The “MO” set in honor of Mona from this years show that I wrote for Lynbrook High School.

Most people who know me in the real world know that I have an incredible love for Pageantry and the Marching Arts.

That’s “Marching Band” to anyone who doesn’t live and breathe pageantry.

The funny thing is…this love was basically a very very small ember after college. I had moved away from that part of my life.

My fondest memories of high school are of Marching Band and the same goes for College.

But after that time, there seemed to be no path forward with it…and as with most of my friends from High School and College now…those days of being on the field were becoming a fond set of memories.

Mona, however, continued on and marched and taught Drum Corps (essentially “professional” marching arts) and through that, I gained many new friends…who also inspired me greatly.

I never marched corps. I auditioned…I made it two times.

The first time I was young and overwhelmed (I know that’s probably a huge surprise to those that were used to seeing my external WAY TOO CONFIDENT (at that time!) persona) and didn’t keep on with it. The second time I didn’t march because I worked over the summer so Mona COULD march what she called her “age out” year (even though it was a year before that actual year).

After Mona “aged out” she went on to teach corps and also was instructing for high schools.

Out of the blue one day she asked me to come along with her just to hang out and see what was going on.

I went with her to Santa Clara high school…talked to the kids…and hung out. But it was just a guard practice to I felt DEFINITELY out of place (which is incredibly funny now considering that it’s the place I feel MOST comfortable now).

Then she went to Independence a bit later and that was the full band. I sat in the stands and got introduced to the band director there. Mike Kambeitz. Who asked me,

“Why are you wasting your time sitting in the stands? Come down here on the field and get to work!”

And that was essentially the re-kindling of my love for the Marching Arts.

A few years later one of my best friends in the world became the director at Independence when Mike retired. Ken Ponticelli.

He fostered my insanity and desire to push the limits. He gave me the immense gift of being able to tell stories through his students and performers and I became his “assistant-director” (his words not mine).

I had another great friend show me the ropes of drill writing. Mike Zerbini. I learned a ton through teaching his drill…and his approach to the design process still threads through my own.

And all the while, Mona stood beside me. Encouraging my love for design and the art. Lots of mistakes were made and a lot of over-zealousness. She tempered my visions to help make them real and achievable.

I never really FULLY understood just how much she encouraged and motivated me until this past season….when she was physically gone from my presence. I always KNEW she was a huge influence…but it wasn’t until she was gone physically that I realized just how much I relied on her.

She taught me critical things about the integration of the elements of the ensemble…and I soaked up as much information as I could from her. Being a “horn” guy, I knew essentially nothing about color guard staging or the intricacies of timing and movement of that particular part of the ensemble.

She did it in a way that was invisible to me. She just passed the knowledge along and it was effortless for her to do so.

I missed so much this past season the ability to have her come stand over my shoulder and look at a sequence on the computer as I wrote.  That extra confidence I would have with her assurance was gone.  I had to evolve and find that confidence in myself. I was forced to grow and mature and to push forward without second-guessing.

I have other friends that I run things off of, and I trust their input 100%. They provide insight and guidance and assurance which gives me the confidence to actually say “ok…that will work”.

But it was always different with Mona because of how we worked in sort of a symbiotic way.

I felt this “guilt” over the course of the season as I got to still create and Mona wasn’t. Her works were finished and I still get to go on and expand mine. It just seemed incredibly unfair and wrong to me.

She was the one that started this…in my mind, it’s only fair that she be the one that still gets to keep going. But that’s obviously not possible.

I realized though…that her voice is still there.  It was a massive factor in my writing this season…I just had to listen in a different way. In fact, it’s louder than it ever has been.

One of the things that pops into my head quite often nowadays is that once our physical presence is gone…we are just memories in peoples minds. Our assets, our physical things are of no consequence. They are just “things”. Who we are is what we have done and created. Who we’ve affected and how we have done so.

I thank Mona every day in my mind (and sometimes even vocally) for the gift she gave me. This passion and love. She’s with me, creating, and living through the arts.

And while I miss her, I see her in my writing.  I see her in spinning silks and evolving forms.

I hear her in the loud impacts when rifles hit palms.

And I feel her in those few stirring moments of silence on the field.

For those few minutes. She’s with me again. And it’s magical.


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