Fortunately, after only two weeks of summer band rehearsals, it became apparent to mom and me that I didn’t know an A-flat from a Q-sharp on tuba. Besides, the mouthpiece fit sort of like a breathing mask. We ended up getting a trombone.
I spent a long time in band: 7th grade through college. My role as a band student was pretty easy: practice, show up, rehearse, perform, and win the cheerleader (OK, I made that last part up, but it could have happened!). Along the way I learned all the things you might expect: leadership, teamwork, and responsibility. I developed my social skills and learned how my actions affected others. All of these things would serve me well in life and would ultimately influence my interaction with other people, my relationship with my wife and children and even my career. But at the time, I was in it because it was fun.
My view of my parents’ role was fairly narrow. Sign practice sheets. Get me to rehearsal on time. Make sure my uniform was clean for Friday nights. What I didn’t realize at the time was that they knew the secondary skills I was learning. They knew the importance of belonging to something bigger than one’s self. They liked the fact that I was around “good kids” who (mostly) stayed out of trouble. And they were proud of what we were accomplishing. Band was safe.
Flash forward 35 years. I’m now a band parent and I’m trying to impart some of what my parents knew onto my son. Jack is a third year saxophone player; just out of 7th grade and already eager about high school a year away. He sees the fun: the performances, the trips, and the cheerleaders. I see a young man never much into sports learning about teamwork and growing into himself.
Hopefully his band experience will be as rewarding as mine was. But it’s a different world for band programs. Music and the arts aren’t deemed as important as they once were. And we’re suffering for it. I suspect that our role as band parents will involve as much advocacy as carpooling. I look forward to sharing the story with you as it unfolds and I hope to hear your stories as well.
By the way, I still have my trombone. It sits in the living room and occasionally gets played. Oddly enough, Jack’s director wants him to learn to play it for jazz band next year. Something about a balanced brass section…