Before I leave Champaign, I wanted to leave you with this thought. I stopped by the MI rehearsal last night in Memorial Stadium. Revised #3 still kicks ass, and hearing it from the front sideline is still the best way to do it.
On the way out, I was walking with the drum majors, and we were talking about the band. One of them asked me how long it had been since I was back and what I thought. I told her it was very different but very much the same. I don‘t think that was the response she was expecting, so I explained that it was the difference between tradition and evolution. Tradition is important. It establishes your identity and gives you a foundation to return to over the years. But just because you’ve done something forever doesn’t mean it’s ideal. If that were the case, women would still not be allowed to vote in this country. The times changed and so do we. The things you keep and hold on to are special and meant to be embraced. Those are the things you celebrate and use to establish your identity.
I told her that the band from our day had lots of great traditions that are gone, but that doesn’t mean ours are better our worse than their traditions now. Those things are important to me and will forever be a part of what I identify with as a member of the Marching Illini. There are things she has experienced and grown to love in the band that I did not nor ever will. Neither one of us has a better experience, just different. There are more than enough things we both have shared that will forever define us as Illini that nobody can ever take away from us.
That doesn’t change the fact that when I was asking members about things I thought would last forever and they looked at me like I was speaking in a foreign language made me feel really old and out of place. That made me sad. I think it’s important for the new generation of MI to know our stories, where we came from, and what made us unique as an organization. We, in a sense, made them as members possible. It’s just as important for us as fossils to recognize and embrace their traditions. They are carrying our torch, and we should trust that they will hand it off with the same class and dignity we did.
All that being said, the band rehearses better than I’ve seen in a long time. The attitude is laid back but strong. Barry Houser is nailing it over there. Yes, things are different, but no more than what people from the 70s and 80s felt when they saw us. We all were, are, and will continue to be the Marching Illini.