marching band

2005 - A Lesson Of Humility by Sean Sumwalt

Anyone who knew me in high school band knew me as the jerk.

A little backstory – As a saxophone player in high school, I was good. Not *great,* but alright. For some reason, difficult parts just came naturally to me. When others (namely woodwinds) would have difficulties with their parts in class I would call them out.

Typical rehearsal day – woodwinds gaff and squeak during rehearsal. Me – Forceful ‘SIGH.’ Woodwinds – continue botched fingerings. Me – “Guys, come on, seriously? Go home and practice!! This went on throughout my high school years. I was brutal! I wanted the band to be better because I knew they could be. I wanted the players to be the best version of themselves.

The earliest example of this was when I was a sophomore, playing tenor saxophone. At the time the alto saxophone players were having trouble with some of their parts. (Still remember the piece, Skyscapes!) So, I challenged the section leader, which never officially took place, and kind of fell into the spot. I was a hard @$$ from then on.

2005 was my first summer as section leader for the marching band. With the hard@$$ery in full swing I was making enemies, mostly of woodwinds, far and wide. 

Halfway through the summer, during one of our saxophone rehearsals, a great friend of mine playing 2ndalto, turns to me and says, “I’m thinking about quitting. This isn’t fun anymore, because of you.” 

This realization rocked my world.

Someone that I thought highly of was going to stop doing something even though none of my jabs were directed at him, because of my constant barbs. It was a turning point for me. It was in that moment that I learned true humility. It wasn’t about me. Granted it took me a few years to really settle into this new way of being. My feelings were the same, I still wanted everyone to be a better version of themselves and I was still a loudmouth, but the approach had changed. I cared. I lead with passion.

That summer we performed Andrew Boysen Jr.’s beautiful piece Grant Them Eternal Rest in remembrance of the tragic events on Sep 11th 2001. I still have a soft spot for this production due to the profound effect the lessons had on me that summer. It was about something bigger than us. I learned through time to be a better leader, a better friend, and a better person. I learned to lead by example, with passion and determination, but above all to be humble.

Thanks for reading. Below is the show if you are interested in watching!

Also, feel free to check out my testimonials at the top of my new music directory! If you click the quotes it links to those who contributed!