Remembering Bill Santelmann: Excellence and Passion

My great uncle Bill Santelmann was director of the Marine Corps Band from 1940-1955, and thereafter kept up a rigorous schedule performing and guest-conducting around the world.  He was known for bringing to the band an even higher level of excellence and repertoire than those preceding him, including his own father William Santelmann, who was also director of the Marine Corps Band.

The Marine Corps Band is known as The President’s Own Band and plays for heads of state, rose garden ceremonies, Arlington Cemetery ceremonies, and events throughout the world at the pleasure of the President.  The Band is known as supremely capable and versatile and Bill Santelmann was recognized for elevating their already-excellence musicianship.  When guest-conducting at the American Bandmasters Association in 1984, for a finale he led the band through Wagner’s Ascent into Heaven, and for an encore Stars and Stripes Forever.  The chamber thundered applause and his own band stood clapping in ovation in his honor.  He walked backstage, sat and exclaimed “I love this band!” and immediately died of a heart attack.

Sad yes, but also beautiful and sublime.  We all have to go from this world and when it’s time, this seems to me a beautiful way to go.  Surrounded by friends and colleagues and engaged in what you are passionate and excellent at, Bill Santelmann left this world at the height of his passion and joy and left the world a better place by sharing his joy.

Click on the video – Marcus Buckingham reminds us that only 1 in 10 of us are focusing on our strengths at work and the culprit may be our culture’s obsession with remedial learning.  As leaders in our roles as parents or managers or soccer coaches, we may be focusing far too much attention on correcting what we perceive as a weakness, instead of encouraging and building strengths.

A strength is not what you are good at.  A strength is an activity which makes you feel strong.  – Marcus Buckingham