how great this year's band is.  We had four rehearsals to put this show together, that's all.  They hadn't played the music or taken a step of the drill before Monday at 4pm.  We even had our Friday rehearsal rained out completely.  They were still learning drill this morning at 6am - but then again, you wouldn't have noticed.  It wasn't an easy show either... the band was spread far across the field, and the difficulty of the music was a little more than average.  Frantic week for everyone. 

I'm still not 100%, which makes this health debacle 13 days old.  I felt pretty good today in comparison to last weekend which of course translated to a fairly satisfying performance on the field during pregame today.  I was a little unsure of my footing on landings today, but with my head all stuffed up it's hard to get bearings quickly... really messes with the "air sense".  But that makes it 6/6 in Beaver Stadium on the season and 9/10 overall for the year in-performance, only one miss at Temple, which I couldn't really do anything about.  Tack on last year and that's 26/28 so far.  Not proud of it because I know I could/should have been 100%. 

So, the hot topic this week has been about the "7:1" ratio of band to canned music that was put forth by the "man in the press box" running the "show".  Well, I will say that since that article was published the band conspicuously got quite a bit of playing time today - although I'm hearing that the initial "fan data" coming in has a 2:1 ratio today.  The situation was a lot better though, at least it felt that way.  We had more time to play on offensive drives, we played more often during game breaks, we got more downs on defense.  I also just decided to say "screw it" a few times and play over Zombie Nation on 4th down, or over the Blur "woo-hoo" thing (which I absolutely can't stand), and I noticed a lot of the band and nearby fans egging me on to do that.  It's difficult because we don't to be causing problems or conflict with anyone, and our director believes in that on a high level, and I have respect for what he respects.  I'm told when I can pull up a tune, or when we sit one out.  It's not my/our call.  Today we got more green lights than red lights.  Is it a sign of what's to come?  We can only hope.  I'm excited because now the band will be able to work on more stands tunes in rehearsal (I'm personally hoping I can get Brass Roots, Testify, and a few others going), and we'll be able to showcase more music.  We don't rehearse a lot of it because honestly we haven't played a whole lot in the stands and we can get by with the tunes that we are already familiar with.  With that said, my favorite moment of the day was when they were piping in "Party Rock Anthem" and I look and we're up there on the jumbotron.  Irony?  Ideally, yeah, I should be mum on this issue as to not stir anything up - but if nobody says anything, nothing will ever be done about it, if anything, the situation will get worse.  That's just my take.  I'll stay the course, do what I'm told, pull for the team, do my best with the band, and that's that. 

So many other things I'd rather get to, but I absolutely need to recharge after a long day with a nice nap.  I'll have a mid-week post.

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Comments welcome below.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Week 3

September 18, 2011

Depending on who you are, you'll either view this weekend as one to remember, or one to forget.  For most of us, I think the first option will suffice, at least for me.  I don't think I've been as sick as I was this weekend in quite a long time - perfect timing for three performances within 26 hours of one another.  Under normal circumstances this would have been a challenge, but this took me far beyond my limits.  No amount of physical training or preparation could have readied me for this weekend. Given how everything played out though... with the team getting the win and the band putting on good performances at every venue, I'm glad it went as well as it did.

It's funny how people jump to conclusions about things.  After I came back from the EMS center (took me back there because I overheated) and got my phone after halftime at the Temple game, I had about a dozen messages asking me if I broke my ankle.  Clearly yes, I had a rough landing, but, did I not get up, grab my mace and strut back across the field ten seconds later?  Did it not look like I was trying to tie the laces of my right cleat which came untied?  Not sure I could have completed the rest of pregame otherwise.  Thinking about it, it still plays out like horror to me - absolute worst-case-scenario.  Without going into painstaking detail, because I really don't feel like it, I was told that having a strong antibiotic adds to dehydration, which lead to my entire right leg cramping up upon landing the first flip, and as I was running back through the band there was nothing I could about it.  I had two options - to just not do the second flip (to the probable displeasure of all of the Penn State fans), or to muster up what I had left and take a chance, which I ended up doing.  I just didn't have it in me.  At the two other exhibitions we did this past weekend, I only did the first one.  Yeah, Drum Majors haven't landed them in the past, but I expect out of myself to land every single one, there's really no excuse... ...and I hate using illness as an excuse, because honestly, it's not an excuse.  When I take the field, nobody knows how I'm feeling that day - they're still going to expecting to see the same thing they're used to seeing.  I expect to do better each time I go out there, not worse.  I'm extremely unhappy with myself for being sick in the first place, and then having it affect my performance.  I take care of myself, eat healthy, sleep at least 7 hours a night (if not more), exercise regularly, and avoid contact with those who are sick.  I hate being a disappointment.  Thank god for the defense from the team.  Had they lost the game, I'm pretty sure I'd never hear the end of it.

I'm still feeling awful and I only have five days to get myself together.  It's going to be a tough week, but I know what I signed up for and I need to improve.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Week 2

September 9, 2011

Another week, another batch of highs and lows.  This time, for the band at least, I can say it was all highs.  We faced so much adversity this week... being rained on during our entire Labor Day rehearsal, having to practice indoors in Holuba Hall on Tuesday, and essentially having only just a few hours in "normal settings" to get our 9/11 tribute ready for the high level of performance that is expected of the Blue Band.   Not to mention, the only time the band rehearsed pregame this week was a 15-minute segment at the end of Friday's (yesterday's) rehearsal, and then a walk-through this morning.  To pull off that caliber of a show as they did, and to perform it so well that at one point you could hear a pin drop in Beaver Stadium - it truly is remarkable.  That's a testament to how hard this band works, and the great staff that we have.  There are so many times where I don't feel worthy of being in the position that I'm in because of how talented and how well this band performs.  I'm humbled every time I get to take the field with them. 

The game was, well, the game.  Not much to be said about it.  The team didn't show up today, and it seems it was more of a coaching problem than the players, but, it wasn't pretty either way.  But, the Blue Band always wins, so, we had a great day.  Still had so many times when I tried to call up tunes but was then "over played" by the folks up in the press box, but, it's just expected at this point... I can't get myself worked up over it anymore.  We will play when we're given the opportunity, and that's all I can/am going to say about it.  No use complaining, whining, and smack-talking - that's not what this organization is about.  We'll hold our heads high, support the team, and perform whenever we get the chance. 

I had the chance to go over and speak to some of the members of the 50-person pep band that Alabama took to the game today.  What incredible people.  Each and every one of them was courteous and genuine.  Not a bad word I could say about them or their fans.  Plus they sounded pretty great too when I went over there to visit.

This week is going to be challenging for myself and the band.  We have an exhibition performance on Friday, the game at Temple on Saturday, and then another exhibition that night before returning to PSU late Saturday night/early Sunday morning.  That means 4 flips in 24 hours for me (only doing one at the exhibitions, two at the game).  Need to take care of myself this week, that's for sure. 

Today was an experience that I'll always remember - no two flips so far (out of 22) have been as incredible as these two today.  I can't even begin to describe the feeling.  Halftime was so powerful I haven't put words to that either.  Perhaps someday I'll be able to explain it, but for now, I'll remain speechless.  Can't spend too long reflecting... the show must go on.

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Week 1

September 3rd, 2011

My how time files... a whole 17 days since I've found a good half-an-hour or so to unwind and write.  At the moment I'm unwinding from the first game of the season, and might I say, I feel exhilarated right now.  What has haunted me since September 2nd, 2010 was the first flip of the season, something that didn't go so well last year.  To go out there today, with a bunch of uniform additions, in the heat and humidity, plus a camera attached to my right ear and plant one pretty solidly was a huge weight off my shoulders.

But anyway, to sum up life in the past two weeks: classes own me, Blue Band owns me more, playing in a band at Cafe 210 is not only a blast but it's also great money, and I have finally been able to start lifting again.  Some ups, some downs, but I'd say life is pretty great right now.

I've got a lot on my mind since everything is fresh (in regard to the game today, etc, etc).  As exhilarated as I feel right now, I still have a lot of work to do... I don't feel as though my mechanics are as consistent and strong as they were last season at this point.  Coming out of the band, speed-wise, I'm doing great.  Last year I did a better job of keeping up speed coming out of the strut and into the flip, but for some reason (possibly due to Achilles tendinitis on my left leg and a bruised heel on the right), I've been approaching the flip with a lot less aggression, which is why the landings have been a lot lower (if you saw the second flip today, you'll agree with me).  Speaking of the second flip, that was quite possibly one of the most horrifying moments of my life so far... as I came though the band and started to strut and lean backward, by the time I picked my head back down to look forward, I realized I wasn't on the 5 yard line... I was in the end zone, which gave me no time to adjust, prep, and flip well... something to keep in mind for next week, but, that explains why it looked so awkward today.  Still landed it though, and that's what counts.

