Oh, Passion. How I loathe you. You and I have been partners on so many occasions and I feel like you still don't understand me. I'd like to say it's me and not you, but no, it's you. I appreciate all you've done for me in the past, really, but I've outgrown this relationship. I think it's time we see others. I'm sure there's someone out there for you. Just keep looking. Let's still be friends, okay? (send)
That's right, I said it. Passion doesn't impress me anymore. In fact, when someone tells me I'm passionate, I feel a sense of immaturity, like I haven't grown at all. In college, my professors used to say I was extremely passionate. In my years since, I've learned what they really said was I was full of good intentions, only thought my idea was right, and was unfocused. Don't get me wrong, passion is a good thing. And I'm the first to trumpet up a battle cry for the greater good, but it's also something that can cloud your perception.
Parents, together you have incredible power when it comes to your children's musical programs. For many of you, joining the parent group organization for the band, choir, or orchestra is a no brainer. In fact, you might even choose to live vicariously through the music group to reminisce about days of old. Sometimes you have in your mind the perfect program. A utopian program that's alive with endless fundraisers, ginormous trophies that take up more room than the music library, young adults who all succeed in life, and fans that are envious from miles around.
Not a bad vision.
Everyone has that vision and 100 different ways to get there. Working with other parents or directors when you disagree with them can be difficult. When you put large groups of capable people together trying to "make things better," many clichés come to mind. Too many cooks in the kitchen, too many hands in the pot, too many trumpet players and sopranos in the room.
This is where it gets tricky. Passion is strong, and in many ways, unwavering. It's what makes music so incredible. Imagine though, being the orchestra, band, or choir director that hears everyone's ideas. And each one of those parents believes they have the absolute best way to go. You have to make the decision. What do you do? (Well, what do you do after you're done crying?)
I'm not writing this article to tell anyone what to do. I'll save that for my new book, Do This Or Puppies Will Hate You. However, here are some things to think about when trying to be part of a successful music program as a parent.
Always assume positive intent
No parent or director thinks, "hey I wish my kid's program fails in a glorious and glamourous torrent of fire." (Just wanted to say I'm proud of my use of the word "torrent.") If you start from the perspective that everyone just wants to help, then you save yourself a lot of false, but probably creative, negative thinking.
Communicate with each other
Don't be afraid to share your idea and have someone disagree with it. Groups succeed because of their diversity in strengths, not their similarities. Talk it out and weigh the points. But don't stop communicating because of an overabundance of passion makes the discussion way too emotional. Music parents work together for a long time as their children grow up in the programs. Having a great relationship is all about communication (Oy, that sounds familiar. Sorry!). Engage in great conversation and yes, possibly debate, and you'll find that things move forward.
It's a partnership, not a democracy
Directors eventually have to make a call. The good ones always listen, but aren't afraid to stand alone because of their expertise. Let them and examine the long term results. Just because the group has a rough performance, week, or year, doesn't mean the director isn't thinking a longer-term strategy that will result in a stronger program and better musical, and possibly life education for your child. If they make a call that you disagree with, keep an open mind and remember to not let your expectations of what you think something SHOULD be, get in the way of you perceiving what it COULD be. (I learned that at band camp BTW. That, and how to be perceived as awkward and annoying. Nailed that part.)
Ultimately, positivity needs to always win out. Remember zero is greater than negative, and as a parent or volunteer you always want to be helpful in moving forward, not hinder progress because of a stubborn personal mission. Having a great music program requires not just passionate, idealistic views, but also an agreement that we're all in this together. If you're having trouble seeing eye to eye on which way to go, try arm wrestling, and then go grab lunch together. 😉
DJ Corchin is author of the celebrated humorously inspiring Band Nerds book series including Band Nerds Poetry From The 13th Chair Trombone Player and The Marching Band Nerds Handbook. You can follow his blog The13thChair.com to catch his thoughts in real time. He was a featured performer in the first national Broadway tour of the Tony and Emmy award winning show, BLAST! where he was best known as the "unicycling trombonist." Now living and working in Chicago as a children's author, his other publications are available worldwide and include Sam & The Jungle Band, You Got A Boogie, The I Feel... Children's Book Series, and ThunderFeet. A former high school band director, he continues to be involved in music education through speaking events, competitions, and organizations such as AMP! For more of his work please visit www.djcorchin.com. Mr. Corchin is an independent contributor so his views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of amparents.org.