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A Band Wife’s Point of View

A Band Wife’s Point of View | May 2010

    The job of being a Band Mom is like no other. For the past seven years (with two more to go), I’ve supported my children’s band program, volunteering to chaperone, haul percussion equipment, and work the concession stand at football games. I’ve also helped to raise funds by selling candy, cookie dough, cheesecakes, and poinsettias because I be­lieve in the value of a well-rounded education that in­cludes music.
     Even though Band Boo­sters are volunteer organizations, I’ve seen some well-meaning parents try to take over band programs, to the point of telling directors how to win first place at all-state competitions. The following guide­lines are for directors to pass along to their booster organizations.

     •A great group of band parents can’t make a poor band play well, but a negative group of band parents can destroy even the best of bands.

     •The very best band parents recognize that band directors are the source of authority and decisions in the band program. Quite honestly, it doesn’t mat­ter if you don’t like the music, the uniforms, the drill, the concert program, or the director’s spouse or significant other. Band directors make the decisions for the band program.

     •If parents want to help, they should strive to uplift their children and the directors. Being negative serves no good. Parents who are concerned about their child should schedule a conference with the band director and a school administrator. Other­wise, they should voice only positive and uplifting thoughts for their children and the band program.

     •Parents should remember that schools do not require band for graduation. If you or your child are unhappy with the program, ask a guidance coun­selor to remove your child from band. Band is a wonderful experience; but it is not necessarily for everyone, and not everyone will do well as part of an ensemble.
     •Band parent organizations can be a vital asset to band programs, but they are neither necessary nor required. Some band parents have the mindset that “they can’t fire me; I’m a volunteer.” In reality, some band parent organizations have disbanded when they no longer effectively supported the program.
     Parents should never lose sight of the fact that their purpose is to support the band directors’ decisions and the music curriculum. If they can’t, they shouldn’t be a part of the organization. If they believe some decisions are harmful, they should set up a conference with the school administration.

     •Band students are a special bunch of people. They tend to be more talented academically and socially than other students, and they tend to be more motivated to attend college and have higher standards than others. They are a treasure to behold.
     Parents sometimes forget that their especially talented children are surrounded by other impressively talented children who might have greater talent or be more capable. When another student, perhaps even a younger student, earns a higher chair or receives more exposure than their child, parents should resist the urge to question or challenge the director’s decision. Instead, consider the talents, private lessons, dedication to practice, and  ability to perform under pressure as factors that have contributed to the student’s success. He just may not necessarily be the teacher’s pet.
     High-achieving students may un­consciously exert pressure on their peers to uphold standards. This is a good thing and certainly not meant to be disrespectful. Again, if some­thing in the band room is out of line, a conference is in order. If not, your child needs to step it up and perform to the level of his peers.

     •It is a guarantee that drama will ensue whenever you have a group of teenagers together for an extended period of time. Band parents should avoid becoming a part of the drama or contributing to it. Children will hear and quickly pass along the words that adults say to one another or to a spouse. Stay out of it.
     If something needs to be said, make sure the directors don’t already know about the problem before you tell them. It is the job of student leaders to keep gossip to a minimum and to keep the directors aware only of what they need to know.

     •Parents should remember that band is an experience for their child, not for them. Too many adults have nearly won a trophy, possibly played a solo, or almost received a standing ovation but didn’t make it; they are determined their children will have what they did not.
     Keep in mind that your children won’t know what they are missing unless you make it obvious to them. Most band students get a big kick out of taking part in parades, road trips, and great rivalries with other bands. They don’t think of themselves as failures until parents complain that they didn’t win first, were outplayed by another ensemble, or didn’t sound as good as the previous year. Projecting lost dreams and wishes on to your children is simply poor parenting.

     •Change takes time and adjustment. In life, bosses change and peer groups shift. I suggest you look at accepting change and the ability to adapt as a great life skill. Whenever a new band director joins the staff, things will be different, and different does not mean wrong. 
     Change is good. Change can shake things up and revive energy. Great directors are careful to hold true to important traditions; but otherwise, all bets are off. Everyone – ensemble mem­bers and band parents alike – should be excited about new opportunities to build new traditions. Parents and students, be patient when changes take place in your lives.

     •The laws and policies governing students have changed over the years and may be very different from the policies parents knew. As a parent, it’s easy to look at someone who can’t play his part, marches with two left feet, or doesn’t meet financial commitments and wonder why the person isn’t  kicked out of band or at least made to sit on the sidelines.
     In reality, there are a number of laws and policies protecting students from any type of perceived discrimination or violation of privacy. These regulations often prevent directors from taking action against poor performers; all teachers have to follow certain rules or risk being fired.

     •Common courtesy and respect go a long way. Please pick your children up on time so the band director can go home too. Take the time to say thank you to the directors and the volunteer parents who work so hard for the band program. Thank the school administrators who show up at band functions. If you can’t make a booster meeting, don’t complain about decisions the group made in your absence or waste everyone’s time at the next meeting by bringing up old business.

     •Make an effort to volunteer at least once in a while. If you can’t, please don’t criticize or complain about those who do.