The heat was unbelievably brutal today.  I love sitting in the sauna at home, and some days I'll go into the steam room, but today with two layers on (white Under Armour and the pants/suspenders) plus the jacket and the hat, I have no clue how I made it through the whole day without at least cooling off without the jacket.  I drank close to three gallons of water from 8am to 4pm and was still dehydrated.  I had a few moments when I thought I was going to be sick and/or pass out, but I think everyone did today.

The band sounded awesome today on the field... definitely some goosebump moments during halftime.  It was tough maintaining everyone's focus in the stands (especially since we barely got to play... and don't worry I'll elaborate later), but that's definitely a heat-related thing.  The band staff seemed extremely happy with how the band did today from both playing and marching aspects, as they should be... they performed well all-around, especially given the conditions.

So, with all the positives, come the negatives... and two things today bugged me quite a bit.  First, as I reflect on both last season and this first game, I just don't understand what student wouldn't want to be in the stadium for pregame.  For some perspective... us band members are on the field rehearsing at 7am on gameday mornings.  We put in about ten hours a week rehearsing in addition to our class schedule.  We bust our tails, and so does our football team.  It's unfortunate that some students would rather stay out late partying on Friday night and then straggle in to the game in the late 1st quarter, or early 2nd quarter... more or less, isn't that just a waste of money?  Season tickets aren't cheap, and time in Beaver Stadium is short... why shortchange yourselves?  I can't say much better for the rest of the stadium... only a little over 96,000 people showed up, the smallest crowd since the 2001 expansion.  What gives?  I wish I knew.  Don't mean to "call out" students and fans (I carry on my tradition for their sake), but, if we're the "greatest show in college football" (which we are), why are there people out there who don't want to come see it?  Wake up a little earlier, have a chill Friday night, it isn't going to kill you.  I also wasn't happy with the amount of time the band got to play in the stands today... piped-in music, videos, ads... all-in-all we got to play maybe 4-5 tunes (out of the 15-20 that we had in our "arsenal").  I feel bad for the members of the band.  I was up on the ladder calling tunes up, and then maybe a quarter later we'd get a chance to play 20 measures of it.  I really hate to vent about this, but it just isn't fair to any of us who work so hard to do what we do and carry on the rich tradition of the Blue Band.

With that said, those are just some minor roadbumps in what was a great day for everyone involved, even though it was a little toasty.

One week until 'Bama!

Enjoy the video that I got with the camera attached to my hat today:

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Blue Band Officer Week - Days 4-7 & Band Camp: Days 1 & 2

August 17, 2011

17 days - Penn State vs. Indiana State
24 days - Penn State vs. Alabama
31 days - Penn State vs. Temple

It's been awhile since I've had the chance to post - it's been quite a busy past five days.  I can't believe I've already been back in State College for a whole week already.

I'm currently enjoying air conditioning in-between sessions for our prospective rookie marching auditions which have been going quite well so far.  I don't know how their music auditions went, but in just six hours they've come a long way.  To wrap up officer week, for the most part all of the other officers were taking care of their individual duties (Pres., VP, Sec., Treas., Managers, Librarians, etc) - not a whole lot for me to do without "getting in the way" of their processes.  I did finish cleaning all of the performance baritones inside-and-out, so they're ready to go for the season.  The officers had the weekend off, so I spent a great deal of that time either sleeping, out at the Blue Band field doing weighted sprints or mace spinning, or studying the fundamentals booklet to get ready to teach the fundamentals sessions that I've been doing all day today.  I did get the chance to enjoy myself though by going out dancing at Indigo downtown on Saturday night, which was a much needed bit of fun and relaxation before the long week ahead.  It's so easy to get "locked in" to doing a job and forget to take a few steps back to do something for enjoyment or stress-relief.  I make sure I take some time every day to do that - however short that time may be.  Sunday some of the officers and I made a trip out to Altoona for lunch at one of the manager's houses and then we went to the Pennsylvania railroad museum for the afternoon, which surprisingly was a really interesting experience.  I had no clue there was any significant history in Altoona.

Yesterday and today have consisted of getting all of our rookies registered, oriented, music auditioned, and prepared informatively, which is an extremely long and hectic process, but we (the officers) pulled it off well this year... everything has run quite smoothly so far, to all of our relief.  Leadership training with all of our guides went well yesterday and they've done a great job providing constructive criticism and feedback to all of the rookies auditioning today.

We started around 8:30am today, finally getting the opportunity to debut the new Blue Band warmup/stretch sequence for this season, and I was quite pleased with the feedback that I got from people.  Of course some people are going to have to warm up to them (no pun intended) after doing things "one way" for the previous 5+ years, but I think it's a very welcome change and it does a significantly better job of preparing everyone for the high physical demands of marching the Blue Band's high step. 

So it's about 5:30pm right now (on Wednesday)... what's left for today consists of a returnee meeting at 6:30pm for all band members, which is pretty much going over the same info about the season that the rookies got last night, so I probably won't be at the meeting for the entire time.  I plan on doing a flip or two before the night session begins depending on how tired I feel when I get back out there.  I've been keeping statistics since the end of last season and out of 54 flips I've only missed one due to uneven ground in my yard, so, to say the least I'm feeling quite confident.  I even managed to drop a bed frame onto my second largest toe on my right foot two days ago, turning it into some odd shade of blue (my guess is that I broke it), and still managed to land one cleanly while practicing yesterday.  Sorry for digressing.  After the meeting and possible flips is the final rookie marching session, where we will review all of the marching fundamentals, then break off and have all of the rookies march in front of the band staff as they determine this year's cuts.  Around 10pm they will be brought into a block, and at that point Dr. Bundy will announce who will be coming back for band camp starting tomorrow at 8:30am.  It's tough seeing some capable marchers go, but it has to happen in order to
 make the best band that we can.

Bit of a short post today - I didn't want to spend all of my free time on this.  My mind needs a break after commanding a block and teaching ~150 people how to march (did I mention the sunburn?)

Here's a random assortment of photos from the past few days that I ether took or found on the web:

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Blue Band Officer Week: Days 1 - 3

August 12, 2011

  4 days - Blue Band Marching Auditions/Band Camp Begins
22 days - Penn State vs. Indiana State
29 days - Penn State vs. Alabama
36 days - Penn State vs. Temple

So much for that "daily posting" thing - it's been a significantly busier last four days than I was anticipating... but I've found a few spare minutes this morning as I sit in the lobby of the Blue Band Building looking out upon our field, Beaver Stadium, and the BJC, imagining the scene here in only 22 days.  

It's been a great week - preparations for the season are in full swing.  All of the officers have been taking care of their individual duties for the past few days, and I've been helping out where I can, mostly cleaning baritone horns and running small errands here and there... my job doesn't start until next week when all of the prospective rookies arrive.

My week started off with moving back into State College, waking up at 6:00am (with a large coffee), packing the cars and then driving three hours in the rain, unpacking my belongings into Eastview Terrace, and then finally getting back to the Blue Band Building.  What a great moment.  Our officer week started with our traditional retreat on Tuesday night in Port Matilda.  It was great bonding time, and a chance to ease back into being in the area and getting in the last bit of relaxation before the busy week begins.  We played some icebreaker-type games, made a campfire, cooked a huge dinner, and still managed to get a good night's rest.

Wednesday we had our first official meeting where we went over what needs to get done this week, and to be completely honest I spent the rest of the day cleaning baritone horns, which involves taking the entire thing apart, re-greasing all the slides, re-oiling valves, flushing it out with water, testing it once it's reassembled, removing dents, then logging all of the instrument information.  After that we went out to The Deli for dinner for my 21st birthday, since we couldn't go out the night before due to the retreat.  As a true lover of the city of Boston, I went with Sam Adams Boston Lager for my first legal drink, and they surprised me with birthday cake after that (see photo album at the bottom).  After that, we spent the rest of the night at Cafe 210, and I was blown away by the amount of friends that showed up that.  I had such a great time... hopefully a sign of how this semester is going to go.  Being one of the last people in my group of friends to turn 21 has really sucked (for a lack of a better word) for the past year, so simply being able to go out means the world to me.

Thursday I spent a lot of the day cleaning baritone horns like the day before, before totally tweaking my neck trying to throw a baseball about 250 feet as we took turns taking "batting practice" in the band field (including Dr. Bundy himself - see the photo album at the bottom)  That certainly made turning my head and sleeping a fun task.  It feels a little better today, but it's still stiff and stings when I turn it.  Good thing I've got a few days before I have to do anything. 

