Next time you go to a Tuesday night basketball game, I want you to stop and listen. I want you to think about the group of kids in the band who aren’t there of their own accord, who instead are obligated to come and “support the team.”
You could listen to us play, and maybe you would think, Whoa…they’re pretty good. And maybe when our next concert rolls around, you can ignore homework for an hour (instead of the two it takes for basketball) and come see us perform.
Because trust me–yeah, we’re pretty good.
We’re better than you would think hearing us drowned out by whistles and chatter at basketball games, or seeing how few people give us a second glance as we march off the football field after a halftime performance.
I doubt you’ve listened to us play “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That” or “Land of 1000 Dances” for the twelfth time that week, let alone come to a concert. But maybe next time, instead of checking your phone or wandering off to get concessions during a timeout, you could stop and listen. And maybe it would make you want to see one of our concerts.
I wish that after playing clarinet for seven years, and being a member of five school bands and an orchestra, I wouldn’t mind the fact that no one comes to watch us. I love every other aspect of band; I love the music and I love the people.
And that’s why I’m twice as sad when I look out at the 40 people that show up to our concerts, who look like less because of all the empty seats around them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful they came. But all I can think is how disappointed I am when I look out from the brightness of the stage into the dark and overwhelmingly empty auditorium.
According to the district website, over $200,000 more is spent annually on fine arts than on athletics. Does that seem backwards to you? Then maybe you can make those expenditures worthwhile by coming to the occasional concert.
If students aren’t interested in the arts programs, what’s to stop the district from cutting from that budget? In 2013, East’s slower jazz band was almost cut due to budget strains, and it was only through the efforts of the band students that a we were able to keep it.
Just looking at the countless trophies in the music rooms and display cases is enough to prove all the fine arts here at East are excellent: theater, painting, ceramics, choir (which is particularly impressive to me, considering my singing voice has been compared to a dying cow). Last year I was lucky enough to be one of the two clarinetists in what is quite possibly one of the best high school orchestras in the state. I didn’t make it this year, but I hope when I come to see their concerts that I see more people than I did when I was part of it, which was not very many.
Then there’s band. The end of summer kicks off marching season, and even though everyone has to wear wool uniforms that are tight in all the wrong places and silver plumes that smell like rotten milk, what we present on the field is impressive enough to win us top ratings at both our festivals this fall. So you’d think it would be enough to impress the student body.
But apparently it’s not.
Most people have no idea about the jazz bands that have won national awards, the symphonic band that has a history of superior ratings at festival, the ridiculously elite district and state bands that people work their butts off trying to get into. There are some outstanding musicians at this school, and honestly, I don’t think enough people appreciate it.
The only parts of band people really see are marching and pep, which basically exist to hype up the student section and the team. But for some reason when football and basketball players are interviewed, they always credit the student section with motivating them to win, not the spirit squads and the band who come to every game and support them.
I wasn’t the only one who, at the sub-state football game last year, had to go sit on the floor of the bathroom after halftime rubbing feeling back into my white fingers and toes, since having them turn black and fall off would be a slight inconvenience. Yes, that is exaggerated, and I know the cheerleaders were probably worse off, but in short I was very, very cold.
And what was it all for if the students are paying no attention to us anyway? We put a lot of effort into our show, and bear in mind no one does band because they have to. We do it because we enjoy it, and it makes us not want to try as hard if no one is watching. I get that we do the same show at every game, and maybe seeing it a couple times is enough, but there are other components to band than just marching.
So next time you hear about an upcoming performance, come. All the music programs are delightful to watch. And to say it’s not a waste of time would be an understatement, since I can’t think of a better way to spend an hour on a Tuesday night than seeing your peers perform. Because they are good at what they do, just like the football team.
It’s worth it to stand against the wall to hear the choir sing; it’s worth it to miss an hour of liking Instagram posts to see the annual musical. And it’s worth it to see that there is more to band than the “geeks” in tall hats sitting in the stands, playing “Land of 1000 Dances.”