As a percussionist, I learned early on that if I was going to be ready for “downbeat,” I would have to arrive early to set up my instruments. “Downbeat” is the moment when the conductor steps onto the podium, looks at the ensemble, and begins the first piece, giving the first downbeat, and you have to be ready. You cannot be late if you are a percussionist. You must be punctual. You must be organized. You must be prepared. “Arrive early, stay late” is one of the mantras we live by to be successful.
Percussionists cannot walk in the room 5 minutes before rehearsal, get their instrument out of its case, and start playing. We have many, many instruments, mallets, stands, and equipment that we are responsible for and it can sometimes take 20-30 minutes to set-up the entire percussion section before we are physically, mentally, and logistically ready to play.
I write in Working Toward Excellence that, “Most people waste time rather than value time. One of the great equalizers in this world is everyone has twenty-four hours in a day. How we use those hours is what separates excellence from mediocrity.”
Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden understood the value of time. “Don’t think you can make up for it by working twice as hard tomorrow,” he would say to his players. “If you have it within your power to work twice as hard, I want you to do it right now.”
Wooden biographer Steve Jamison said, “Wasting a single moment became painful for Coach, like throwing a gold coin into the ocean never to be recovered.”
My favorite story however is Coach Wooden’s response to punctuality. Not only did he feel that being late showed disrespect for others, but disrespect for time!