Today, as soon as I post this, I'll be trying on the DM uniform with the new additions and seeing how it looks.  Then I plan on cleaning the remainder of the baritone horns, doing some mace work, then going out to lunch with the managers and the band's volunteer assistant who does instrument repair.  Since I'm going to be the manager for the Fall Athletic Band (women's volleyball band) this year, he offered to take me as well.  I'll spend the afternoon studying fundamentals and preparing to do some dry runs of the band's new warmup sequence to see how feasible it is when done along with this year's show music (disclaimer: no, I'm not going to "leak" any of the themes/songs here until the week of the show, sorry!).  If the music doesn't work for a particular week, I'll have to start accumulating a backup list of any-purpose tunes to use.  After that, I'll be doing sprints and ab work outside on the band field, more mace work, and then once Dr. Bundy gets here, I'll be checking off music for Sousaphone so I can be an additional guide for that section this year. 

This weekend we don't have any responsibilities with band preparation so we'll have the weekend off to relax, go out, sleep in, and in my case, I'm going to be turning up my preparations/work to make sure that I'm flawless next week starting with the guide/student leader training on Monday.

Enjoy this photo album of the past few days - you just need to click on the picture that's displayed in order to view the rest of them.

I'll try to be better about posting daily from here on.   Next week will be quite tough balancing getting settled into my apartment along with band camp, then tack photoshoots and errands on top of that and things get intense.

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Days 58 & 59: Reflecting and Anticipating

August 8, 2011

  1 day - Blue Band Officer Week
  8 days - Blue Band Marching Auditions/Band Camp Begins
26 days - Penn State vs. Indiana State
33 days - Penn State vs. Alabama
40 days - Penn State vs. Temple

So, as you can see above, it begins tomorrow.  13 hours from now I'll be turning the key in my car and leaving Northeast Pennsylvania for three months, and I couldn't be happier about that.  I've dealt with enough Russians and New Yorkers for a lifetime this summer.  As I sit in my (nearly) emptied room, void of all decor, I can't help but think about what this summer was.  As I wrote all the way back on June 11, the first post on this mini-project, my intention was to "hold myself accountable to Improve. Every. Day."  Thinking about it now, I think I did a great job of it.  I've accomplished so much this summer.  Accomplishment doesn't always have to be something that lands on a resume, although that's always a plus. 

In less than two months I've charted an entire show for a high school marching band, helped to improve the musical ability of a young alto sax player, pushed myself to physical limits unlike anything I've ever achieved before, spent a great deal of time with my best friend from home who I might not see often at all from now on, became significantly better at mace spinning, made enough money to live fairly comfortably for this school year, became a much better golfer, and, I'd like to think I became a much better person this summer.

I feel relaxed, confident, and I feel like everything is under control - although what lies ahead of me this semester is absolutely daunting.  This summer I've learned to take everything a day at a time.  I  know where my deadlines are, I work on making strides every day, and that way I can simply glide across the finish lines instead of a mad dash to get everything done.  Sounds easier said than done, but that's how I'm going to approach everything this fall.  Of course, things come up on a day's notice, and those "surprise assignments" from professors are certain to make life interesting, as they always do, but if I can be successful with the Blue Band, the cover band I'm joining, keep my GPA where it is, and have a respectable social life, I'll consider it a good semester.

I'm beyond excited for the Blue Band season to start.  Last year was a springboard year for me, and this year I'm ready to raise the bar that I set even higher.  I know what to expect this time around, I know what my weak spots were last year, and I know the "sequence" of how things go... not to mention I've had eight months since the end of last season to think about things to improve upon.  As I said a few posts ago, this year I'm focusing on making this a special experience for everyone in the band, and everyone who will get to see the band this season.  I'm in far better shape right now than I was this time last year, so I'm interested to see how that translates to how I perform this season.  Only time will tell.

So, now this blog shifts gears.  It's not about me improving every day, it's about us improving every day. Starting tomorrow will be daily posts about the Blue Band and how our season is progressing.

Here's to a great year.

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Days 55 - 57: Speed Bumps

August 6, 2011

  3 days - Blue Band Officer Week
10 days - Blue Band Marching Auditions/Band Camp Begins
28 days - Penn State vs. Indiana State
35 days - Penn State vs. Alabama
42 days - Penn State vs. Temple

I firmly believe that events and occurrences in daily life are analogies of how we should handle things in our personal lives.  For example, speed bumps are in the distance and you're traveling at 45 MPH, so what do you do?  A smart person slows down until they're past, then goes back to normal speed.  But it's a sign.  They wouldn't be there unless their purpose was to avoid some other problem from happening (like taking out a pedestrian).  So, an "inconvenience" is put forth to avoid an even larger one.  As you can probably see, I tend to break everything down instead of taking things at face value - some sort of "everything happens for a reason" philosophy.  I've always said "everything happens", but the older I get, the more I'm buying into the other reasoning... like a snowball rolling down a hill, things in life can do the same until it's a full-blown avalanche.  Where am I going with this?  

The last two weeks or so have been equivalent to driving down Prospect Ave. in State College (pretty sure that's the correct road I'm thinking of) a dozen times.  Things just haven't gone as planned, and I'd like to say that I'm finally over all the speed bumps and I can get back to normal speed, just in time to head back to State College in just three (long) days.  My health is more important to me than just about anything.  To keep with the theme of analogies, I try to keep myself running like a Lamborghini, always keeping myself in showroom form, inside and out.  My diet is incredibly specific, my workout regimen is designed to have a perfect balance of strength, agility, endurance, flexibility, as well as a satisfying self-image.  To have an eye doctor say that I'm 20 years old and possibly have glaucoma made me question if I was working myself too hard, taking too many supplements, and not taking enough time to slow down and let my body have some extended recovery time.  Well after two weeks of caffeine/supplement detox, drinking more water than taking in food, doing an abbreviated Master Cleanse diet, and getting myself all worked up about it, I finally went to a specialist today.  After a gauntlet of tests, he basically said the original doctor made a huge deal out of nothing, and I have opposite qualities in pretty much every way than a glaucoma candidate would have.  Such a relief.  I never over-diagnose myself... I'm well in-tune with my body and I know when there's a problem and I usually know what it is, so when a doctor notices something that I don't, I panic a little bit.  I'd like to think I'm taking great care of myself, because I dedicate such a huge part of my life to my health, so that maybe if I live to see the 60s, 70s, or maybe even 80s, I'm still getting around and being active and not taking a handful of medications that I could have prevented with a healthy lifestyle.  I hope that through my life I can motivate others to live that lifestyle as well.  It's not always an easy change, but the positives outweigh the negatives no matter how the issue is looked it.

After I got home and my eyes un-dilated, I hit the gym and did two straight hours of cardio in the form of running four miles, doing 1-minute intervals of steps with 10lb ankle weights, and some light elliptical work, followed by some bicep/tricep work since my shoulder was feeling decent today, and then I wrapped up with some core exercises mixed in with a 20-minute stretch routine.  I felt the best I've felt all summer long today, which is making me feel really confident heading into officer week this week, and then the entire audition process/band camp next week. 

I got the chance to go golfing with my cousin again on Thursday. The first time we went the week before I shot 67 for nine holes, and he shot 36, on a par 35.  This time, I shot 54 and he was even par, so in just six days of hitting on the range and trying to fix my driving a bit I managed to take 13 strokes off my score, and I even managed to hit a couple great putts along the way.  I've gotten myself pretty hooked on golf... but it looks like that will have to wait until next year since I'll be too busy for it. After I left there I discovered a natural wonder only 20 minutes from home.  My two best friends from home wanted to go hiking, and once we found out it would be rather expensive to hike Bushkill Falls, we discovered Raymondskill Falls... which are only 4 feet shorter than Niagara (according to the website).  I'd believe it.  We wound up hiking off the main trails and explored some pretty neat areas around the creek... I'll post some pictures tomorrow when I'm awake.

All in all, it's been a pretty stressful period in my life, but better times are definitely ahead.  Blue Band is just around the corner, and I can't wait to bring it this year.

I probably won't be posting again until I'm back in State College, which will then start my daily posts about how we're preparing for the season.  It's finally go time!

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day 54: Cardio

August 3, 2011

  6 days - Blue Band Officer Week
13 days - Blue Band Marching Auditions/Band Camp Begins
31 days - Penn State vs. Indiana State
38 days - Penn State vs. Alabama
45 days - Penn State vs. Temple

I've had a lot of people ask me about how I manage to maintain a high pace/intensity cardio session for a full hour, and aside from working yourself up to performing at that level... it's all about the music, for me at least.  I decided to post my current cardio playlist.  It usually stays the same, with some additions/subtractions when new music comes out, or once I overplay some music.  It's mostly hip-hop based, only because I've found that it helps to relax my mind and body and focus all of the output where it needs to be put out, rather than rock music which tends to cause myself to be tense throughout my body and mind, which exhausts me quicker for a very slight difference in results.  All of these songs are at very high tempos (I don't pulse on beats 2 & 4 - every quick beat is a pulse for my workouts).  If I'm in a recovery or high-resistance phase, I split the tempo in half and it's usually still extremely challenging.  As for the lyrical content (for most of these songs)... I'm not always locked into that as much as the tempo and overall "flow" or beat of the song, so, take that with a grain of salt... I do like to pick songs that will be confidence booster/motivators.

