Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Absolutely thrilled

Members of the pep band plus Mr. Coppicus are shown performing at halftime of the Section 4A football playoff opener on October 22, 2013. It was the first of two home football games the Jaguars won last fall.

I finally got around to reading through the new high school band student handbook. I have to say that I was absolutely thrilled by what I was reading. I am not kidding when I admit that my jaw hit the floor every time I read the next section. If we want a great band, the rules of the road are laid out in grand fashion in that handbook!

And just an FYI, at Sauk Centre, pep band is mandatory for senior high band members.

Please note this part of the handbook: "Students with jobs are expected to notify employers in advance and have scheduled event days available. Most potential conflicts can be eliminated with good planning, so communicate early with your employer about your band commitments. If you have trouble getting excused from work, a phone call from the director is almost always effective (provided adequate notice is given)."

Here's what I have to say: either band is part of a student's education or it isn't. You can't have it both ways. A parent wouldn't allow their senior high student to miss a math class every other Friday so they can clock in at a part-time job. A varsity football, tennis or volleyball player (or any other student-athlete) isn't missing a competitive game so they can clock in at a part-time job. A member of the speech team isn't missing a speech event so they can clock in at a part-time job.

That would be nonsense.

Don't forget that what fired me up was the plummeting 8th grade band numbers. I calm down somewhat in regards to a student pulling out of band as they get older. It's still irritating, but not to the point where I'm going to vent my anger on the Internet. From 10th to 11th grade or 11th grade to 12th grade, things change. Other classes can get tougher. Kids join college-credit courses. They take part-time jobs (but even then you can work around a pep band & concert band schedule). The demands of being a three-sport athlete can become more difficult. This isn't about any of that. It's about the fact that the difference between 7th grade and 8th grade is not a heck of a lot. I doubt anyone could find one dang good reason why a student should quit band between 7th and 8th grade. It makes no sense.

For heaven's sakes, if your 13-year old says they want to quit band, they better be awfully creative in giving a reason why!! Parents, it wouldn't kill your young teenager to teach them what the word "commitment" is all about.

I know I will catch heat for what I've been saying about the issue of students quitting band, an issue that  make me incredibly upset. So be it. I'm not in the business of pleasing everyone. With that said, after reading the new student band handbook, I want to stress that I am not as upset as I was yesterday. Our band is in good hands, even if it has growing pains because of students and/or parents who don't like what they read in the band handbook.

Band is an academic class. It's not some fluffy "extra" do-nothing waste of time. It is important to our school and our community! It should be looked at on the same level as any other academic course that has core requirements and certain expectations from the teacher.

Every day I want to see the B-B-E school improve. Regardless of what extracurricular or academic program we're talking about, there is always room for improvement. To make a program better, it needs the right amount of participation. For academic programs (test scores, band numbers) to improve, it takes a high level of hard work both inside the walls of a school building and outside those walls. A band won't improve without a proper commitment from students and parents alike. A great school has a great band. There's no way around it.

Remember the awesome feelings we had at the conclusion (and even in the middle) of every high school concert last year? Or the K-4 elementary musical? Folks, including me, walked out of every one of those B-B-E choral events with our chests puffed up, our shoulders straightened out with a buzz in the air as everyone agreed that those choral events were truly outstanding.

Some day, I hope those same feelings to abound when we walk out of a B-B-E band concert.

**Update: as is stated in the handbook, a student can receive up to three unexcused absences from band events before it would start affecting their grade. That applies to band concerts, pep bands or contest dates. After hearing some quite outlandish rumors about the "mandatory" pep band concept, I was really truly astounded. The band teacher said that no student who is part of a sporting event would be counted as absent from a pep band. They were pretty shocked that people would think that.

A little common sense would help out here!!!

Here's what we don't want to see: just 12 kids show up on pep band night. I don't know if the number was that low, but it was really low for Friday's home football game. Out of the senior high band, if a band member was on the football field that's totally an accepted absence from pep band. I get that. The new band teacher gets that. Anyone should understand that.

If a band member wasn't on that football field, they should've been in the pep band. They should have wanted to be in the pep band. To not want to play with the pep band all the time is a bizarre concept to me!!

The point is, pep band is important. Concert band is important. A high school's band program is important. Kids have to stick with it!!!! I don't know how else I can say it.

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