Humility, Hundred Style by Douglas Hofherr

August heat is going to be my scapegoat, as it should be for every “Hundred” trumpet player. Ego is an accepted part of a trumpet player’s arsenal. We live for the moment when one of our peers breaks a note, plays out of rhythm, misses a dynamic contrast, skips a line of music, or is late for practice. Developing a degrading vocabulary that magnifies and amplifies the scenario in question is part of the brotherhood that perpetuates this egotistical beast. When a trumpeter misses a note, words like “break,” “kack,” “biff,” “hack,” “splinter,” “butcher,” “gack,” “chip,” “distort,” and “crack” (and many explicatives and phrases) are used to describe a note that has simply been attacked either one harmonic too high in pitch or too low in pitch. (These “kacks” usually come at the end of songs in the upper tessatura at fortissimo dynamic levels.) Although these “cracked” notes are audible, in the “Hundred,” there are usually another 15-25 people on your part to help cover your mistake; however, playing during a moment of silence can be heard by all 300+ members.

We rehearsed at camp behind the HYPER building between 7th and 10th Streets. Our undergraduate section leader was “Russ” and our graduate instructor was “Jim.” Mr. England was our marching director, and if my memory serves me correctly, Mr. Cramer was our assistant director. The heat was unbearable, and the humidity was worse. The only good thing about the heat was that it made for very frequent breaks. During the breaks, most students would socialize. We, trumpet-egoists, would simply scrutinize and degrade those who were not playing well. We would tell our fellow egoists how much better we could have played a particular passage. As a 19 year-old sophomore in 1982, I was in the best physical and trumpet-playing shape of my life. 5′ 10″–165 lbs. I could do one-handed push-ups. I was tan. I had hair on my head. Back then, I could even hear well and see well! I could not play the high notes, but I could play fairly well and loudly—very loudly. Ego—-guilty as charged. Then the walls of Jericho came a tumblin’ down.

Preparing for the opening game’s halftime show was something about which everyone was excited. As a first time member as a sophomore, I had more confidence than most freshman. I was a poor marcher at that time, but they knew I could play at an acceptable level. They worked with me, and considering I was an egoist, they knew I was somewhat willing to learn this “chair step” business. (Man, did that hurt the “chops!”) They put me in the slow learner group, and worked with us with the patience of Job. By the end of camp, I was somewhat of an acceptable marcher. Bring on the music!!!

Although I admit that my marching was poor, I was ready for this multi-tasking business of big-ten show style of marching and playing. At least I thought I was ready. I believe there were over 50 of us that year, and we had some good players; Terry, Rick, and Casey to name a few. I was on the 40 yard line for this maneuver which featured a whole note—cut-off –stomp-down– step–kneel– half rest, press box blast! For this opening game, we had to memorize the music and moves–no flip-folders. One of the final rehearsals came, it may have been the final memorized dress rehearsal, and we were ready for the big trumpet ending. This big ending brought the trumpets to the sideline. First trumpets up on a high chord tone—probably a high Bb concert pitch–second trumpets on the F concert, and us third trumpets on a d concert. Every rehearsal with music had been going very well, and we had been coming along very well with the memory, and then …. My loudest solo, of all time, at the wrong time … Directly between the kneel and the blast there was a half rest, which I completely forgot. Laughter abounded throughout the band, and I had totally humiliated my egotistical self. I felt as if I had been hit in the stomach.

Mr. Cramer directly came over to the spot, where I was wallowing in my great moment of self-pity, and said words that made me feel at least back to even par. He addressed the entire band with full voice and said something like this; “Okay, okay, now that is the kind of sound I want from everybody, let’s run it again.” Mr. England got on his bull-horn and said “Run it again.” I got up out of my pile of bruised ego, and I ran it again—and this time I threw in that half rest with the other 300+ members of the “Marching Hundred.” As an egoist, I must still blame it on that dastardly August heat!

Doug Hofherr, Class of ’85
Years in Hundred: 82 and 83

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