I'm feeling very nostalgic this week. It's been 10 years since I moved into my dorm at the University of Illinois and 10 years since my first season in the Marching Illini. I can't help but feel grateful for the amazing experiences I had and people I met through my time in the Marching Illini.
It's been 10 years since I walked in to my dorm and found my roommate Rachel's dad building furniture in the hallway. Ten years since I peeked into our cigar box of a dorm room and found Rachel's mom asking her , "which drawer do you want your dance clothes in?" I remember looking at my parents with a hint of concern: she's a dancer? Lord help me. (LOVE YOU, RACH!)
It's been 10 years since I walked into the Harding Band Building (where it smells like piss) for my first MI band camp. My section leader John greeted me by name for the memorization test. I thought it was really nice that he had taken the time to memorize the names of all the freshmen before camp started. I remember seeing our section shirt for the first time and realizing I had found my people. The section shirt that year was the iconic image from Animal House of John Belushi sporting a "COLLEGE" shirt and chugging a bottle of whiskey, except the whiskey was replaced with trumpet. People who loved marching band AND Animal House?! I had found my people!
It's been 10 years since I was among 12 people piled into a compact car to get to dinner. Ten years since I first sang the Alma Mater at the end of dinner. This, of course, lends itself to silly jokes at every bando wedding we attend (and there have been a lot). It goes something like this:
Non-bandos: Kiiiiiiissss! Kiiiiiss!
Bandos: *humming the first chord of the Alma Mater* Hahaha, oh, wait, this isn't band! Kiiiiiiiiss! Kiiiiisssss!
It's been 10 years since I met my boyfriend. We didn't start dating till months later, but he was there from the beginning. During our first conversation, he told me that his brother and I share a hometown. How weird is that?
It's been 10 years since my first note of Revised Entrance Number 3. Ten years since my first Three-In-One. Any Marching Illini Fossil will tell you that both experiences are unforgettable. The first time you play Revised with the full band in rehearsal is magical, but it doesn't even compare to the first time you play it at the first home game for the fans.
It's been 10 years since I got hopelessly lost on the walk back to my dorm my first night, stopping to discreetly pull out my map under the street lights to try and figure out where I was and how to get home. It's been 10 years since I followed Stacey and Emily home the second night to avoid a repeat of the first night. It's been 10 years since Stacey and I became friends. We're entering our 8th year of living together, and none of that would be possible if I hadn't stalked her on the way home from band camp.
It's been 10 years since I met my GL Kyle on the "Whoopasphalt" during freshman basics. Having met his cousin that summer at church camp, she told me to look for "the one with the hair". She was not wrong. Kyle became one of my dearest friends in college. We even worked together for a couple of very sassy years.
It's been 10 years since Elder Trumpettes Emily, Lisa, Cheryl, and Katie all recruited me for Sigma Alpha Iota, telling me it was a group of women who liked music (and food!). I skeptically attended the first informational meeting. Ten years later, I've held numerous positions throughout my collegiate and alumnae chapters, as well as volunteering as a Province Officer for three years. Ten years ago, I never would have guessed SAI would be such an important part of my life.
I loved my college experience, and such a large part of that was because of the Marching Illini. Because of that organization, I found my friends, my chosen family, amazing mentors, and the love of my life. I owe so much to those people who helped shape who I am as an adult.
I only hope the current members of the Marching Illini enjoy their experience at least half as much as I did. Umgawa!