Here's the current playlist (total time 1:46:51)
1.  Lupe Fiasco - Till I Get There
2.  Soulja Boy - Turn My Swag On
3.  Jeremih - Down On Me (Feat. 50 Cent)
4.  3OH!3 - I Can Do Anything
5.  Primary Element - The Greatest
6.  Eminem - Cinderella Man
7.  Jeremih - Jumpin'
8.  Shad - Yaa I Get It
9.  Lil' Wayne - Did It Before (Prod. by Kanye West)
10.  Drake - Little Bit (Feat. Lykke Li)
11.  Pretty Lights - Total Fascination
12.  Drake - Unstoppable (Feat. Santo Gold)
13.  Pretty Lights - Still Rockin'
14.  B.o.B. - How u do that - (Prod. by Kutta)
15.  Kanye West - POWER
16.  A Day To Remember - All I Want
17.  Drake - Miss Me (Feat. Lil' Wayne)
18.  B.o.B. - So So (Prod. by Jim Jonsin)
19.  Drake - Up All Night (Feat. Nicki Minaj)
20.  Usher - She Don't Know (Feat. Ludacris)
21.  Taking Back Sunday - Carpathia
22.  Jay-Z - Moment Of Clarity
23.  B.o.B - Beast Mode (Prod. by Infinity)
24.  Taking Back Sunday - New Again
25.  Drake - Throw It In The Bag (Feat. Fabolous)(Remix)
26.  Shad - Flawless [NEW]
27.  Drake - Killers (Feat. Nipsey Hussle)

So, if you're looking for some good tunes for a solid and high-paced cardio workout, I'd suggest any of the tunes above, they've worked great for me. 

Speaking of all of this cardio business, that's my plan for today... followed by a great deal of packing and some fundamentals studying.

Tomorrow I've got an 8am meeting and a golf outing at 10:30, and possibly seeing a friend or two for the last time for awhile, so I probably won't post until the weekend.

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Days 50 - 53: Anticipation Meets Preparation

August 2, 2011

7 days - Blue Band Officer Week
14 days - Blue Band Marching Auditions/Band Camp Begins
32 days - Penn State vs. Indiana State
39 days - Penn State vs. Alabama
46 days - Penn State vs. Temple

It's now exactly one week from now that the 2011 Blue Band Officers will be gathering in State College and heading off to our annual retreat in Port Matilda before spending a week getting everything prepared for the season.  Tomorrow marks one month away from the first game.  Once that week begins I'll start doing almost-daily posts from then until the end of band camp on the 29th for a bit of an inside look on how we're leading up to the first game of the season on September 3rd.

What being one week away means for me is that now since I'm done working at all of my jobs for the summer, I need to spend at least one hour a day on making improvements on every aspect of my position this season:  fundamentals study/practicing command calling, refining the new upbeat stretches/warmups, conducting, and mace spinning/tossing.  I'll be doing flips three times per week now to make sure that I have solid command of my "air sense" and getting the correct instinct for how much speed I need when the uniform (and this year's additions to it) is added.  In addition, I'll be spending a great deal of time working on the strut that happens before the flip.  I wasn't really happy with my strut last season, and it was certainly the weakest portion of my audition the first time around in April 2010.  My back bend isn't drastic enough, my head isn't far enough back, my left leg doesn't come up as far as my right one does, and I don't strut for a long enough time for it to be a marquee part of my entrance out of the block band.  I've been doing a stretch called a "bridge" in order to start making my back more flexible, and then I've been doing single leg bridges in order to stretch the muscle just in front of my hip bone, which is where most of the resistance comes from during the strut.  It's a rather unnatural position for the body to be in, especially when sprinting at high speeds, so of course it is going to feel foreign to the muscles that are used.  I won't know for sure how effective all of this preparation is until the first game, since the uniform adds its own challenges and restricts my body in certain ways.  Doing everything in gym shorts and t-shirts is a piece of cake at this point.

My cardio workouts have been unreal the past month or so, I'm now consistently enduring an entire hour on the elliptical on full resistance, burning an average of 1150 calories an hour with an average heart rate that has been dropping off by 1-2 BPM every single workout. That means my body is being put under far less stress each time for the same result in output, and as a result of that, I'm feeling stronger and stronger every single day.

As far as this season goes, there's still a ton of question marks in my book.  I still don't know any of this year's shows or the music that goes with them, I still don't know if there are any new stands tunes being added, I still don't know if there are any visiting bands from other universities, and I still don't know how many prospective rookies are auditioning this year.  It's all trivial information, but I do like to be thinking in the past, present, and in the future at the same time.  All things in good time though.

Now that I've given myself a nice afternoon break from the heat (and flies), it's time to get back to work.

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Days 47 - 49: I Want To Be An Architect

July 29, 2011

11 days - Blue Band Officer Week
18 days - Blue Band Marching Auditions/Band Camp Begins
36 days - Penn State vs. Indiana State
43 days - Penn State vs. Alabama
50 days - Penn State vs. Temple

The marching season looms only ten days from tomorrow.  The officer retreat, the week-long preparation, the rookie audition days, teaching fundamentals, band camp, the first game (or the "second everything") - it's all closer than I'm really perceiving right now.  It doesn't seem that close.  It's tough to think I'll be strutting across the yard lines in Beaver Stadium only five weeks from tomorrow.  A  long journey lies ahead before then though.

I'm not the greatest at putting what I'm feeling into words, but, I'm going to do my best.

I had the chance to do a considerable amount of pondering today about what I expect from this season, and it was all spurned by uncovering a notebook of notes that I scribbled down exactly one year ago when I was an IMPACT staff member at the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy at the University of Massachusetts - the last academy that the late George Parks would ever be at, after decades of doing dozens of camps each and every summer.  Those "scribblings" stirred something in me.  When my thinking got onto the tangent about what I expect from this season, I realized that having expectations about anything can be the equivalent of strapping yourself into a roller coaster - you're set on the single track, and wherever you go... you go, and whatever you experience... you experience.  You can't change the direction of the rails.  It's going to take the plunge once you reach the top of the lift whether you're ready to plunge or not.  I don't want to just buckle myself up, enjoy the ride and then get off, because I'll just want to get back on and do the same thing all over again (...aren't I right about that?), and even more importantly, where would I have left an impact along the way?  Before a coaster gets built, there's an architect.  They may never ride the coaster themselves, but they know ever nuance of it, and they take joy in seeing others experience the end result of their meticulous work.  The analogy applies to pretty much everything that involves providing something for others (composing music, engineering a building, organizing a charity event, etc.)

I didn't audition for this position for myself.  "What goes around, comes around" is a quote that I've lived most of my life by, and although the quote doesn't always come to fruition in life... I still believe that the good that you give to the world will eventually circle back in some way, shape, or form.  In the past three years of my life I've seen it happen first-hand time and time again.  How does all of this tie into this marching season?  I learned last year that my position carries a tremendous amount of influence, more so than I ever expected.  This wasn't anything remotely close to being the drum major of my high school marching band.  I realized that I'm a huge part of making the experience for all of the members of the band.  I'm more than just the person that flips on game-day - that's the easiest part of my position, and I knew that going into it.  That's how I give back to the Penn State fans and experience an adrenaline rush that only 16 other Penn State Drum Majors have experienced (referring to landing the flip - there have been 53 drum majors total).  I'm one of the people they're going to remember when they reflect on their Blue Band experiences years from now.  I want to make those memories as enjoyable as possible... and that is all indicative of my preparation, energy, enthusiasm, creativity, consistency, attention to detail, and most importantly, my ability to connect personally with the members of the band and do whatever I can to make Blue Band a great experience for them.  I wish I had the time of day to be great friends with all 320 members.  I barely even have the time of day to be great friends with myself, heh.  I do what I can though.

So, I've said all of this about expectations, blah, blah, giving back, blah, blah, make it a great experience, blah, be prepared, blah... but it's always easier to talk the talk than walk the walk (if you don't believe me, you must not be a fan of professional sports).  I realize that in order to take everything that I did last year to the next level, I need to come into this season at the level that I was at during the peak of last season, which without doubt was the Michigan game.  I refuse to be rusty on my command calling.  I refuse to be slacking on my mace spinning skills.  I refuse to not give my all to be motivational and raise morale during every stretch/warmup session.  I refuse to conduct every song at any less than my absolute best.  I refuse to go two minutes without smiling or complimenting something that somebody is doing.  I refuse to miss a flip this season.  I want to raise the bar for every future drum major of the Blue Band, and now is the time when that needs to happen... not during officer week, band camp, or during the season.  That's the time for improvement.

