marching band crowd flickr Travis S

The competition days were long. Band after band performed, and finally, it would be time for the presentation of awards. I remember being so anxious at each competition when we arrived at this point of the day. Present at every competition were particular behaviors. I would scoot to the edge of my seat, wring my hands, take deep breaths, lean forward, and want the announcer to hurry.   Please, just skip the thank you messages for now; get to the awards! I remember not wanting to hear our band’s name called out early because that meant they did not win the “big title,”  and after all, isn’t that the reason we were there—to take home the championship?

Oh my, I had bunches to learn. Being the champion, taking home the big trophy were the essentials of competing for me. There were various components of competitions that I had never considered. My competition understanding had to enlarge just as my understanding of the importance of music had to mature.

I didn’t really like the person that I was the first couple years our family was involved in band competitions; I had some misconceptions that led to my offensive thoughts and actions. Why, sometimes, I did not even applaud when another band finished performing. Sometimes, I did not even applaud for the winners. I would always concoct a justification for our loss—the judges just did not get the show…they only played when they stood still, of course they could play better…our marching was much more difficult so the show could not be clean. Looking back, I am ashamed; I just did not get it!

I was irritated with the director that he took these competitions so calmly…sharing with the students what was good and what needed improvement. He never put down another band by saying the things that I had been thinking. When I finally involved myself with the program, I learned that there were reasons to compete that had nothing to do with a trophy and a title.

I learned:

  1. Each program has its own philosophy for competing. Rehearsal schedules, budgets, marching staff, parent involvement, all of these will significantly influence a school’s achievement.
  2. A competition allows for an evaluation by schooled judges. Their comments can build confidence in students and give students areas in which to improve.
  3. Band students and directors view other programs while attending competitions. By seeing others perform, students and directors can set new goals. These new goals will lead to more motivation and discipline within the students as they work to accomplish the goal.
  4. One of the goals of competing is to strive to be better and to give a better performance each time. For the band to give a better performance, each individual must improve.  As the students strive to improve their individual performance, the life skills of teamwork and individual responsibility are learned.
  5. Parents need to be good sports. Bands benefit from parent groups supporting each other. Much can be discovered from other booster organizations.
  6. Bands need to be good sports. They understand the work that goes into a performance. They need to applaud and cheer for each other.

All of this came home to me as I stood in the tunnel at a BOA regional one year. I saw the students come off the field with tears in their eyes, a look on their faces that one can only have when they know that they have done their individual best to help make the group’s overall performance its best.   No, they did not win the big one, but they recognized themselves to have done the best that they could do. They understood that it was not the trophy but the quality of their work that made them winners.

I like myself now at competitions. I cheer for other groups. I stand up and applaud when a band has finished their performance. I have learned to help students and parents feel satisfied, hold their heads high, and to be fulfilled with their accomplishment! I don’t have those stressful feelings anymore…

Ok, so maybe I still scoot to the edge of the seat…but those stressful feelings have been replaced because I understand.

Image credit: flickr user Travis S.