Here’s advice for new high school band parents, an account of a band parent looking back over that first year.
With the school year coming to an end, I find myself taking a step back and reflecting on what I learned as a first-year band parent. Having no experience with high school band prior to this, I was basically a deer in headlights for the first half of the year. This post is to pay it forward for all future band parents out there who have no idea what they are in for. You’re welcome!
Last night, we attended Zach’s final band performance of the year. Patrick helped me make my last batch of hot dogs to contribute to the concession stand, and my mom made her all too familiar hour and a half car trip to watch the show. It was an amazing night, and as usual, the kids put on a great performance. Boy have they grown so much this year! But you know who else has grown? I have! And although I still have a ton to figure out with this whole band thing, I’d love to share with you what I learned as a first year band parent. Just a little way of me paying it forward to future band parents out there. You’ll need all the help you can get 🙂
I should probably start off by giving you a little history here. Zach joined the band in his 6th-grade year and was placed in the band as a percussionist. See, he’d been taking drum lessons since he was 6 and played really well. There was one big problem though. He played awesomely, but couldn’t read the music at all. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because he was moved down to the beginning band and that’s where he decided to try out the trombone. It’s been his instrument ever since and he’s pretty darn good at it. He marches a regular tenor trombone but plays bass trombone for everything else.
If you’re brand new to all this music stuff, that last part is probably gibberish to you. It was to Patrick and me in the beginning too. Don’t worry…you’ll learn! Patrick nor I played an instrument while we were in school. Ok, wait. I’m lying. I think I joined the band for one week and then begged my mom to have my schedule changed. Patrick has mentioned that he played the trumpet for a brief time but he couldn’t play a note on the thing if his life depended on it. We were total newbies starting from scratch with all this music stuff.
So while most of this might be second nature to some of you out there, it definitely wasn’t for our family. Yes, admittedly we were clueless…
Middle school band IS NOT high school band.
Being a part of the middle school band was an amazing experience for Zach. Shout out to Ms. Ellis, now Mrs.Westerman, for unleashing the musician that was hiding within Zach. She’s literally the best woman ever, and a teacher who we will forever be grateful for.
As middle school band parents, we became used to attending a beginning and end of the year performance, with a few little performances scattered throughout the year. It was a commitment for Zach, but very doable with plenty of additional time to participate in other extra-curricular activities. He was able to play rec basketball, spend time with his friends, and sleep-in until noon every weekend! Typical tween/teen behavior.
When Zach started high school, this was the same experience we were expecting to have. We quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be the case…High school band is much more involved and on a completely different level. You’ll see what I mean as you read on.
Band starts before the actual school year begins.
Our first introduction to high school band came during the summer for mandatory Marching Band Camp. Band Camp started bright and early in the morning and lasted All.Day.Long. Band Camp is intense! Really intense! Kids are outside marching in the summer sun and working their butts off. Plus for us (we live in Florida), the weather conditions are disgustingly hot and humid.
Honestly though, we got off pretty easy last summer. Our high school was brand new and our band director wasn’t hired until after summer break already began. There wasn’t enough time to really plan so we had a fairly short band camp experience. This year, however, we have about 4 weeks of band camp.
The schedule was out months ago on our band website and we had to coordinate our summer vacation around it. I’m not joking about that. Your kid won’t want to miss camp, even for vacation. They definitely want to start off on the band director’s good side!
Make sure you have some way of getting this information from your child’s future high school because staying in the loop is so very important!
Which brings me to…Make sure you know how information is being communicated.
Do not rely solely on your child bringing this information home to you. If you put all your eggs in that basket you will miss out…on a lot!! I know many of you out there are thinking, “My child is so responsible. They always keep me in the loop. I can guarantee I will know everything that is going on.”
While that might be true, and you have the most responsible kid in the world, there are many outside factors that can lead to your child not bringing home information to you. For starters, the band room is a very LOUD place. Between all the kids, and their instruments, there’s a possibility an important piece of information might not even be heard to be relayed back to you.
Did you know that within the band room there are many smaller rooms to practice in along with a locker room to house all the instruments? Your child could potentially be somewhere else when information is being exchanged and never hear it at all.
There are many other situations that could arise that would prevent you from getting the information you need as a parent from your child. Lucky for you I don’t want to bore you with them all. I do, however, want you to take this as an opportunity to start figuring out how your band information will be communicated and get yourself connected. For our band, we have a Facebook group and website.
Make sure your child eats and stays hydrated before practices and performances.
So this sounds a like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many kids this past band season have passed out or gotten “woozy” during practices and performances. Like I mentioned earlier, band takes a lot more out of your kids than you might think. It’s a very physical activity, especially in marching band. You try performing in a wool uniform all while staying in perfect formation and playing an instrument. It ain’t easy!
With our kids getting older, we start trusting them to grab a snack when they head out the door, along with something to drink. While some do this with no problem, others don’t! Once your child gets to band, it can be hours before they are in a situation where they can even grab a little snack. They are doing things such as practicing, performing and setting up/pulling down equipment.
Please take the time to remind your child to eat and drink before any performance. I would also recommend making sure your child always has an emergency snack in their band bag too.
High school band is a tremendous commitment.
Once band camp starts during the summer, your child’s life as they know it is over! They will eat, sleep and breathe nothing but band. This will be the case all the way through football season.
For Zach, he had after school practices every Tuesday and Thursday, pep rallies at 6 am every Friday, Friday night football games and then Saturday practices and competitions. And that was just what was on the calendar! Other things “popped up” that weren’t on the calendar along the way!
Once marching band season was over, things did calm down quite a bit but there was still basketball pep band to worry about and additional performances and competitions. Band is a year-round experience!
So you’ll need to make sure your child is organized and on top of their studies.
With so much going on with band, finding time to study and stay on top of homework assignments can be challenging. Believe me on this one. I know from experience! My once straight-A student was struggling to keep B’s for the majority of the school year!
Make sure your child is carving out time specifically for studying and homework each day. The classes in high school are definitely more challenging and teachers can be very strict with their classroom procedures. Your child won’t be able to turn in something a month late for full credit anymore…they are in high school now!
There are plenty of ways to get involved with the band as a parent.
And you’ll want to! Once you see your child on the football field for the first time you’ll be addicted. I know I was. There are so many moving pieces to a band program that you are sure to find a way to help out that works for you.
I am a proud member of the food committee. I have also volunteered for many competitions and performances. I even helped with the band banquet! Patrick, who works crazy hours, was still able to help out too. He even got his job to donate a check to support the band program.
Don’t be shy! Get involved. There’s something for everyone.
Band is a family.
Kids in band are lucky! They instantly have a group of friends the day they walk into band camp. This was extremely helpful for Zach this year. The zoning changed in our area and he ended up being one of maybe 10 kids total that went to the new high school. Being in band helped Zach make friends before the actual school year even began which made for a smoother transition.
The bond between the kids only gets stronger throughout the course of the year. Remember, they are together quite a bit! So much in fact they even act like siblings at times. They pick on each other, fight, and then makeup. It’s pretty neat to see!
And as a parent, you start building connections with other band parents because you’re seeing the same people all the time too. Whether it be at football games or competitions or even just in the car line waiting to pick up your child after practice, you’re seeing the same people. Just like your kids, these relationships grow stronger throughout the year and you create some really wonderful friendships.
My list of things I have learned this year could really go on forever! To say we have had a huge learning curve with this whole band thing is an understatement. We’ve had ups, downs and diagonals, but you know what? We made it work! What I learned as a first year band parent is that band is so much more than playing an instrument. It builds character, provides comfort, creates a family and makes memories that will last a lifetime. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!