Twenty one years ago (plus a week or two from the time of this writing) I did not try out for the Penn State Blue Band. Or rather, I guess I sort of did… I had every intention of doing so. Just prior to the beginning of my Freshman year, I should have received or otherwise discovered the information on when and where the tryouts would be. For whatever reason, I did not obtain said notice until a couple days into the “training” camp. Having missed the first two days of drills put me at a virtually impossible to overcome disadvantage. I could not complete the try-outs and therefor did not make the cut for my Freshman year. It is almost directly because of this that I am a full time magician today.
Rewind a bit. Attending high school in State College, PA is pretty analogous to attending a light version of Penn State main campus. The school curricula does a good job–statistically better than most–preparing its students for university study, especially if that University is Penn State. As the State College School District shares the same town, it’s not much of a surprise that State High is a sort of Mini-Me of PSU.
While at State High, I was a band geek. I played trumpet quite seriously in the jazz band, orchestra, symphonic band, and marching band, even the occasional pit orchestra for a high school or community theatre musicals. It was with the jazz band in my freshman year that I first journeyed to Europe to play in the North Sea and Montreaux Jazz Festivals, which fertilized my since insatiable craving for international travel.
Marching band, though, gave me an increased appreciation for organization and leadership. Going into my senior year, I ended up the elected band president which meant (to me, anyway) coordinating and inspiring as many people as possible to be as great as possible while working closely with the drum major and our band leader/teacher, Mr. Victor.
I loved organizing functions and rallying people, catalyzing friendships and building morale. Encouraging people to be the best they could be, to always try harder and find the passion in whatever it is they’re doing was and still is the number one driving factor in all I do. With this attitude and appreciation for others’ success, I’ve found an endless supply of inspiration from people, and almost never really worry about competition. I imagined that these experiences of leadership and inspiration would carry on if I joined the Blue Band, and they may well have done. Instead, having missed the full period of tryouts, I resorted to a different route, entirely.
The same week that I did not complete the try-outs, I did draw up a crude flyer on my parents’ computer, seeking fellow PSU students who were in some fashion interested in magic. My since long-time friend and colleague, Brian Foshee, had similar thoughts and was in the process of coincidentally putting up his own flier when he found mine. He contacted me, and we coordinated to attract and assemble what would become the first official university magicians’ club at Penn State.
Suffice it to say for now, we built this new organization upon comradery and mutual respect. Every one of its initial members sought to better each other, to improve the art form by creating a sort of four year magic boot camp. This group, the Penn State Performing Magicians, became my long-running family through and beyond university days. We worked together, partied together, studied together, traveled together, created together. Nearly all of the founding members went on to perform full time, at least for a while. I’ll tell stories of this formative group of close friends, soon. But right now, in the next room, I can hear the upper brass proudly blaring “Hail to the Lion.” I’ve never been all that into football, but maybe I’ll go catch the game. If for no other reason than fond memories of music I happily never played.