Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Band Meeting

Last night there was a meeting for parents of current fourth graders about band.  Those students who are interested will start band next year, or this summer if they want to take summer lessons.  It's time for them to pick out their instruments.

As a MAJOR band geek myself, I know the weight of this decision.  I was in band.  It was the single most important decision I made, growing up, to join the band.  But in the beginning, I made the wrong choice.  When I was going into 5th grade, I chose the clarinet.  No offense to any of you clarinet-ists out there, I know it is a fine instrument for some people.  I chose it because it had so many lovely shiny valves on it, and probably because it wasn't very heavy.  But I hated it, almost from the very start.  And I had to keep it up (we weren't allowed to quit things very easily in my family) for two years.  Finally, when I started junior high in 7th grade, I was allowed to let it go.  But I really missed band.  And my brother was very successful with his trombone, and he was loving band.  He joined the marching band, and I ached to be a part of it as well.  So at the end of my 9th grade year, I joined the marching band, in the color guard (flags).  And I found my home.  I wasn't thrilled about the flags, but I loved the band.

Then, in 10th grade, I made the big decision.  I joined the drumline.  Mostly because the boy I was dating at the time was a drummer, and I knew I could just play the cymbals or something.  And in my high school, if you didn't play an instrument in the band, it was over for you once the marching season was over.  I couldn't bear that, and needed to find a way to stay in.  But something strange happened.  I picked up a pair of sticks and messed around on those fascinating percussion instruments, and discovered that I wasn't half bad.  It was the FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE that I found a bit of natural talent at something.  I can't tell you how many sports I tried and failed miserably at...  but here I was.  I might have found something.  The percussion instructor recognized some potential in me, and called up my mom and told her she might want to get me some private lessons.  And I dove into those lessons.  They were hard, and I worked my butt off.  When I wasn't at school, I was practicing.  The high school I attended had an excellent marching band, state champions many times over, and I had to be good if I was going to make the line on the instrument I wanted so badly.  And I did.  I played the "quads" in the marching band, also known as tenors.  The heavy set.  I loved every single second of it.  And then when marching was over, I learned everything I could learn about concert percussion.  I fell in love with the tympani, took lessons on that.  I lettered in band my first year.  Holy cow, I was sort of good at something.  It fed me.

Then we moved to Minnesota.  I attended a high school, my senior year only, where marching band was merely an inconvenience.  They didn't put much into it.  I was very disappointed, but I soon discovered that I had found my way into one of the best high school concert bands I've ever seen.  So I was lucky to play challenging concert percussion with them, tympani, snare, any part I could get my hands on.

I attended the University of Minnesota.  My freshman year I made the drumline, on my beloved quads.  For four years I marched with them, was able to go to football games, travel to other Big 10 colleges, play at hockey and basketball games, University events, parades.  I made dear friendships.  I met my future husband.  It was everything to me.

Band gave me a home.  It gave me pride.  In my school and in myself.  It helped with my grades.  My motivation.  My discipline.  My social life.  Without it I don't want to know what my high school life would have been like.  In every way, my life has been enriched from it.

I know this doesn't have to come from band.  It can come from sports, from theater, whatever.  But I firmly believe that kids have to have something.  Something outside of the day-to-day drag of school.  For me and for my hubby it was band.

And sitting there at that meeting last night, I could look around at all these potential band members, at the ripe age of 10, and see many of their futures.  And they look bright and fun.

They need to pick out their instruments.  They can change them if they discover they don't like them much, so it's not that critical, but your instrument (if you really stay with band) will start to mold your personality.  Seriously!  Last night one of the band teachers that was presenting at the meeting was talking.  I leaned over to the hubby and whispered, "I guarantee she's a french horn."  He smiled and nodded.  Sure enough, a few minutes later, she announced that she played the french horn for decades.  Nothing wrong with the french horn, mind you.  I'm just saying that a true band member can name your instrument after only a few minutes of getting to know you.  With almost certain accuracy.  Almost like a dog owner sometimes starts to resemble their pet, a band member grows into their instrument.  It's pretty cool, actually.

I look at my kids and I can't really tell what feeling I get yet about their instrument.  But I don't think it's going to be a clarinet.


  1. I did love band. Oh, I'm "brother". We all know there's a long list of significant firsts for teenagers. First time traveling without family. First time going to a dance. First time you get picked up to go to a party. First boyfriend/girlfriend. First kiss. ...

    Every single thing on that list for me was a band moment.

    And trombone players take pride in being mouth-breathing barbarians.

    Thank you.

  2. Hey, Terri. Randy, from Tubaville, here.

    Great post.

    Did I ever tell you how I ended up playing trombone? My brother (3 years older) played the trumpet. When it was time to sign up in 4th grade, he said, "Pick trumpet," so I picked trumpet. Of course, everyone and his cousin wanted to play the trumpet, so we were required to list an alternate choice. I put down trombone, because it was the only other instrument I could think of. When my Dad brought it home a week later, I said, "Oh, that's what that is!" And I've been trying to play something else ever since.

    And succeeding, actually. Over the years, I've performed on every brass instrument except the trumpet (and enjoying my trombone again, too.) After my 4th grader started trumpet last Fall, I bought a nice old Conn Director cornet, so I can play with her. I think I need to rejoin the community band, so I acan finally finish the set. :)

    Tell Todd I said, "Hi!"


  3. Oh my gosh! Randy how the heck are you? Thanks so much for reading my blog. I love your comment, I know it's so weird how we come to our decisions about our instruments, especially when you think of how important they become to us. Good luck on the cornet--sometimes I wonder if I should pick up some sticks again...
    Tell Heidi I said, "Hi!" :)