The work of band boosters and band parents is exhausting, all-encompassing, and never-ending. If your band program is one of the thousands of bands that go to adjudicated competitions throughout the fall, you are probably coming up on the end of your season. Congrats - you're almost at the finish line!
Of course we recognize that all parrents are doing their very best! Whether you've performed in a competitive marching program yourself, or your just learning for the first time what you're kids have gotten themselves into, we thought it would be helpful to highlight some different ways to support your kids' final couple of weeks.
- Support your child's time management
- Support the idea of extra rehearsal blocks, sectionals, etc
- Respond to rehearsal frustration carefully and properly
- Reinforce the "WHY" behind marching competitions
- Despite your child's "eye-rolling", be a nerdy band parent
In many cases, the homework starts off the school year on the light side, and then builds to a "crescendo" into October and November. Kids that could possibly get away with a few cut-corners quickly find themselves stuggling to keep up.
With the added pressure of the season on top of the growing October/November school workload, it's easy for kids to get buried REALLY FAST. Checking in once-in-a-while is probably not enough, so a weekly schedule review (Sunday afternoons/evenings work great for this).
Review the schedule for the week, including due-dates, non-band activities (what are those?), large assignments on the horizon, group project needs. Make a list of any items needed for completion ("Mom I need those plastic sheet protectors from Staples...").
More and more programs are beginning to refer to their marching or performing rehearsals as "blocks". Blocks are typically the name that staffs give to specific, outcome-based time focused on a particular part of the performance. "Visual Block" means cleaning drill, ""Winds Block" means time with the woodwinds and brass, etc. If you want to FREAK YOUR KIDS OUT - refer to those slivers of time dedicated as "HOMEWORK BLOCK", or "CLEAN YOUR ROOM BLOCK", and see how that goes over.
Try to avoid grumbling, griping, and complaining about extra rehearsals when they are called. While it can be frustrating when an extra rehearsal pops up on the calendar that you weren't initially prepared for, these sessions can be invaluable to the growth of your young performer and their ensemble as a whole.
But, keep in mind that added rehearsals ought to be accompanied with as much advanced notice as possible (did you miss that email from 3 weeks ago?), and should be director- or staff-supervised if called by the student section leader. In fact, most schools these days have policies in place that require a paid adult to be on-site when any activities are taking place.
Even a little grumbling can send subliminal signals to your student, so try to be supportive and as positive about those schedule changes as possible.
When the season is coming to a head, it's common for the stress-levels to build a little bit. Sometimes this stress follows your student home and comes out in conversation.
Try to understand the source of the frustration. Does your son/daughter feel as if the band is not improving? Is it coming from a lagging section ("The colorguard is just always wrong...". Is the tone of the staff coming across as negative?
Try to support your child by first hearing them out (let them vent as needed), and then by trying to emphasize the need for positivity.
"I hear what you're saying about the colorguard, but they are mostly freshmen and sophomores after that big graduating class last year, and they have gotten so much better since band camp. They may still need work, but they are adding TONS to your show..."
If your band program goes out on the weekends and performs for a score, then the reason "WHY" marching bands compete becomes very important.
My hope is that your band director sets up the program philosophy with a eye towards growth, improvement, fun, and teamwork rather than pure championship trophies. Any group that goes out in front of a judging panel on Saturday nights is taking a certain degree of risk in a sense. After all, someone has to lose if someone else has to win....
Competing is a great way to inspire and energize a program, however there are hundreds of awesome band programs in the United States that do not compete. It's just a means to an end.
Try to learn more about the "WHY" behind your kids' program, and reinforce that at every opportunity. Sometimes the results from the judges validate all of the hard work, however if the score or placement comes out lower than you hoped - does that make the effort worthless?
Kids and teenagers are naturally prone to explore their own independence. The fact that they have decided to JOIN a program like a marching band actually goes against some of their natural rebellious tendencies (but maybe those come out in different ways?).
My daughter is 13 years old and is marching her rookie year in her high school band on tuba. She is going through that "disaffected youth" stage where she wants parents that are seen and not heard. She acts 'too-cool-for-school', but if we missed a performance she would be crushed - despite the fact that her eye-rolling and her "You are so DORKY!" declarations say otherwise.
Be present, be supportive, and be a loud, nerdy band fan for your kids. Wear your colors and be the biggest fan you can despite the attitude - we all know its an act and a phase and your kids think it's AWESOME that you care.
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