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June 1960 National Band Association By Traugott Rohner

At present less than 10% of all band directors belong to national associations especially organized for them – ABA, CBDNA, ASBDA, NCBA

   The four national and outstanding associations for band directors are the American Bandmasters Association, College Band Directors National Association, American School Band Directors Association, and National Catholic Bandmasters Association. Each of these four has a specialized purpose, and each does a special job in its field. ABA and ASBDA are selective in their membership (you have to be invited); for CBDNA one has to be a director at the college or university level; and NCBA, of course, has the denominational limitation.
   Without counting the considerable duplications of memberships, the total number of members of these four organizations is under 1,100. Since it is estimated that there are over 20,000 band directors in the United States, one can deduce that less than 6% of all band directors belong to one of the four existing national band organizations. However, because no one knows exactly how many band directors there are in the country and to avoid any argument about percentage points, let us simply consider the total organizational affiliations at less than 10%. This is, indeed, a lamentably small portion!
   Any organized minority is more powerful as a group than a disorganized majority. This is true in politics, business, social activities, and music. An organized group of parents from a Band Mothers Club, for example, has an influence far beyond the numbers it represents. So, too, is this true of ABA, ASBDA, CBDNA, and NCBA. Whether this is as it should be is not the major issue: the question here is how about the other 90% + of the band directors?
   There are many excellent state associations of school band directors that afford their members the desired outlets, but their national impact is negligible. Some directors, no doubt, feel that it is not necessary to belong to a national organization. Included in this group are those who do a faithful job in their local situation and feel it unnecessary to have a broader outlook; and some probably just have never given any thought to the desirability of a national organization. Regardless, there are many who strongly feel that a national association open to all band directors should be organized.


   The official outlet for school band directors, as far as the Music Educators National Conference is concerned, is the National Interscholastic Music Activities Commission. NIMAC is badly named. A common question among instrumentalists is, “What is NIMAC and what does it do?”
   It is highly desirable to have an association of band directors open to all on all levels (college, high school, junior high, elementary, community) without membership restrictions. Every band director, thus, could belong to a group specifically serving his needs, promoting his welfare, and providing the national promotion and publicity needed for the band movement to be given its rightful recognition and to insure its desirable growth. Such a group might well have a good working relationship with MENC. There are some band directors who automatically resist working and co-operating with MENC, but this is shortsighted. We need MENC, and MENC needs the band directors.
   The new National School Orchestra Association has, within two years, developed a larger percentage of memberships among school orchestra directors than have the combined CBDNA, ASBDA, ABA, and NCBA in their field. The American String Teachers Association is also doing an effective job for string teachers and orchestra directors. In percentage of memberships it, too, outshines the band organizations. Because band directors are as a group, dynamic and out-going extroverts, a national association of all such individuals could certainly be a large and powerful organization.

NBA Recommended
The Instrumentalist recommends the organization of a NA
a not-for-profit educational association
 whose purposes would be (1) the promotion of bands and instrumental mu
sic, (2) the welfare of band directors,
 and (3) the development of the band
 as a musically significant undertaking.
 NBA would permit any band director
 or any seriously interested person to 
belong. There should be no limitations
 as to race, color, education, sex, religion, or place of employment.
   It is suggested that NBA has on its Board of Directors (Executive Board) an official representative of ABA, CBDNA, ASBDA, NCBA, and NACWPI (National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors). And it is suggested that it has as Associate Board Members (the actual term and affiliation to be determined) official representatives from such groups as MENC and NSOA. In other words, NBA should be an association of all band directors and it should have a good working relationship with all existing band organizations and other groups of instrumentalists and educators. NBA would not be organized or motivated as anti any other group; it would be specifically for band directors, bands, instrumental music, and music education.

Where Does MENC Fit?
   NBA would be a self-governing, democratically organized group. One of its purposes would be to assist MENC in setting up good and practical programs for band directors at its conventions. Band directors who think that MENC is anti-band do not reflect the general feeling of MENC. In reality, MENC is anxious to assist all instrumentalists, including band directors. It seems probable, therefore, that MENC would be very willing to work with NBA.
   NBA would thus be responsible for doing a good job for band directors at MENC meetings. Instead of losing prestige, MENC would gain thereby. Should a program not be as good as some band directors had hoped, the blame would fall upon NBA rather than upon MENC. Furthermore, by having a direct voice in setting up MENC programs thru NBA, the general attitude of band directors toward MENC would be improved; so would their MENC convention attendance. Thus, the role of MENC would be that of an “umbrella-type organization” under which would be housed the many segments of the world of bands, music, and music education.

   Many band directors already have too many meetings that take them away from their work. Will not another organization just add to this problem? Not necessarily. By having the first national meeting with the largest gathering of band directors anywhere – the Midwest National Band Clinic meeting in Chicago next December – no additional meeting is necessary. Whether the membership would subsequently prefer to meet with the national conventions of MENC on the odd years is, of course, up to the membership. Regardless, NBA should make every attempt not to increase the number of meetings per year.
   Previous to the first national convention of NBA it appears desirable for a group of leading band directors representing all areas to meet (perhaps in June) for a general planning session and to draft a suggested constitution to be voted upon at the first national meeting. Thus the major steps for organization would follow practical and accepted democratic procedures.
   Any band director who is not heartily in favor of the general set-up suggested here can voice his opinion as to how the proposed NBA should or should not be organized. By being specific in the foregoing suggestions, one runs the danger of exposure to attack; but specificity has the marked advantage of providing something tangible. Comments, criticisms, and suggestions are invited.

NBA Badly Needed
   In this era of over-emphasis on math, science, and foreign languages, music (and here we are thinking specifically of the band) is feeling the pressure. Several recent studies clearly indicate that we should be seriously concerned about the de-emphasizing of music to give more time and importance to the aforementioned subjects. This applies also to the fortunate director who is teaching in a school where the effect has not yet been harmful to music.
   Every general, and every book on
 tactics and procedures, suggests that
 the best defense is often a superior of
fense. NBA can be a dynamic force
 FOR bands and instrumental music.
 It can well be the national voice to
 speak for band directors everywhere.
 We will not make headway by sitting on our hands.

NBA: A Working Organization
   NBA is envisioned here primarily as an organization which is devoted to getting work done. NBA will have as one of its purposes the making of the band as a significant musical organization. (There still are schools of music, professional conductors, and musicians – as well as other people – who consider the band inferior to orchestra, opera, and choral groups.) Certainly, one should count on NBA’s importance as a national outlet for promotion and publicity, but without domination or losing sight of the importance of musical, cultural, and educative activities. It is important that bands be promoted to the general public, to school administrators, and to other educational and artistic segments of our national life.
   To these ends is the organization of a National Band Association recommended.