A Guide to Band for Parents Episode IV: Band Class, A New Hope

Here I’ve created a blog series for parents of children in band. This episode, “Episode IV: Band Class, a New Hope” I talk about my own experiences in band and why music can only enrich a child’s life.

 

As a child, I was never very popular. I had only a few friends, and would invariably be the last picked for kickball. Little did I know, my “cool factor” was yet to come: music.

I started learning music at the age of six, at a local music store. It was difficult at first, but later in life music would grant me achievements to be proud of. Despite it being a prolonged experience due to protesters throwing bleachers into the parade-way, when I marched in G.W. Bush’s inaugural parade in high school it emphasized the meaning of music. When I put on my own rock show in high school for my fellow peers, the dedication paid off. My life changed because I found that key skill. Science and mathematics were definitely not skills of mine.

I have to admit, sometimes discipline to practice was forced upon me, but I genuinely enjoyed playing the instruments I played. Sure I’d have to study something, but in the end, I’d have some fun based on basic knowledge and learn some new things on my own. My parents were wise and began me on piano. From there I took up percussion and saxophone, and was ahead of everyone else because I had already been studying piano.

Only a few years later in elementary school, as fate would have it, I met someone who I can only describe as my musical companion, a fellow saxophonist. He and I had been playing music together for a long time even back when I was in high school.  Now, in our thirties, we are making records together. We made our first records together at age 16.

My high school sweetheart was a clarinet player in the band. Needless to say, you can’t be “cool” without a steady. She and I were both into music, and I even  switched to clarinet in the marching band because she played clarinet. There’s something about music that makes friendships and relationships click.  Those two people are still pretty much my best friends to this day.

My freshman year of high school, I was a dedicated “bando”. In previous years Trumbull High School’s “Golden Eagle Marching Band” had a lot of achievements on it’s record. Since I only knew the kids I went to middle school with, the first thing I did when we had a break was start playing piano in the main band room. Admittedly it was to get attention, but it also attracted the right people to me. Maybe, as a non-social butterfly at the time, it was my way of opening up to people. I can’t tell you how many times, over those four years I had to play and sing “Piano Man” and other favorites for band members.

Of course all of this helped me get out of my shell. Freshman year I also had my first jazz band with people from the marching band and other musicians in band class. There was a well known music store in Fairfield that sold scores, and I’d spend grandma money on them. Sometimes the scores were as expensive as $150.

We all, as a band, were a tightly knit group. We’d practice often, march often, and subsequently, spent free time together often. One of the greatest parts of marching band– and band in general– was that age wise it wasn’t limited to the same age group like most other classes. If you were lucky like I was, you could maybe take a senior course your junior year, but that was about it. Subsequently, we all looked up to the upper classmen and tried to emulate them. There were three kinds of basic attitudes in marching band: Complete dedication, being there because your friends were there, and simple entertainment.

After my Freshman year of complete dedication, I began to fall into the simple entertainment category. I enjoyed making people laugh, even if it was at my own expense, and it certainly helped to cure the boredom that would happen when you’d just be standing on the field while another section was working on their marching. We used to joke that we were amateur astronomers because our practices happened at night often and we’d always look up at the stars. In a way, for three years, I was the band’s rebellious mascot. I went back to visit while I was in college, I walked in the room and even freshman knew who I was. Up until that moment I didn’t realize that I personally impacted lives, and that made a big impression on me.

This all was a natural progression to what I do now– playing jazz gigs, composing, recording, repairing instruments, etc. To me band class was what science class was to someone who became a scientist.

And there are of course others stories from people completely different than me. Some in band grew up to build their own companies, become teachers and one even became a successful actress. The common thread was stretching that creative muscle in band class.

Music has certainly enriched my life as both a student and adult. If your child has decided to start band, that’s a great thing! There are many advantages to playing music in band class, from sharpening the mind to finding oneself. As you can see, I certainly can’t complain.

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