Mr. Griffin

I was ready to be done with band after middle school. I had honked away on the saxophone for three years and decided I would rather try my hand at a more delicate art, one involving oil pastels and paint brushes. Having already signed up to take Intro to Art once I reached high school, I had put all things band entirely out of my future, save for the 50 minute band class I was still in. One day as I was walking out of band class, my teacher, then Miss Shannon Wilburn (now married as Mrs. Crepps), approached me and asked if perhaps I would be interested in learning to play the tuba and joining the marching band when I got to high school. I thought I was done with band, but this proposal was too sweet to pass up. How many girls get to play tuba? I gladly accepted, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Now, having gone through four years of marching, it’s not the hot summer practices I look back on. It’s not the hundreds of mosquito bites acquired from practicing on the field, nor is it the countless awkward tan lines that conveniently linger until just after Homecoming. I don’t remember the scores, the trophies, the feelings of loss and defeat. What has stuck with me through all four years, however, is the pride of knowing that each year, I grew as a person, and as a leader. I owe my success as a marcher to every student who has been a part of the Spartan Regiment during my career, the alumni who paved the way before my arrival, and the marching staff who provided guidance at every turn. I can attribute my growth as a leader, however, to one person.

One of the reasons I agreed to join marching band so many years ago was because a gentleman had come into our band class and given a short casual presentation about marching at the high school. He made jokes about being a “band nerd,” but to my friends and me, he was the epitome of cool. In our short class period, he had already opened my eyes to so many things, and I felt confident that I would benefit from another year under his tutelage.

One year in marching band easily grew to two, three, four years, a substantial amount of time. Each year, I learned more and more about musicianship, marching, and self-discipline. My longest lasting lessons, however, were those that pertained to leadership.

In the Spartan Regiment, anyone who attains a position of leadership is required to attend a leadership camp led by this individual, full of wisdom and eager to share it. He calls himself a “leadership nerd,” and based on the wealth of lessons he teaches in a three hour session, no one argues with him. Whether he is reciting quotes, telling stories, or facilitating group discussions, he assists every individual present in customizing their own personal leadership style, never imposing any of his own characteristics on anyone, but suggesting what may or may not work. He never set himself as the model for my leadership style, but I found myself doing so anyway.

I had never seen anyone earn the respect of so many teenagers, which is quite a feat because teens are often unruly and disrespectful. And they may have entered the band program like that. But one thing is certain; they did not leave without being sculpted into a disciplined and “classy” youth. This man by no means demands unquestioning loyalty, yet somehow he earns it.

He earned mine with ease. I was transformed from a supporting member of the band who never got the melody lick, to the gal who was in charge of all the folks who never had the melody lick, to the gal who reigned over all of the folks: melody licks, supporting lines, auxiliary performers and all. I had to have my act together or no one else would. And I feel like I did a pretty good job. My months as drum major are, so far, the proudest months of my life, and I have zero regrets. There is no way I could have been as successful as I was without the influence of one man in particular.

To call him a coach would only be addressing the athletic aspect of marching band, and to call him a teacher would fail to recognize his impact outside of the classroom. So I call Mr. Nathan Griffin a leader, and the best I’ve ever known. Thank you, Mr. Griffin.