So, in short, what do I expect from this season?  I expect to be able to sit back in January and feel accomplished and energized for the 2012 season, with no regrets.  Do I expect to make mistakes?  Of course, that's human... it's like playing golf, the goal is to always shoot better than par.

So, there's my thoughts right now.  In other news, speaking of golf, I played golf for the second time in my life today with my cousin who just graduated from high school and is going to be playing golf at the NCAA DII level at Dominican College in NY.  Mismatch much?  I've been working part-time this summer at a park that has a driving range, so I've been taking every opportunity I get to get some swings in before/during my shifts... so I didn't think I was going to be too awful.  Aside from being pretty terrible at driving (didn't help on those Par 5s) and chip shots just off the green, I was pretty happy being beaten by 31 strokes on nine holes... considering he shot +1, which is just amazing to me.  I hit a 9-iron shot about six feet from the pin from from about 140 yards out, and bogeyed a par 3, so, all-in-all, I'll take my +32 and give myself a pat on the back... I've got the rest of my life to learn how to be a better golfer.  I'm going to play the Blue Course at PSU during syllabus week with a good friend of mine, so, I'll work on my shot up until then... maybe I'll go next week sometime again too.

Aside from that, I've just been in the gym, doing my best to survive without caffeine for the time being, learning cover songs, packing all my things up (again), putting the finishing touches on the drill I've been writing, making a long-term "to-do" list, and gearing up for the storm that's brewing that is the next 5 1/2 months of my life.

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.
Comment below if you so desire... just leave your name.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Days 40 - 46: Making Something Out Of Nothing

July 26, 2011

14 days - Blue Band Officer Week
21 days - Blue Band Marching Auditions/Band Camp Begins
39 days - Penn State vs. Indiana State
46 days - Penn State vs. Alabama
53 days - Penn State vs. Temple

If I said that this past week was good, I'd be lying.  Prior to starting this blog, I used to have a personal blog years ago that I would use as a means of motivating myself.  If I talked through things, put things into perspective, and created a plan for achieving where I wanted to go in life, I would hit "post" and feel like superman, until the next day when I needed to boost myself back up again.  Fortunately I have grown up since then and I can tackle problems without creating a schematic for solving them, and I don't plan on using this blog in that manner.  Needless to say, this past week has been tough, and at an unwanted time.  My preparation for the season is still on-schedule thankfully, it's just going to be a tougher road than I anticipated.  I've hit a pretty big wall physically.  My workouts haven't been great, I've been sleeping every spare moment I get, and I've felt pretty "frail" lately, which made me think that I might just be experiencing fatigue from overworking myself, so I took two extra days of rest in the past week where I would have had workouts instead.  It didn't help much, which then points towards the amount of caffeine I take in every day.  So I've been cutting back there, and getting energy from complex carbs, b-vitamins, and drinking a ton of water.  It helped somewhat. But, without going into detail, my right shoulder is almost certainly separated and I'll be having it looked at in November without a doubt, which means no more lifting for awhile.  Plus at the advice of a medical professional that I saw earlier today, I need to abandon all workout supplements indefinitely. [Start fitness-based rant, skip ahead to the next red text if you want] I've used pre-workout formulas (N.O. Explode, Jack3d, Gamma Labs, Cellucor C4, MusclePharm Assault, NaNo Vapor, etc.) steadily for about 28 months now, granted that all of that is mostly amino acids, caffeine (in the case of Jack3d - 1, 3-dimethylamylamine), creatine, vitamins, and plant-based derivatives, I have to cut back and see what effect it has on me.  I decided that I'm going to go on the "Master Cleanse" diet for the next two weeks until I leave for State College to get a full detox and see how my body feels from there, then ease into some of the supplements again.  It means kicking meat, dairy, and all "non-living" foods out of my diet, so I'll be putting down pretty much entirely fruits and vegetables for 10 days starting tomorrow... which should be pretty interesting.  I'm also going to start getting off of the elliptical and start doing more running for my cardio workouts in order to get myself ready to perform at a high level on the field.  Flexibility is also going to be key, so I'll be substituting my lifting with stretching in order to rest my shoulder but still improve in some way physically. [End fitness-based rant]

Here's a look into what I have to get accomplished in the next two to four weeks.   I have gotten pretty comfortable with the marching fundamentals again, so my confidence in that respect has gone up considerably.  I still spend a little time every day looking things over and remembering small details.  I've been working on mace spinning every day, and I'll be adding a blindfold soon in order to help myself build more self-awareness and confidence with it.  I'll be doing flips on grass twice per week from now until the start of the football season. I also have about 12-15 more songs to learn for the cover band I'm joining in a few weeks, and my first practice with the guys is going to be around the 14th or so.  I've gotten most of my packing and shopping for State College finished, minus clothing, but that's a small victory.  I finished teaching private music lessons for the summer, as well as the show I have been writing for my high school alma mater's marching band.  It's crazy to think in two weeks I'll be on my way to State College to start officer week... there's so much left to do before then.

This is a relatively short post, just because I feel the urgency to get something else done with my day.  I'll post in a few days.

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Days 33 - 39: Focused - and Making Strides

July 19, 2011

21 days - Blue Band Officer Week
28 days - Blue Band Marching Auditions/Band Camp Begins
46 days - Penn State vs. Indiana State
53 days - Penn State vs. Alabama
60 days - Penn State vs. Temple

I'm back from a great vacation in State College for Arts Fest.  Despite the ups and downs of the trip, it was great getting to see a handful of good friends, and get the opportunity to experience campus in the middle of summer... which in my opinion is when campus is at its best, despite all of the construction.  Brings back memories to when I toured campus for the first time on my 17th birthday (almost exactly four years ago).  Anyway, before I completely reminisce, it was great to give my body one last break from the rigors of workouts six days per week, and I feel absolutely refocused, refreshed, and starting to feel like I did this time last year, but this time around I know exactly what to expect.

My personal preparation has stepped up significantly.  My sprawling "to-do" list has whittled been down from over twenty check-boxes to only six.  Despite giving myself a "break" in the past week, I have completed charting the first of two songs for my former high school's marching band fall show.  After this paragraph I posted a video of the drill. More about that later.  I have my schedule for the fall entirely entered into Google calendar and synced to my iPhone, which is going to be a must given how busy I'm going to be.  I finally got scholarship thank-yous written that I haven't been able to get around to, wrote the "skeleton" of the new and improved "Blue Band Warmups 2.0" and I have started to crack down on my mace spinning techniques... something that I plan on giving a lot of attention to in the next few weeks.

I have the next three days off from work, which means that this is the prime opportunity to focus 100% on my marching season preparations.  I plan on having outdoor workouts because of the heat and humidity to start preparing myself to be performing at high levels in those elements.  Tomorrow I'll be charting drill on the beach in my community, doing some outdoor weight-bearing cardio, and getting some yardwork finished. I'll be doing flips on Thursday before another cardio workout, followed by a study session on Blue Band fundamentals, and Friday I'll decide that day what I'm going to work on based on what feels most urgent.  I plan on making a video about my outdoor workouts (e.g. what I do, why I do it, and the sequence of things) - look for it later this week on here.

I ran my first "personal session" yesterday, which involves, for a lack of better explanation, teaching myself to march as if I'm both the teacher and the student, making sure that I cover every possible detail and making sure that the process that I use to explain each maneuver is as clear and concise as possible.  That way, I can make sure that the prospective rookies learn the maneuvers well but I can also save time in the process.  I was wise and took notes immediately after a lot of last year's sessions, so I am able to remember what could have been done better last season and then do it better the first time around this year.  Little details are so important to being an excellent instructor, as opposed to an average one.  I'm dotting every "i" (no OSU reference implied), and crossing every "t" this year.

Another important detail about this season is the fact that I will be performing pregame for four straight weeks to start the season since the band is traveling to Temple for week #3.  I remember being absolutely wiped out after just the first week of the season, enough so that I went home during the Alabama weekend to unwind.  I don't have that luxury this year.  It's one straight month of being on top of things, in addition to the downtown cover band I'm joining, my academics, preparing to pass the rest of my piano proficiency in October, and still somehow keeping contact with my friends. 

I also wanted to pass on my congratulations to the Penn State majorettes and Feature Twirler Matt Freeman for capturing the national championship for collegiate halftime performance today at Notre Dame.  I believe this is the ninth time they have won, and they're in the finals for another national championship (dance twirl, I believe?) on Friday morning.  I got to see them in an exhibition Saturday at Arts Fest and they were unbelievable. So much talent.

