for release Friday November 7, 2003
by Melodie Davis
Everyone wants to be involved in a winning effort. Everyone wants to be superior, award-winning. But sometimes those things just elude your grasp.
Difficulty in attaining those goals makes us realize that such things happen only with a good amount of determination, hard work, talent, and practice. The difficulties make the joy of attaining a goal that much sweeter.
My two younger daughters are still involved in marching band (one a senior in high school and one a junior in college), something that neither my husband nor I did in high school. But we’ve been glad to tag along for these last 12 years, always watching from afar in the stands and sometimes up close pushing the xylophones for competitions. As football season winds down in the U.S., I can’t help but reflect that band has been a marvelous and critical part of their education. The same can be said for many other extra-curricular activities whether sports, drama, academic quizzing, or technical competitions.
Our girls enjoyed being “band nerds” –not outcasts but their very own group and family with whom to bond, hang out, laugh, cry, fight, get in trouble, fall in love. At least that is the way they looked at their band “family.”
They worked hard and loved playing—but somehow when it came to festival competitions, they just couldn’t bring home a “superior.” It was very disappointing. They felt badly when other departments and programs of the school competed in various places and won “firsts” or “superiors” and the band didn’t.
Their long time high school director retired last year (honorably). Band programs in many localities have gone through tough times in recent years when faced with the demands that standardized testing and learning place on the rest of the school curriculum. The director had to make marching band be an “all volunteer” program, with many practices outside of school hours. In the move to an all-volunteer marching band, the program lagged at our school and had a very small group for a couple years as it built up enthusiasm, reputation and volunteers.
This year we welcomed a new director with fresh enthusiasm, ideas and ways of doing things. The director also had this outlandish notion that these kids had what it took to win an “honor” band designation at the state level for marching band. As a frequent clinic judge herself, she knew what it took, and had the chutzpah to convince the kids they could do it. Half of winning is believing you can.
Still, after their first marching band state competition in many years, we breathlessly awaited the judging results. With 14 schools in their small-school division (under 1,000), there were plenty of “good’s” and “excellents” being handed out, and only a couple “superiors”—the top designation we wanted to hear. I squeezed my daughter’s knee as we waited. They had played very well, but had their performance been good enough?
Then, “Broadway High School – superior!” The coveted announcement rang out, quickly drowned out by cheers from our students, teachers and parents. What a rush! We jumped up and down. We hugged. A few tears were wiped away, especially by those of us who remembered the long years of always being an “also ran.”
I never knew what it meant to be a band parent but I’m happy to have experienced something new through my children: the fun of buying and selling fundraising sandwiches, cleaning up stadiums, selling programs, getting up at 4 a.m. for the band chicken barbecue, going along on some trips—it is all part of the experience. The nice thing is your kids don’t have to be particularly musical or talented to experience all this at the high school level: most kids can be taught to play at least one instrument.
Band is a good extension of our family values: it teaches determination, hard work, the beauty of music, the joy of creation, and the value of practicing (even in extreme heat and snowy cold). It teaches the value of teamwork: band literally cannot be accomplished as a solo effort. It teaches listening to leaders, obeying the rules, keeping in step, being good losers. When it comes to winning, it takes all these things and sometimes, just a little luck in picking music that please the particular judges, and the right “place” in the competition-line up (neither first nor last). Whether they win or lose, they like Moms and Dads supporting them. One said, “The best part about any program or performance is coming out and seeing your proud and smiling faces.”
Viva la band!
For a free photocopied booklet with more “band” stories from Another Way, write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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