Last Saturday was Washington State University’s spring commencement. As a member of the WSU Trumpet Ensemble I have the opportunity of performing for all three commencement ceremonies. Sometimes, as the date of the gig approaches I tell myself that I will just skip it this year. The performance only takes 10 trumpet players and we usually have enough people interested in playing that I could probably give up my spot if I wanted to. The gig itself is a long 10+ hour day with a lot of playing, and it doesn’t pay very much. So usually by the end, you are tired and your lips feel like they are ready to fall off. However, despite all this, I always end up signing up and playing with the group, year after year. This year I think I finally realized one of the main reasons I do it.
During the ceremony, when it comes time to read the names of each of the graduates and present them with their diplomas, the trumpet ensemble moves away from the rest of the concert band and plays fanfares to announce the different categories of students (PhDs, masters, undergraduate). As we stand off to the side, waiting in between each fanfare, we are able to watch the overhead monitors and see each student as their names are read. Then after the last fanfare we can finish watching the undergraduates from our position back within the band.
Every year I get excited when the announcer reads the name of one of the student employees graduating from our office. Many of them have worked with my unit for two or even three years. As such, they all leave their mark on the organization and I have had the opportunity to see them grow, both professionally and personally during their college experience. It is an honor to be even a small part of that process.
So year after year, this is one of the main reasons I play for commencement. Because, year after year, I get the chance to cheer them on as they take their final steps as college students and walk out that door to accomplish so many great things. It is the perfect reminder about the best part of working in higher ed, which is the students themselves.