Three weeks from this very moment I will be (aside from turning 21 years old) on a retreat in Port Matilda with this year's Penn State Blue Band officers, enjoying some needed bonding time and preparing to take on the 112th season.  I couldn't possibly be more excited - I hope you are as well.

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Days 25 - 32: All Systems GO

July 12, 2011

2 days - Arts Fest 2011
28 days - Blue Band Officer Week
35 days - Blue Band Marching Auditions/Band Camp Begins
53 days - Penn State vs. Indiana State
60 days - Penn State vs. Alabama
67 days - Penn State vs. Temple

The title says it all, and is the explanation for why there hasn't been a post on here in eight days.  I'm now pushing 100% towards getting ready for the season - my summer break is over.  Like I usually do in the first paragraph of each of my posts, if I I can sum up the week in one series of words it would look like this:  cardio, cardio, cardio, stretch, work, cardio, read fundamentals, revamp warmups, cardio, work, write drill, teach alto sax lessons, cardio, sleep?  So, here's a summation of what I'm doing now to prepare, improve, focus, and be on top of my game up until I return for officer week on August 9th.

If I haven't made it evident enough, I've cranked up the cardio workouts big-time.  And by big-time, I mean it.  The results are showing, and in comparison to where I was last summer in terms of preparation mentally, physically, and emotionally, I'm miles beyond where I was then.  Just click on this image below this paragraph... it's basically a summation of the past week's workouts in comparison to a similar image taken last summer from my old daily photo blog I used to have (funny that I called a 643-calorie workout "killer", oh what I didn't know then...).  I've started doing heat acclimation - putting myself out in the heat and forcing myself to push myself beyond where I'm comfortable, because when I put on that uniform, which is heavy enough, and then add a layer of Underarmor because the pants are so white they are essentially see-through, it's brutally hot.  I'm now drinking two gallons of water every day because my cardio workouts are so intense that I'm losing between 3-5 pounds of water in one hour of cardio.  I have the elliptical machine on full 20/20 resistance (I'm using the elliptical to limit the impact that running has on my shins), and it is a maximum all-out effort for a full 60 minutes.

For those fitness-inclined, some additional stats for the 1234-calorie 60-minute workout on 7/9/11:  Average heart rate was 154 beats-per-minute, average wattage output was 332 watts, and average mets was 15.23.

I have increased my stretch time to 20 minutes daily, now focusing on the muscles that are under the most stress during the strut, particularly the Psoas muscles (Iliopsoas muscles).  That helps me get a higher kick and allows me to have greater back bend, as well as eventually being able to land into a full split, as opposed to the hurdler's split.  I have also begun the "cutting" process, as a lot of bodybuilders coin it.  I have been bulking since last November in an attempt to put on mass throughout my entire body, but during the season I'll want the least amount of mass on me as possible, which explains the increase in cardio, and decrease in lifting.  I also need to rest my shoulder - I'm going to be getting it examined in November, probably with MRIs.  Rest takes the pain away, but it comes back after an upper-body workout, so it seems to be permanent damage.  I'm thinking separation or a tear at either the AC joint or the labrum. 

I'll be rewriting the band's calisthenics/warmup sequence this year and making it rhythm and music-based, something that Dr. Bundy suggested to me this past spring, in order to get the overall energy and morale of the band up, as well as prepare them better for marching and physical output than the current warmups do.  They don't promote much energy, and there are too many static stretches and not enough stretches that engage the body for activity similar to the ones they will be doing (e.g. marching, holding instruments, managing breathing).  I don't want to coin it "step aerobics", because it isn't... not in the least, but the sequence is all rhythm-based (counts of 4, 8, 16), and it'll be done along with a different song each day, upbeat, in the BPM range of 150-190.  This way the band will also be able to warm up their bodies during the colder weather later in the season (not a huge issue this year because the final two games of the season are away, as well as the conference championship being indoors).  The same old warm-up traditions will be upheld (e.g. arm circles, jumping jacks w/"one for victory", massage lines, etc.), just in a more flavorful and entertaining way.  I want to give the band something to look forward to coming to rehearsal for.  I think it will translate to better rehearsals, higher energy and morale, and a better Blue Band.  With all that said... I'm not a perfect person, and these warm-ups won't be perfect by any means, but hopefully it's a push in a better direction.  I always say that when I graduate, I want to leave my position, as well as the Blue Band in a better state than I left it.  (hint, hint: Improve. Every. Day).

Everything else is going to get more attention now... flips will be happening weekly or bi-weekly now (weather permitting) with video evaluation, conducting will be getting videotaped and evaluated, I'll be reading through the fundamentals booklet and running my own fundamentals sessions with myself, as well as quizzing myself on every detail that's in that booklet.  I'll be practicing mace spinning, salutes, and various techniques on a daily basis.

Arts Fest is going to be my last break, after that, my nose goes to the grindstone until January.

Here's to a great year.

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Days 20 - 24: Catching My Breath

July 4, 2011

10 days - Arts Fest 2011
36 days - Blue Band Officer Week
43 days - Blue Band Marching Auditions/Band Camp Begins
61 days - Penn State vs. Indiana State

The last five days have gone by so quickly, I didn't even realize it had been that long since I posted until my friend Brandon brought it up today while we were out ... at least I know somebody reads this!  I could sum up the past five days as:  work, gym, sleep, repeat.  I haven't really gotten too much done otherwise because after I finish a shift and come home it's either 11pm, or I'm equaling the exhaustion I feel on gamedays.

I've gotten in great workouts the past few days.  Unfortunately I've made the decision to stop doing much work on my chest and shoulders because whatever injury I have on my right shoulder has progressed to the point where it was painful to swim today, so, I'm going to see how I heal with a few weeks off from lifting.  It won't really affect my performance on the field or conducting, thankfully I don't have to deal with any weight resistance while I'm in uniform.  Anyway, I'm starting to get to the point where I start "turning it up", as I coined it last year.  The workouts will be longer and more punishing, more cardio-based as opposed to weightlifting, the emphasis on stretching will go up, and I'll be brushing off the dust on a familiar piece of fine literature called "Penn State Blue Band: Marching Fundamentals".  In just over five weeks I'll be back in State College getting ready for the season to start.  That's it, just five weeks from Tuesday.  My last five weeks of the summer, and my last five weeks of being 20.  It's now just under two months until I'll be standing in the back of the end zone waiting for the drum taps to start.  Unreal. 

I did some flips yesterday in the yard after the storms came though.  The land here in the Poconos is rather... uneven and if you removed the grass, there would probably be more rocks than dirt underneath, so I'm always a bit uneasy about practicing at home, considering the first 15 yards of my running start is gravel.  I figure if I can land them cleanly here, I can land them cleanly anywhere.  Anyway, here's my footage of two out of three that I did that day, the first one I flipped out of the frame... (If it's not here when you read the post, it's because I'm uploading it now and embedding it in an edit... just check back).

Friday I was lucky enough to have the day off from work, so Brandon and I went out to the Guitar Center in Scranton and I spent some time looking at a new 4x10" bass cabinet (which means four ten-inch speakers in the cabinet) to replace the 8x10" cabinet I sold, since it was far too massive to bring with me to PSU.  I ended up buying a used Ashdown Mag410T Deep for $250, although I was extremely close to picking up a new Ampeg SVT-410HLF, but that would have run me $630.  I'll be wired into a system at most of these bars/clubs downtown this fall, so I don't have to worry about providing all of the power, which I why I went with the amp which will get the job done.  It sounds great, I can't even tell it was used, so I got a steal considering what I paid for it.

I'd say aside from Friday, today was the best day out of the past five days.  I went down and spent the entire day laying in the sun with Brandon and his family on his dock along Lake Wallenpaupack.  I'm beyond burnt, but I couldn't be happier.  The sun finally was out on a day I'm off from work.  I'm completely drained and my attention span isn't all there as is evident in this post... blame the sun for that.  Tomorrow I'll be teaching an alto sax lesson, practicing some percussion and piano, and probably hitting the gym for a pretty brutal cardio session.  

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Days 17, 18, & 19: Thanks Cliff Lee... But I Had Fun Anyway.

June 29, 2011

15 days - Arts Fest 2011

41 days - Blue Band Officer Week
48 days - Blue Band Marching Auditions/Band Camp Begins
66 days - Penn State vs. Indiana State

I'm quite exhausted after the past three days, so this will probably be pretty short and to the point, since I'm nodding off and I still have lesson planning to do (and figure it's only 8:47pm).  Time is seriously flying.  I'm on day 19(!) of this blog already, and after only nine posts I have over 1,000 views from over seven countries.  It seems like a lot of people enjoyed Monday's post, which is what I was hoping for.  Anyway, the last three days have seriously been great, and now I'm about to settle into a steady week and a half of working, teaching, and gym time.  I tacked on the Arts Fest countdown since that's the most significant thing happening pretty much for the rest of this summer until I head back for good August 9th.

