Some closing thoughts on the band

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.

One thought on “Some closing thoughts on the band

  1. Oh ye of little faith.

    I had a similar experience with PUB, several times over, but came to a different conclusion than you. My freshman year, no doubt slightly rose-tinted, was the most fun for me in band. Not because of my classmates in particular (very few stuck with it), partially because it gave me a sense of belonging in an otherwise atomized experience as you noted, but most of all because of the leaders at the time. Ken Lee, Chris Hyson, and Pete Photos, plus our DMs and even non-officer section leaders like Erez Lirov, were people I looked up to for a lot of reasons, not just their skill with double entendre or drums.

    As I got older, took time off, and came back (but definitely didn’t grow up), the leadership changed, and the character of the band changed too. What had started out as slightly mean-spirited obnoxiousness became a pure inanity, pursuing randomness for its own sake. I enjoyed it less (though I’m sure others enjoyed it more) and stopped being part of it.

    When I came back I had an entirely different set of reasons for largely avoiding Band and Colonial, the two institutions that were the most rewarding parts of my first undergraduate experience. But some of the logic was the same: the people who were there then would not be there now, and the institution itself wasn’t strong enough to maintain a constant character across that time. What had been fun for me then wasn’t guaranteed to be fun now, and so my time would be better spent searching for or creating some other social outlet.

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