Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sooner Born and Sooner Bred

August 21, 2013
And when I die, I'll be SOONER Dead
"Let's Go Sooners... C'mon, defense... Touchdown Sooners".
These were common sayings I heard growing up in my house. I remember being a small kid of 7 (maybe 8) years old and watching Sooner Football in the basement with my dad. I didn't even understand the game of football but I would sit watching the games with my dad on weekly basis! Even better would be when I got to watch it with my grandfather who was an OU Alumnus himself. He played on the OU Football team in 1949-1950 and raised his 4 boys and most of his grandchildren to be SOONERS! The saying from "BOOMER SOONER" that states "Sooner Born and Sooner Bred" was actually accurate for me and my life and I could not be more proud.
In 1999 when I was a High School Sophomore playing the saxophone, I discovered my calling in life which is teaching... in particular, teaching band and music. At the age of 15 I knew not only WHAT I wanted to do with my life but HOW I wanted to do it. Having been brought up in a SOONER home I was taught to dislike certain schools and rivalries. However, since I was a 2 year Texas All-State Saxophone player and Statewide "Outstanding Soloist" as a senior I decided it might be good to "Explore my Options".
The Spring Semester of my Junior year and the Fall Semester of my Senior year were spent traveling around the state of Texas and country exploring these "options" and seeing what type of scholarship I could get. I auditioned at (GOD FORBID) The University of SAXET (texas), Texas Tech University, The University of North Texas, Baylor University, Ohio State University (via tape), Stephen F. Austin State University, The University of Southwest Texas (Now "Texas State University" in San Marcos) and even Kansas State University as well as The University of Oklahoma where I would eventually call MY HOME. While the scholarship money of most of these universities matched OU's offer and in the case of Texas Tech was even more, I couldn't seem to break "From Tradition" and go to a NON-OU school... Not to mention, Lubbock is FAR AWAY, Austin is WEIRD, Waco was too "Goody-Goody" (Fake.. but still annoying) for me, Denton's folks seemed a little hippy and off-beat and the others were just not as friendly and kind as the Oklahoma people were.
In addition to the family tradition of OU, I also had an additional reason to make my way to Norman, OK. My entire High School band career I spent being a part of All-Region, All-Area and All-State Bands as well as SFA Band Camps where Mr. Brian Britt was the director. In fact, he was so frequently the clinician at these events that he began to know my name and I was not even one of his own students. I learned a lot from him and quickly discovered I wanted to be like him as a band director. I learned my senior year during All-Region Band Clinic in January that he had accepted the Head Band Director position of The Pride of Oklahoma at The University of OKlahoma in Norman, OK. This pretty much sealed the deal for me... I was headed for SOONER NATION!
Around Spring Break of my senior year is when I was offered my final scholarship from The University of Oklahoma and this is when I sealed the fate for the rest of my life. I truly was SOONER BORN and SOONER BRED and now when I die I will be SOONER DEAD! I remember, I was so happy I could hardly hide my emotions and the rest of my senior year seemed to fly by as I was so anxious to get to Norman and live out my dream.
Part of my dream was being a part of The Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band. I had attended a few football games with my parents and other family members and wanted to be a part of this vital role in OU's history and football program. I remember circling the day the music came out on my calendar and for the entire month of July and August I would practice the audition music for hours on end trying to secure a spot in The Pride and continuing my dream.
My parents and I arrived for The Pride Camp the week before Freshman Orientation and I began the audition process. After 3 long, HARD days of playing, practicing and marching in the 100* heat, the list of the 97th Pride of Oklahoma was posted in Catlett Music Center. I spotted the SAXOPHONES column and ran my finger down the list looking for "Kellie Klingsick". It wasn't there. I kind of blew it off and was thinking "Ok... I just looked in the wrong spot". I skimmed the list again even checking the ALTERNATES column. No such luck... Kellie Klingsick was not on the list! I turned around amidst the chaos in the foyer of this massive building to see my parents who were standing there with smiles on their faces and their thumbs up waiting to hear the news. Like me, this was not the news we expected. I was a 2 time All-State Sax Player and "Outstanding Soloist"! How could this happen? 
 I wanted to throw in the towel at this point... Not just for OU but for my dream of being a teacher and band director. I felt "If I cant even make the OU Band, how am I going to teach kids to someday play in this band". I remember telling my parents "I will just do what every other person from my high school does and go to SFA". BUT, I didn't want to just be another AHS graduate attending SFA. I wanted to write my own story and live this dream.
My parents and I walked back to my dorm where I will never forget the prayer my dad prayed at the foot of my bed in Couch Dormitory. He prayed for courage for me to continue with my dream despite the bump in the road and he reminded me of my grandfather and how this was a continuance of HIS dream. And for that reason, I decided to continue at OU despite this "Speed Bump" in my dream.
My parents left that evening and I was all alone on the grounds of this massive university. Freshman Orientation came and went and I was ready for my first class. Music Theory was bright and early at 8am on the first day and there I saw a lot of people who were also Music Ed majors that I had met the previous week during Pride auditions wearing their new PRIDE shirts and talking about the show and there I was not included in these conversations. It was a classic Junior High/ High School moment. It was hard and I could have quit... BUT I DIDN'T! It is this moment and this year in my life that not only carved out who I am as a SOONER, teacher and person but it has made me a better teacher.
My freshman year was full of lots of changes and hurdles like anyone else but these hurdles are the ones that made me who I am today. In the Fall of 2002, I auditioned for The Pride of Oklahoma again and this time was selected to be a part of the 98th Pride of Oklahoma.
I am on the inside part of the "O" on the 27 yard line.

It was during this season that I got to go to The 2002 Rose Bowl where I got to march in the 6+ mile Rose Bowl Parade as well as play and march in the actual Rose Bowl!
This was a life-changing event and I will NEVER forget it.

My friend Autumn and I outside the Rose Bowl in 2002

A 3rd round of auditions came in 2003 and I was once again selected to the now 99th Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band. It was during this year that I got to go to the 2003 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans where OU played lsu for the National Championship (don't say anything Chris)!

The Tenor Saxes and I inside the New Orleans Superdome for the Sugar Bowl!
As I sit in Houston reading and watching the current 2013 Pride of Oklahoma controversy unfold, I am reminded of my time in The Pride and how it effected my life. These two years shaped my time at OU and truly helped carve who I am today, especially as a teacher. Countless times I have mentored kids who just want to give up and throw in the towel and I have to remind them to dig deep and NEVER GIVE UP no matter what the circumstances. I could have easily taken my saxophone and suitcases back to Tyler and gone to TJC like everyone else but that was not MY DREAM.
Thank you, Mr. Brian Britt and The Pride Staff for cutting me in 2001 and giving me this hurdle to climb over. It helped me become who I am today and that is a SOONER!
To all The Pride of Oklahoma members, current and alumni alike, may you, too, relive your years in The Pride and appreciate the time you had in this AMAZING organization!
I know I will NEVER FORGET IT!
God is good... ALL the time!

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