Princeton is ending pretty well for me. Its hard to believe, though, that any positive sense I have of Princeton as a whole is dwarfed by my affect towards the band. With respect to that particular institution, it’s been a frustrating denouement, mostly because most of the people with whom I joined – the once illustrious class of ’09 – have pretty much abandoned the group. For a while, I too was stuck on the sense that the band was in decline. It’s an easy claim to make: there’s something nice – in a sick sense – about believing that once you leave, everything falls apart.
That claim is – I think I can say with a fair deal of confidence – simply false. On any sort of quasi-measurable criterion, the band is in better shape than when I joined. We drink, dance, sing, and play more than my freshman year. We sound better than we ever have, we go to more gigs, and athletics, the student body, and the administration – three rather significant bodies – actually seem to respect and like us. The class of 2012 is huge, and the officers – for all their foibles – seem to more or less ‘get it.’
The heart and spirit of the band, which make it a healthy or unhealthy, dysfunctional or extremely dysfunctional organization, are probably not so measurable. And I think most of my classmates would claim that in this respect the group has changed in some nebulous, intangible way. After all, the band is an objectively inane and pointless organization, but at one time or another, each of its members has truly been in love with it. So when a classmate of mine told me, “It’s not my band anymore,” maybe he was right – even though we still play for bad sports teams, still sing the same dirty songs, and wear the same stupid uniforms.
I suppose, by my classmates criterion, it’s not mine either. My guess is that, whatever the say, the reason so many ‘09s dislike the band these days is that the organization is simply comprised of different people (kind of inevitable in a group with guaranteed four [or five?] year turnover.) There are still crazy and fun people in band, but they aren’t crazy or fun in the same way.
If what matters about the band is just its present members, I have no reason not to also be disaffected. Despite a constant stream of social events and my nearly perfect gig attendance, I would not say that I have many close friends in band these days. When I think about it, though, I never much did. My freshman year, I always felt left out as my classmates were taken to Charter formals, dated one another, and otherwise integrated into the band clique. And yet, while that sounds kind of sad when I put it in writing, it didn’t stop me from loving the band.
Ultimately, the band really is more than just its members. As an anarchist distrustful of institutions, I cringe at what I just wrote. But it’s true. The band is much more than just a bunch of cool people who enjoy each others’ company. I think what I loved about the band so much my freshman year is that I felt like I was part of something more significant than just a random assortment of college students. By its very nature, college is a time of drifting and of feeling atomized, and the band is for me an anchor, something I can come back to – maybe just come back to scream my head off or act stupid. In its own weird way, though, the band gives us stability, community, and – dare I say – meaning.
I do, as Theo says, have a somewhat unnatural and probably unhealthy love for the band. I love it even when new officers drive me nuts or seniors with whom I spent three-and-a-half years abandon me and the rest of us. And I will love it five years from now, when not a single current member barring Dan Korn is still an undergraduate. I confess that I cannot quite understand why everyone else doesn’t feel the same.