Thursday, August 27, 2015

Because you never know....

There are so many things to reflect about at the beginning of the school year. One of the things that has been at the forefront of this year for us over at Santa Teresa HS so far is that after years and years and years (the story is FAR too long for sharing here in this post), lights were finally installed on our football field a few weeks ago.

There are so many emotions surrounding this. I work and am close to a lot of people who went or were involved in Santa Teresa and they never thought they would ever see this day come. We are all so passionate and excited about what is coming for our community and as someone who had Friday night football games growing up,  I am so excited to watch how it will shape and bring our community together in new ways.

The dawn of lights does mean the loss of the Homecoming annual ST tradition that used to take place on Saturday morning before the Homecoming Football Game (that was on Saturday afternoon). While it is a loved and anticipated event in our neighborhood it has been a stressful and difficult part of my job to coordinate all 200+ students (we did the parade the last several years with every member of the program regardless of if they were in marching band or not). The evolution of the parade within our organization was something in and off itself. The marching band (which became a non-required activity in our program about 5 years into my time at ST) bore the burden of the parade. The only parade marching our program did was the Homecoming parade. It stretched the marching band thin for time trying to cram the learning of a parade as well as finishing the field show all at the same time (Homecoming is almost always the week before our first show).

Then I decided to go with my gut on something. For years I had felt like I didn't like the fact that I had a number of students who simply didn't know the very basics of marching.  I had a student join the Coast Guard Band and was put in a marching unit. Only later did he tell them that he had been in band but never actually marched before. I feel like there is an assumption that band members who have been all the way through the high school experience should know the very basics of marching, have played in a pep band at an athletic event, know their school fight song, and have performed the Star Spangled Banner multiple times. I felt like I was doing a disservice to my students for not having them do this.

And as many kids have said in class this week "Pep Band is fun".

So I made the Homecoming Parade required for everyone and I asked that each student not in marching band participate in a few pep bands at football games (not all of them). And we did our part to help support this happening. We learned the music in class (all the stands tunes and parade music). My visual caption head and some other instructors helped me teach the students marching basics and we had some large music sectionals outside (like literally outside in the parking lot) to work on the stands music so we could pay nice and loud and work on the horn manuals. It took a village to manage this endeavor (we have a parent that helps me organization the large and small music, helps make sure that the kids have the right flip book/lyre material, and created a google spreadsheet where I manage part assignments and attendance) but we did it.

I probably should do an entire post on pep band.

Moving back to the Homecoming Parade and Pep Band. The student reaction was different than I expected. I thought I would get more push back. Turns out pep band is really fun when done well and the kids really like doing it and so its really not a big deal to anyone that they "have" to do three games (marching band will do all 5 games now that we have lights and will perform at every single home game). The students loved it. Sure the parade wasn't our favorite thing in the world but it was a really special thing to take our ENTIRE band program out into the community....

And what is so special these days is all the stories I receive about students who joined our program because they saw the Homecoming Parade. I won't miss the hours and frustration surrounding preparing for that 1 hour of the parade. But I will miss the community outreach part. It really reminds us that you never know who is watching you. It was really special to hear today that one of our new members would watch us every year as the parade would pass by the front of her house.

For all you band directors I challenge you to remember never know your students' story. They might have been that kid watching from afar for years hoping someday to be part of the fact many of us used to be that kid....its how many of us got here in the first place. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Money can't buy you everything

Today we kicked off our 2015 Marching Band Leadership Workshop. I have a lot of feelings as we move into the beginning of another season. I am one of those people who doesn't dread the end of summer or the beginning of marching band season. I am not one of those directors who doesn't like marching band....I love it. So this time of year is always a little exciting...sure I mourn the end of summer (but let's be honest I live in California so I am not mourning the end of great weather) but I am excited about the prospect of a new year and about the upcoming season. It's an exciting time.

As the years have gone on at ST (Santa Teresa HS) things have changed. When I started this blog my program didn't have near as much funding as it does now, that is true. However, it was in today's workshop that I was running (free of it was free :)) that there are a lot of other things that don't cost money or you CAN'T BUY! and sometimes they are the most important. Today I was reminded of a few things.

You can't buy success. You can buy a great musical arrangement, choreography, percussion music etc. You can assemble your dream team of staff (trust me I have been working on this for years) but you can purchase hard work or dedication from your students. You can't buy passion and commitment from your members. You can't buy intonation (because if we could we would). I reminded that to my students.

I can set them up for success. I can coordinate and encourage fundraising. I can provide them with all infrastructure for success but if they don't do it....well then we won't be the best group that we can be.

Hard work, dedication, determination, and commitment. Those are the important things that money can't buy.

Happy marching band season....we kick ours off tomorrow!