I live in a town where kids have to take band, orchestra or chorus in 5th and 6th grades.
Like a lot of boys, my son chose the trumpet or saxophone. He got the trombone. (“It was my third choice,” he said, “and I only put it down because that was the only other instrument I could think of.”)
Although it was bigger than he was, he (and we) eventually got used to its sound, which is a bit like a goose with flatulence. There were memorable moments: the time he played a piece on Smart Music (a computer practice program) 50 times before submitting a 70. The night I marched around the kitchen holding sheet music to prepare him for his first parade and tripped over the dishwasher door. The concert where we cringed every time he moved his slide, afraid he’d hit the kid in front of him.
After two years, he had the option of continuing to play the trombone, shifting to another music elective or study hall. This is where I turned into my fiercest Tiger Mom, urging (well, pleading) him to stay in band. As a parent, I love band. It represents Mom, apple pie, Chevrolet, the American way. Just listening to a John Phillip Sousa march puts a kick in my step.
Though sports often polarize parents and bring out the worst in us, band unites. We’re relaxed watching concerts and parades, knowing if our kid fakes it or screws up, no one will notice or care. No one grouses that certain kids get to do solos, introduce songs or give the conductor roses. We’re awed rather than suspect of kids in Honor Band and Jazz Ensemble, the band’s version of the Travel Team.
Band is democratic and mostly based on skill and merit. There’s a place for every kid, whether it’s holding the high school banner, tinkling the triangle or banging the bass drum. Everyone wears the same dorky outfits without complaint. Everyone sweats and tries to stay in step during the Memorial Day parade. Band says: “We’re all in this together.”
There’s not a lot you can criticize about band, except concerts usually fall at the busiest times of the year (Christmas and the end of school). There’s also the slight agitation that comes with eating dinner at 9:30 p.m., and watching parents slip out after chorus or orchestra performances. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who thinks, “You’re kidding right? I listened to your kid sing and now you’re leaving? Oh no you don’t!”
For the most part though, band is all good.
It teaches focus, discipline, commitment, multi-tasking, cooperation, marching in step and endurance. It also teaches humility, patience and perseverance because you don’t get better without practice. And some kids are so incredibly talented. I still remember the drum solo by a 6th grader in an Hawaiian shirt playing “Wipeout.”
Here are my other reasons for loving band:
- The band director is smart, sincere and genuine. It’s hard to even imagine kids acting up in his class.
- It’s an easy way to get a good grade. Show up, do your work and practice. Done.
- It teaches important life lessons. Alone, you and your instrument don’t sound like much. Together, you create beautiful music and bring joy to people.
- Everyone looks great in a uniform.
- Kids listen, follow directions, take turns and work collaboratively. Makes me wish I had a conductor’s baton when I taught CCD.
- Playing trombone comes in handy at college tailgate parties. Everyone loves a good fight song at half time.
- Playing trombone may help you get into a college. Every school has a band. It’s doubtful they’ll need you, but you never know.
- Band sheds light on human growth. While waiting for the concert to begin, parents scan the crowd and notice some 6th grade girls are taller than the teacher. Some 8th grade boys are 6′ 3″ and have their learner’s permit. Some 7th grade boys have adorable little feet while others have hooves bigger than my husband.
- Women love musicians.
- Playing trombone could come in handy if you want to join a garage band in your 50s.
My son played through high school, marching in town parades and concerts. He hasn’t picked up the trombone since high school and that’s OK. There’s a new sound in the house. My 16-year-old daughter plays percussion and loves to bang on her snare drum in her bedroom. Three more years of forgotten stick bags, music folders and uniforms that must be dropped off in the front office. I can’t wait.