What Have You Been Doing This Summer? Part 1: Teaching

One of the biggest parts of my summer so far has been teaching color guard. Now, band has been a huge part of my life since the summer before my sophomore year of high school. I joined the marching band, I learned what the pep band was and joined, and I started being more active in playing in ensembles outside of the school. Yes, I was a huge band geek in high school – I had barely a handful of friends that weren’t in the band – and I loved it. I loved it so much, I couldn’t imagine stopping after high school. So I paid upwards of $3,500 to continue doing it for a couple more months in a professional-level group. The experience was great, I learned so much about marching and color guard and people and myself and the way the world seems to unfortunately work.

This professional level band has an expiration date for everyone, though, and my age-out year is 2017. I knew that I would have to take a summer off, and given some of the circumstances and opportunities I was given this year, it turns out that this year was that year.

But that didn’t stop me from hoping to become a better performer. I looked in to DCA (all-age) corps in my area-ish, and I was contacting my high school band director about teaching the current group. My fingers were tightly crossed that at least one of them would work out, but they didn’t have to be crossed for long. I had to decide early on that Minnesota Brass (the DCA corps) wouldn’t work out – too much travel time and gas money. But in April, my high school band director contacted me saying that yes, they’d love to have me on the color guard staff. I danced around the studio time office and gleefully told my coworkers that I would get to teach one of the best color guards in Minnesota. I’d get a chance to give back to the group that gave me so much.

I went in to the first rehearsal in the spring with that in mind. Don’t try to be their friend, Erika, just make them better. You’ve got a lot to prove, and they want to win. Help them get there. Very quickly in to the summer, that thought started to diminish. I became more interested in just making them better as spinners, better as performers, and hopefully, better people. I try to make learning and twirling and the whole band package seem to be the best thing they can do. I want them to bond together as a group, and not by having a common enemy. Most importantly, I want them to take the field this fall and have the performance of their lives; not for me, not just for their seniors, and not to win. I want them to take the field, perform their butts off, and have the time of their lives. I hope that I can be on the other side of the fence, awaiting them to come off the field and have our little post-show meeting and they can’t stop smiling, or they’re crying from the adrenaline rush and the pure joy that is doing a killer show. I want them to feel the feelings that I can’t get enough of.

It’s already been great experience, though. The best summer job I could have gotten by far, I mean, if you have to apply sunscreen daily, it’s hard to complain. It helps that they’re already all great kids that seem to be discovering a similar love for color guard that I have, and they want to go as far as they can in the activity, too. I’m able to write work that I never would have been able to spin in high school, but love to spin in professional groups now.

In the end, it ended up working out with Minnesota Brass. The caption head contacted me at the beginning of July about filling a hole for the last month of the season, and I accepted. This has helped me reignite my love for the activity and get more experience to make me a better teacher. I’m still crazy young to be a teacher – I barely have more experience than some of these high school kids – but I think really the only things that separate us is our ability to break things down, which comes with age.

I feel so incredibly lucky that I’ve gotten to get better at the activity I love, and I’ve been able to help other people get better at it, too. It’s so different and exhillarating to be on the other side of the podium – in the box – but it’s been a wild ride. I’ve got three rehearsals left with the Grand Rapids color guard, and after that, the next time I see them, it’ll be a competition day. The craziness has begun.


Author: erikabunk

Raised in Northern Minnesota. BA in Radio/Business & Entrepreneurship. Painfully average marathoner. Spends too much time on Spotify, in search of the best record store in the world, and dreams of returning to Reykjavík.

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