By Michael Neufeld
Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula
[3.5 minute read]
On Sunday, August 13, 2017, a great new adventure for me began. It was exciting, it was scary, and I couldn’t wait. I was about to begin my freshman year of college. My family and I drove down from Fresno, California the night before my move-in and stayed in a hotel. I was part of the Trojan Marching Band, and with the early move-in schedule, the time we would spend setting up my dorm, and the long four-to-five hour drive down, we were not willing to get up at 3:00 in the morning to finish packing and travel. My younger brother, Daniel, would have especially disliked that.
When we got to campus, my family helped me set up my room. Soon after, they went off to attend the first marching band parent meeting. We met up later, and after a meal, we said our goodbyes. It seemed my family was only there for a few minutes before it was time for them to leave.
I spent the next week at band camp, getting up early each morning to walk to Cromwell Field to learn how to march. I noticed that marching in the University of Southern California band was much different than in my high school band; in high school we shuffled our straight-legged feet across the grass, whereas here we have to pick our feet up off the ground and plant them in steps in front of us at USC. Along with other physical, performance-related differences, I also noticed that this band had way more spirit than any high school band I had seen. Here, we played for the football team; if we weren’t spirited, how could the crowd be?
Along with my marching band experiences, I had so many new things to do, think about, and see as a freshman majoring in Jazz Studies. Traversing across campus from class to class felt a little bit intimidating at first. It was challenging to find all of my classes the first couple of days in territory with which I was unfamiliar. Additionally, there were so many people surrounding me; bikes, skateboards, and DPS cars flew around me as I traveled to and from buildings.
On this bizarre campus, I found so much to like. I enjoyed eating with my friends at the Parkside Dining Hall. I loved my music classes, and marching band rehearsals always gave me a rush of energy. I picked up a new pastime of zooming around the uncrowded campus late at night with my trusty scooter, something I wasn’t able to do much of in Fresno.
Along with these new, fun experiences, there were some not-so-positive “adventures” that I had to deal with as well. I dealt with some people that for the first time in my life I did not enjoy being around. My roommates and I occasionally rubbed shoulders, something bound to happen when you live with seven other people in a Parkside “suite-style” dorm. I got lost on the Metro once and had to run over a mile from one station to a concert hall.
Since then, I’ve had to make some sacrifices. I had a full, eighteen-unit schedule that would have put me ahead of some of my classmates as an upperclassman, but that combined with my crazy marching band schedule and my job at ALI was actually limiting my learning experience. My roommate even commented at one point, “Michael, this schedule isn’t healthy for you.” So I made the really hard choice to quit the marching band and drop a class. After all, I’m here to enrich my knowledge of jazz, and I can’t do that if my focus is spread out or I have no time to practice my trombone.
I am now a recent graduate and am heading off to bigger and better things. I enjoy reflecting back on my time at USC, and noticing how different things are now than when I began my journey. I can’t wait to see what the future holds, but will forever look back on my time at USC with a smile on my face.
Michael is a recent graduate who studied Jazz Studies at the Thornton School of Music. He lived in Fresno, California until moving to L.A. for college. In his free time, he can be found practicing the trombone, or playing video games. Michael has traveled all around North America, and he loves getting to know new people, listening to stories, and being a friend to others.