Twenty-one years ago, our oldest of seven children joined the Alan C. Pope High School marching band. Little did anyone know that this was the beginning of a family tradition. Yes, all seven were involved in this brilliant program—nineteen consecutive years. We watched this program grow from its earliest days with its struggles to the superb program that is recognized around the world today.

Because the children were at band, I felt that I needed to be there too. There were jobs that needed to be done, chaperoning students, moving equipment, selling tickets, feeding members, sewing flags, organizing fundraisers, planning trips, cleaning drum rooms and storage sheds, housing dance choreographers…you name it, I did it.

Through the years, I began to see ways of making the life of the director/directors less hectic by planning with them and finding ways to involve many more band “mommies and daddies” to help with the work so that the director/directors could have more time available to do what they were trained to do—teach music.

BREAKING THE BUNDLE is my attempt to put the ideas that worked in a logical order. My hope is that someone who is trying to make a difference in their booster organization will find this well-tested program and use it as a base. With necessary adjustments for your group and its circumstances, this material will give you the groundwork for a successful program.

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Let’s start with a story that will explain the title and the chapter headings…

There is an old folk story told about an elderly man who had ten sons. He owned a huge farm, and as you can imagine, there were many tasks to be done to keep this old farm in shape. The tasks were usually completed, but almost always at the expense of three or four sons. Those sons would be so worn out at the end of a project that they could hardly begin the next task. They began to become discouraged, but continued to keep trying to keep pace with the rigors of this big old farm.

Then one day, the aging patriarch called his sons to him and taking a previously prepared bundle of twigs from the ground, asked his sons to try to snap these sticks. Each, from the eldest to the youngest, put forth all of their strength, but the bundle resisted the efforts of each.

Then the old man took his knife and cut the cord which bound the sticks, saying:”Now divide the twigs among you and break them. ” This they were able to do with the greatest of ease.

“See my sons,” the old man exclaimed. “The power of unity lies in being bound together with a common cause. Being united you can conquer almost every mountain, but individually the strength will not be there to accomplish your task. You shall fall short of your goal, or you shall be exhausted.”

Let’s compare this bundle of sticks with your music program. This bundle of sticks represents all of the duties involved with a music program, be it a band, chorus, or orchestra. The elderly man represents the director who is accountable for the condition of the program. The sons represent the booster organization which provides physical and financial support to the director. Both the directors and boosters need to be united to provide a superlative music program for their youth, the common cause of the director and boosters.

Directors have so many responsibilities that only band directors can do. They have a huge bundle through which to work…selecting, preparing, and teaching music…preparing rosters…attending school staff meetings…taking attendance…setting rehearsal dates…setting performance dates…submitting paperwork for school approval…planning auditions…leadership training for students…paperwork for marching season…competitions…communications with students, school, and parents,…curriculum planning…concerts… establishing letter requirements…booster club responsibilities…daily records required by the school system…faculty duties, i.e. lunch monitoring, hall monitoring…letters of recommendation for students….This touches on a portion of their responsibilities. These are things that can only be done by the directors!

In addition to the above responsibilities, I have observed directors who have acted as uniform dispersers, transporters of equipment, treasurers, fundraisers, chaperones, nurses, party planners, travel agents, etc…so many sticks in their bundles. These directors can become tired and worn making it difficult for them to focus on teaching music effectively. The directors, much like the old man in the above story, need the help of others to break the bundle into manageable parts.

Booster organizations are the channels of support for these directors. Booster organizations are as the elderly man’s sons who found that when each broke a stick the work could be accomplished without draining themselves or their resources. Booster parents need to realize the importance of all parents participating; none of the sons struggled when each of them shared in the work. Booster parents need to recognize the importance of supporting the directors in their course of building a solid music program for the students. A well organized booster club can enhance a music program to impressive heights by allowing the directors to focus on the musical facet of the program.

If your music program is operating without a booster organization, speak with your director to see what parents might be able to do to help that director with the non-specialized tasks. If your music program has a booster organization, find out about it. Start attending the meetings; help with the director’s workload. Your program will begin to flourish when you begin to help the director break those sticks one by one.

Get started snapping those sticks!!

You can find all the Breaking the Bundle posts here.