Tuesday was a pretty great day.  I taught my first private music lesson with a sophomore alto sax player.  I thought it went extremely well.  She's at a good level for me to teach her, there's a lot of basic musical things I can cover in the next seven lessons... phrasing, breathing, exaggerating dynamics, articulation.  It's also tough when the kid has a sax that hasn't been serviced in four years, and is using reeds that are way too soft.  I was a bit nervous at first, especially when the parent ended up sitting in for the entire lesson... but, I proved myself to be "satisfactory" for teaching her, so, "success", I guess.  Woodwind Methods coming through in the clutch.  After my lesson I went to my friend Brandon's place and we laid out on Lake Wallenpaupack for 3 1/2 hours and I got some decent color, despite how cloudy it was.  We're planning on doing that again Friday before we go to Scranton to pick up the bass cabinet I'm buying.

Wednesday I slept in pretty late and then I started the drive down to Doylestown, where I stayed overnight after the Red Sox/Phillies game.  I don't know what kind of logic Google Maps is following, but it was quite the adventurous drive down... only took a little over two hours with a stop though.  We got to the game a bit early and tailgated in the lot and made it to our seats just in time for the first pitch.  The game, well, at least I can say I saw the Red Sox play at game this year, even if they only managed two hits against an ace pitching like an ace.  Tonight's loss was even more painful.  I went with my best friends from back at PSU.  Posted a small photo album here... I think if you click on it it'll work, I don't even know myself.

Today was a pretty good day overall.  I woke up quite early in Doylestown (yes, 8:30am is quite early for me, at least the way my sleep schedule is oriented right now).  I didn't want to take the crazy way home so I took the Turnpike up to I-80, and it was routine from there.  A bit longer, but I was home before noon.  I did some things around the house and then hit the gym around 2:00.  I'm not sure if it's the new supplement that I'm on day 3 of, but I had by far the greatest workout I've had in an extremely long time - a 90-minute full-body workout... cardio, upper body in the gym, and then core in the 160-degree sauna.  I sat outside and worked through my lesson plan for tomorrow after that... got a little bit of sun too, not a bad deal. 

Tomorrow I'll be teaching another lesson in the afternoon, practicing percussion a little bit, and then working 4:00pm to 10:30pm, and then coming home to watch the Paterno/Coach K special, since I have to tape it.  Friday I plan on doing some flips out on the grass since it's supposed to be nice out...

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Days 15 & 16: Something Different

June 26, 2011

days - Blue Band Officer Week
51 days - Blue Band Marching Auditions/Band Camp Begins
69 days - Penn State vs. Indiana State

I said I was going to do something different today... I'll get to that in a moment.  Yesterday was pretty exhausting, so I didn't have much to post about.  Worked a pretty hectic shift from 9:30 to 4:10 at work (since my 4:00 doesn't understand the meaning of punctuality), then I rushed home and sold my Ampeg bass cabinet that I've been trying to get rid of for three years for a whole $600.  That will fund my Red Sox/Phillies trip this week, and the 4x10" bass cabinet that I'm buying for playing in downtown bars this fall...  I needed something much more portable.  I decided to watch Inception yesterday, because it's on our HBO on-demand, and I've been absolutely captivated by "Time" from the Inception soundtrack.  It's just an unbelievable work of music.  Hans Zimmer is a genius.  YouTube it, and listen to it when you have nothing else going on, maybe right before bed, during a sunset, sunrise, or whatever, trust me - you'll enjoy it.

Anyway, today I slept until noon (because I could), got 11 hours of sleep, then got in a fairly acceptable lift at the gym.  I worked upper body.  My shoulder was giving me some grief today but I worked through it and after a set or two it loosened up and didn't bother me at all.  Tomorrow I'll start taking a new supplement to help boost recovery time (if it shows up in the mail) - I'll write about it if it's anything worth raving about, until then I'll leave it unnamed.  I got home, did some yardwork, moved about a ton or two of rocks (not all at once, of course!), and then worked on what I'm about to post here below. 

The past two summers I've done about a dozen flips (meaning one dozen each summer) on grass between May and August.  That's all I do on grass outside of Beaver Stadium, believe it or not.  I have a trampoline that I work on "air sense" things on, but all of my training is done with running/jumping with ankle weights and my body vest to build up my leg strength (see: plyometrics), elliptical work for cardio, and stretching to prevent injury.  The flip is all about "air sense" and nailing the routine down.  So, when I do decide to do flips, I always videotape them, and then review the tape.  I need to get as much out of every practice session as possible, to lower the stress on my knees and joints.  So, here's a treat below, a broken-down "film session" on the flip.  I cut out the strut because the camera would be too far away to see the rest of everything clear enough.  Enjoy.

So there you have it.  Tomorrow I'll be teaching my first instrumental music lesson of my life, a sophomore alto sax player from the high school that I graduated from.  I guess you could say my career is starting... I'm a little nervous, but I have a lot of things planned out to fill the entire hour, and then some.  After that I'm going to my best bro from home's house to lay out on his dock and tan a bit and catch up on life.  I'll be packing for Philly and getting to sleep early - so I probably will not be posting until late Wednesday when I get home from the game.  Go Sox.   

That's all for now. 
Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Days 12, 13, 14: Untitled

June 24, 2011

46 days - Blue Band Officer Week
53 days - Blue Band Marching Auditions/Band Camp Begins
71 days - Penn State vs. Indiana State

The title of the post pretty much explains everything about the past three days - they weren't very vivid, memorable, or special in any way... just pretty average for the most part.  I'm in a bit of a "holding phase" right now, just passing time, getting by, and looking forward to everything that is coming up in the next 70 days or so (and beyond).  Of course my first thought is to keep improving and moving forward though... there is no such thing as a day off.  Every day I've been making progress on the ivy-like to-do list, which is slowly being trimmed down to something that looks and feels manageable.  

I last posted on Tuesday... well, Wednesday ended up being a waste of a day, which I absolutely hate, but, it happens.  It taught me that you can't anticipate anything.  I was resting my shoulder still, so I didn't go to the gym, I just practiced bass most of the day since I hadn't played since the weekend.  I had a 5:00 - 9:30 shift at work, and it absolutely poured from 3:00 on, so I figured I'd get called off and I'd spend the rest of the night charting drill.  Wrong.  I drove 20 miles through a monsoon, did nothing but drive a golf ball collector (ATV + ball collector on front) through the mud at work for four hours because business was at a standstill. It was pretty late after I got settled at home since I had to shower off, get myself organized because my room was a total mess (I hadn't even unpacked from the weekend trip yet), and get to sleep since I was exhausted.

I got a ton done on Thursday - quite possibly the most productive day in June so far.  I woke up early in the morning, a definite plus for me since I'm absolutely not a morning person (unless it's a Penn State Football gameday, that's what I live for). My parents left for a one-night trip to Mt. Airy (they go there all the time), so I had the house to myself, which I normally love, but aside from being able to blast music at late hours, it's just not what it used to be. It's probably because I live by myself out at Penn State; the exhilarating freedom of the "no parents" thing has finally worn itself off.  My two best friends from home were away... so I left the house at 1:30 in the afternoon and went to my community's cafe at our clubhouse.  It was a perfect quiet spot with wifi.  I charted seven sets of drill for the high school marching band show I'm writing which I'm quite happy with.

I researched hundreds of different workout supplements and finally settled on one that I'm going to start late next week when it arrives, rather than late July, because I want to take most of August to let my body recuperate completely before marching season starts, and use July to do my most intense training.  I'll be cycling off of preworkout formulas, since I use them before pregame on gamedays to give me an extra burst of energy on the field.  I want to make sure that my body de-acclimates to the caffeine and all of the other ingredients that boost muscle response, focus, and energy.  I'll be drinking two gallons of water each day, and running about two miles per day, finishing with 50-yard sprints.  For those wondering, I reserve 1 N.O. Explode NT Stick Pack for each pregame, and I don't use them for anything else, I'll use an entirely different supplement for my actual workouts.  Anyway, after that I decided that I would test my shoulder and see what I could withstand.  I surprisingly got in an incredible upper body workout.  I got home late in the evening, had a huge dinner and then practiced bass for the rest of the night - the rest of the night being until 2:30 in the morning. 

I'm affected by the weather so much.  Cloudy/rainy days are so rough on me; I just can't find much energy.  I'm convinced that I'm entirely made out of microscopic solar panels.  Anyway, I woke up late this morning and did some cleaning before I got myself together despite the cloudy/rainy weather and did a body-weight workout at the community park.  I added 60 pounds of extra weight (40 vest, 10 each ankle), and ran about half a mile.  I then did jump squats onto a rock about two feet high, three sets of seven reps.  I then did standing leg kicks with just the ankle weights (very similar to what I do for the strut on the field), adding more back bend to each kick until I can't transfer between legs without losing my balance.  I then went over to the fitness center and did 10 minutes of elliptical work, 15 minutes of stretching, and then some oblique/core work.  I dropped by my friend's place to pick up my Ampeg bass cabinet speaker, since we used to have band practices in his basement.  Thankfully I'll be selling it tomorrow for $600 so I can downsize to a cabinet half the size to take with me when I'm playing shows this fall.  

