I didn’t come from a musical family. My mother was an English teacher and my father was a mortgage banker. There were pianos at both of my grandparents’ houses though, and I suppose my earliest musical curiosities were explored on those instruments. It became clear early on however that my inclinations were percussive.
I began with oatmeal boxes and quickly moved up to pots and pans. I would set them in an array before me and drum away with wooden spoons. When my mother had had about enough of that, she explored the after hour offerings at the school in which she taught and found a more appropriate outlet. Thus, my official drumming career began at the age of 8 in the Patriots of Northern Virginia, a parade unit. I came back from that first lesson proudly donning a drum strap (on which an actual drum would ideally be attached one day,) a pair of sticks, a rubber on wood practice pad and a cryptic sheet of “music.”
When I entered fourth grade I had the opportunity to begin Band in school. Since I already had some instruction and experience, I was able to secure a coveted spot in the percussion section. I took to it well, and continued on through elementary and middle school.
As a rising high school freshman in the late summer of 1977, on the day Elvis Presley died, I boarded a bus and headed off to my first marching band camp. The hook was set. I’ve been involved with a marching band in one capacity or other every season since. As I progressed through high school and looked toward college it became clear to me that music was the only thing I had any interest in doing. In fact, I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. It was as if I didn’t choose it as a major, it chose me.
Even after two degrees and a career in so-called “classical” music, my attachment to marching band has never waned. Eventually, my path led me here to Nebraska and I was appointed Director of the Cornhusker Marching Band. Over the years the privilege of this responsibility has shown me that much of the true importance of my beloved activity, and probably what has inspired my devotion to it, lies much deeper than the activity itself. When people make music together they open up to each other emotionally in a profound way creating a unique and powerful bond. Band therefore becomes a family and like in any family you share your victories and losses, joys and pains, laughs and tears, and you’re in it for life. As director, I derive the most satisfaction out of watching the students discover this and live it for themselves, and experiencing it over and over again at an even more meaningful level myself.
Anthony M. Falcone is the Associate Director of Bands at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His duties include directing the Cornhusker Marching Band, conducting the Symphonic Band, teaching instrumental arranging, and assisting with the administration of all university bands. He is also active in the Percussion Studio, teaching lessons, and conducting the Percussion Ensemble. He has held previous appointments at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville; James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia; and Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. He earned his B.M.Ed. and M.M. degrees from James Madison University.