It's amazing how often drum corps parallels real life. Over the past few weeks, I've become one of the most trusted employees at work. One manager trusts me with his personal and professional problems, while another trusts me to do all sorts of paperwork, and the owner, the head honcho, trusts me with the restaurant's recipes. I've become their "go-to" person -- if anything needs to get done, they send it my way. I guess hard work and dedication really can get you somewhere.
That somewhere, however, has a very real ceiling. Yesterday, after a string of unhappy customers, I approached my manager to talk about the situation. I informed him of what was happening out on the floor, and offered a suggestion as to a solution. His response? "Don't tell me how to run my restaurant." After nearly biting a hole in my tongue, I merely apologized for the inconvenience and returned to my duties. Even though I was absolutely fuming inside, I knew that I had done the right thing. No matter what or how I think, I'm not the one in charge of the restaurant. Perhaps my manager's response was a little on the harsh side, but the message is still true. My job is to do everything in my power to make sure that our customers have an enjoyable experience. Once I have exhausted my abilities, it becomes someone else's responsibility. Every organization has a "chain of command" of some sort. Each person has his or her own responsibilities, and has to answer to one or more people. It's the only way that anything can be run in an efficient manner. After all, too many cooks spoil the broth. The same philosophy holds true in the drum corps world. As a member, I have a very clearly defined set of roles and responsibilities. Even though years of experience may grant me additional familiarity and perhaps additional privileges, I must still remain within these boundaries, or risk suffering the consequences. For example: Junior drill instructors. These are the kids who know everyone else's dot but their own. They're the ones that get on other people about their music, their marching, and anything else that they can think of. Some even make suggestions to staff about ways to improve the music or drill. Do not be one of these people. To begin with, nobody likes a know-it-all, especially when this person is only a "thinks-he-knows-it-all." There will be resentment amongst the membership, as well as annoyance by the staff. Think about it: Do you like it when someone tells you how to do your own job? While I may disagree with a musical phrase, a drill move, or even the way that rehearsal is being run, it is not my position to tell someone how to change it. A successful drum corps depends on a chain of command. It is a member's responsibility to know his music (or work) and drill, and to do everything in his power to perform both flawlessly. From a performance standpoint, everything else is someone else's responsibility. A design team is hired to create a show, and an instructional staff is hired to teach the show to us. Just as it is not the instructional staff's responsibility to match tone with one another, it is not the members responsibility to instruct one another on how to do so. Of course, there is a fine line between a junior drill instructor and a friend. The tricky part comes when both stem from good intentions. Confused about where you stand? A good rule of thumb: When in doubt, don't let it out. Talk to your section leader about it, and get their opinion first. They are there to help, after all. Yesterday at work, I overstepped my boundaries. Although I had good intentions, I tried to act in a way that was "junior management," so to speak. Once I returned to my post and resumed my duties, the restaurant ran as smoothly as ever. As I found out, it seems that everything is much more efficient (and peaceful) when everyone focuses and performs his own responsibilities, rather than focus on the faults of others. This holds true not only in the real world, but in the drum corps world as well. In the end, it's all about recognizing when and how I can make a difference while remaining within my realm of abilities. Plus people like you more if you aren't bossing them around all summer. Lanah Kopplin is a third-year euphonium player in the Phantom Regiment, and previously spent a year with the Pioneer. Lanah recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin (she's a Milwaukee native) with a political science degree, and will age out in 2005. Past columns by Lanah Kopplin: A Drum corps mad lib Participating with the music Time only moves in one direction One hundred ten percent: Report from a Phantom Regiment camp Life on the sidelines More apprehension than excitement Time capsules On body image Being an ambasssador Perspective changes everything Keep on trying What a weekend! More than a souvenir Class and competition Learning and understanding the past The College degree Like spring training Finding a drum corps home The Last audition Turkey-induced tryptophan Rhapsody in the chat room Amazing grace Are you ready? Get out there and vote Reflections from Whitewater Methodical hard work and passion Here's to the behind-the-scenes people Drum corps friendships A new column by the Phantom Regiment's Lanah Kopplin