It's getting late, so I'm cutting myself a bit short... I'm going to need sleep if I'm going to get through dealing with decrepit batting cages for almost seven hours tomorrow.  

I'm going to have a rather interesting post over the weekend.  Film session time.  You'll see.

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 11: Thoughts On Fitness, and Looking Ahead

June 21, 2011

49 days - Blue Band Officer Week
56 days - Blue Band Marching Auditions/Band Camp Begins
74 days - Penn State vs. Indiana State

Back to the ol' grind.  That weekend trip to State College feels like it happened weeks ago, but a dragging five-hour shift at a mindless job will do that.  So, where is my mind when I'm at work?  Thinking.  Always thinking.  Always working out other things in my life, far outside the bounds of my job.  Sometimes I'll be running Blue Band fundamentals sessions in my head as I endlessly throw hundreds upon hundreds of baseballs from the batting cage field back to the machines.  Some days I'll be thinking up new exercise maneuvers to try when I get out of work and hit the gym; some days I'll be giving myself a mental test in music theory; some days I'll be thinking about where I stand on certain issues.  It certainly makes the day go by quicker.  

Today I got stuck on a really solid point of  thought, and I ran with it.  As I stood there watching a, with all due respect, obese girl struggle to swing a baseball bat at pitches coming at her at no more than 25 miles-per-hour, I just thought to myself - why?  Why are so many people in our country so unmotivated to take care of themselves?  To me, there is no greater feeling than being fit.  I came up with this quote that just makes perfect sense: "Fitness is not a choice, it's a lifestyle."  I want to put that on a banner and post it across the doors of every single gym in the world.  That one sentence can explain almost everything about our country.  Of course this is all my personal opinion, and by no means a say-all-end-all, but I think it makes a whole lot of sense.  People don't want to embrace the lifestyle.  It's not about going to the gym and doing 20 minutes of moderate cardio every day like I see so many people do, especially when I'm at Penn State.  Will you be better off?  Of course. That's simply not enough though; that is not going to make anyone fit, plain and simple.  Bad habits are the only habits for so many people, mostly on the topic of diet, and when I see people so attached to these habits and giving no consideration to the effect it will have on them, I feel a bit of sadness.  Things like soda/carbonated beverages, chocolate, sugary drinks, and huge portions are just the tip of the iceberg; eating simple carbohydrates (white bread, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) without doing anything to burn them off is just another example.  Another pet peeve of mine is when I see people "rewarding", or having a "cheat day", just because they worked out beforehand.  Cutting those things out of my life was the best change I've ever made, and I feel better every single day, and over the past year or so I've developed a distaste for all of those "bad habit foods". Now, eating healthily is my first instinct when I go to the kitchen.  That's why I'm so passionate about fitness - I wish that everyone could experience the feeling of having a seemingly endless reserve of energy, being healthy, happy, and most importantly, satisfied and content with their appearance.  I love being able to be source of encouragement, information, and inspiration for people who are stepping up to the plate to change their lifestyle and make a better future for themselves. 

After work I hit the gym for a bit.  I ran a half-mile with the 10lb ankle weights again, did a bit of incline walking too.  I decided to see how my shoulder was doing and did two sets of dumbbell bicep curls at 45lbs, and then three drop sets of skullcrushers for triceps.  It's still a little painful, but it has definitely improved.  I followed that up with some ab work.   The sauna was 170 degrees today, so I did most of my ab work in there since the heat made things much more difficult. I chose a few things from the P90X ab workout, and then added a few exercises that I devised.

After I post this I'll be doing some drill charting for a bit and de-stressing after a long day.  Tomorrow I'll be finding something to do during the day since the weather isn't supposed to be great, and then working from 5:00 to 9:30 given that I don't called off. 

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Days 7, 8, 9, and 10: From Home, to Home, and Back.

June 20, 2011

50 days - Blue Band Officer Week
57 days - Blue Band Marching Auditions/Band Camp Begins
75 days - Penn State vs. Indiana State

The past four days have been a whirlwind, or some kind of dream.  I feel so refreshed and in an entirely different mood than I was four days ago sitting at home fuming about my job, my place in life, and the "waiting game" that is the summer of 2011.  A trip to State College will do that.  Friday I worked a six hour morning shift at work, and thanks to a nice storm system set up over the area, business was slow, which meant I didn't have to do much of anything.  I would have posted that night but I ended up going to my cousin's graduation party, and then passed out early after I got home because Saturday was a marathon of a day.

Saturday I woke up at 7am to go see my younger cousin (the only cousin I have on my mom's side of the family) graduate from Delaware Valley HS in Matamoras, PA... Man, that makes me feel really old now.  He's going to Dominican College this fall to play NCAA Division II golf.  The ceremony itself was completely opposite of what my high school graduation was like - very informal, much quicker, less decorated, less structured.  It made me appreciate my school much more.  The graduates were facing with their backs to the crowd, and when they went to get their diploma, they walked further away from the grandstand, which makes absolutely no sense.  They stressed how graduation was a "family affair", yet photo opportunities for family members were at a minimum.

Well, after I left there, I got home, packed up for the gym and got in a rather lackluster workout, but it was something.  I focused on hitting biceps and abs pretty hard in as few sets as possible.  I'm still dealing with a nagging shoulder injury that I got back in late April doing 365lb barbell shrugs.  I'm thinking it's tendonitis that I keep aggravating every time I do chest flys or shoulder raises, so I'm deciding to take some time off to see if it heals, and focus on leg strength, cardio, and core instead.  It'll time perfectly for when I can afford to start my new supplement stack in late July, then I'll hit the weights hard for a few weeks and attempt to build up some more before the marching season begins.

I left the gym, packed up all of my things in an hour, and then hit the road for State College and made it in under three hours with two stops, great timing.  I pretty much immediately jetted off to downtown to walk around and enjoy being in State College since the weather was so nice.  I went to Kiwi to catch up with a few friends, and then I stopped by Beaver Terrace for a little while too.  I spent the rest of the night jamming through various songs with Pat for the band this fall until 2:30 in the morning. We worked through what vocal harmonies we'll be using, and figured out some songs I could take the lead on as well.  I'm particularly excited about Jumper by Third Eye Blind.

Sunday I woke up late after sleeping in, almost until noon.  We went back downtown for breakfast, and I picked up a Father's Day gift and a decal to put on my back windshield opposite of the Red Sox one that I ordered (I'll post a picture this week).  Pat and I played through some more songs that afternoon and then went to the Spikes game later that evening with a few other friends. I spent the night watching TV and relaxing.

Today is going to go down as one of the most memorable days of my life.  I constantly put myself through a reality check that I was actually on the same stage as coaching legends Joe Paterno and Mike Krzyzewski, as well as Matt Millen, Michael Robinson, Jay Bilas, and Jay Williams, all legendary athletes.  Above picture related:  I'm sitting in the top row in the bright blue shirt.  Also, photo credit goes to Mark Selders/Replay Photos.  Always good to give credit where credit is due.  I'll eventually be buying the high-res file and framing it... Anyway, ESPN really went all-out for this program, and it was an incredible experience to be a part of it.  All of the "who's who" at Penn State were all sitting right in front of me:  Sue Paterno, Tim Curley, Coach Chambers, Coquese Washington, Graham Spanier, Jay Paterno.  The production value of the special was really impressive.  It's going to air on ESPN on June 30th at 8pm - I've got my calendar marked.  I got to see so many friends today; I feel rejuvenated because of it. Just talking about this fall has got me so hyped up about marching season and what gamedays are going to be like this season.  I was pretty excited when the Paternoville guys said they plan on making a banner for me in Beaver Stadium this year.  I feel like a little kid who just went to Disneyworld, it just doesn't seem real.

The three-hour, twenty-minute drive home was pretty uneventful aside from trying to find a Sheetz in Dunmore to get a gas discount on the way home, and as it turns out I didn't even have the Weis card on me to swipe anyway, so that was a waste of a half-hour.  The weather was mostly nice and the Red Sox game was on the radio, so I didn't mind the extra driving.  

Tonight I'll be settling back in and getting ready to work from 12:00 to 5:00 tomorrow, and then I'll be taking the first charts from paper and putting them onto the drill designing software, and then possibly doing a flip or two so I can break down some video and see what needs fixing. 

That's all for now.
Thanks for reading!
Comments welcome (below).