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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Marching Bands Rule! And for 20 good reasons. (Read to the coda)

Granddaughter Jaci of Panther Creek on the mellophone

Ladies and Gentle-men... The Panther Creek Marching Band!

You rarely see marching bands these days. But believe me, they are there. Dollars talk and television follows the revenue. So if you only watch football on television, you will never see another marching band at football half-time. If you watch high school and college football, then you know what I'm talking about here.

Marching bands and music programs in school are so Number One in what they do for the kids and those watching.

If you have ever been involved in the process, you have to love marching bands. Nothing teaches teamwork and togetherness more than band... and nothing does it better than marching band, especially at the high school level. For two years I was Band Booster (money raiser) President at a smallish high school with a very dedicated and successful band program and it was an emotional high as I saw what it did for the kids... and what it did for me.

Half of my children and most of those beloved grand kids who are old enough are involved musically and love the experience for every right reason. For some though, it isn't their cup of tea. But that's the way it works.

Band at the high school level is richer than any sport because all are invited and the kids take the experience and skills with them forever if they choose. They are either together or not involved. It's all or nothing.

For marching bands, the kids work hard at week-long band camp before the start of school and often early morning and late evening practices in the fall to sharpen their field routine, which is some collaboration of talent and amazement. Then, after marching season, which is my highlight, concert season fills out the year.

One year long ago our high school went from Central Illinois to Winnipeg, Canada to participate in an international band competition. I was the trip organizer. We had a convoy of four buses and a large truck with students, parents and equipment, stopping first night in Minneapolis to play on the field for a Minnesota Twins baseball game. (Added bonus: Our kids got 6 foul fly balls.) Then we played a downtown noontime concert.

Me, left with the tympani and one-foot of water
Next night, we traveled west for another local band competition in Minnesota before continuing to Winnipeg. There, we performed before a 50,000 crowd at a Winnipeg Blue Bombers Canadian Football League game, delayed by a gigantic thunderstorm. We performed under the bleachers standing in foot-water to an avid crowd avoiding being killed by lightning. You see our our next day front page newspaper story of that event here. What an experience for all of us.

Then, we went on to win the Grand Championship of the festival as the best band in the land. Alexander (of Alexander's Rag Time Band) would be proud. We were welcomed home with a parade victory lap through the city. It was almost like the Cubs winning the World Series... maybe more for the experience.

Oh, band was not without its sad down side. Only in later years did I learn it was not for my young son. He confessed that he never really played his trumpet in the grade school parades... just went through the motions... and me with hundreds of pictures. With that transgression he never would have been able to run for President... but he is just so great nonetheless.

I recently had the opportunity to see the Panther Creek Marching Band practice for their trip to an Indianapolis Band Festival this past month. It brought back rich memories.

Band members have a special bond. A great band is more than just some people working together. It's like a highly specialized army unit, or a winning sports team. A unique combination of elements that becomes stronger together than apart. Steven Van Zandt 

 The National Association for Music Education has it right. From a published article in Bachelors Degree magazine. (Thank you NAME):

Nearly everyone enjoys music, whether by listening to it, singing, or playing an instrument. But despite this almost universal interest, many schools are having to do away with their music education programs. This is a mistake, with schools losing not only an enjoyable subject, but a subject that can enrich students’ lives and education. Read on to learn why music education is so important, and how it offers benefits even beyond itself.

1. Musical training helps develop language and reasoning:
Students who have early musical training will develop the areas of the brain related to language and reasoning. The left side of the brain is better developed with music, and songs can help imprint information on young minds.

2. A mastery of memorization:
Even when performing with sheet music, student musicians are constantly using their memory to perform. The skill of memorization can serve students well in education and beyond.

3. Students learn to improve their work:
Learning music promotes craftsmanship, and students learn to want to create good work instead of mediocre work. This desire can be applied to all subjects of study.

4. Increased coordination:
Students who practice with musical instruments can improve their hand-eye coordination. Just like playing sports, children can develop motor skills when playing music.

5. A sense of achievement:
Learning to play pieces of music on a new instrument can be a challenging, but achievable goal. Students who master even the smallest goal in music will be able to feel proud of their achievement.

6. Kids stay engaged in school:
An enjoyable subject like music can keep kids interested and engaged in school. Student musicians are likely to stay in school to achieve in other subjects.

7. Success in society:
Music is the fabric of our society, and music can shape abilities and character. Students in band or orchestra are less likely to abuse substances over their lifetime. Musical education can greatly contribute to children’s intellectual development as well.

8. Emotional development:
Students of music can be more emotionally developed, with empathy towards other cultures They also tend to have higher self esteem and are better at coping with anxiety.

9. Students learn pattern recognition:
Children can develop their math and pattern-recognition skills with the help of musical education. Playing music offers repetition in a fun format.

10. Better SAT scores:
Students who have experience with music performance or appreciation score higher on the SAT. One report indicates 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math for students in music appreciation courses.

11. Fine-tuned auditory skills:
Musicians can better detect meaningful, information-bearing elements in sounds, like the emotional meaning in a baby’s cry. Students who practice music can have better auditory attention, and pick out predictable patterns from surrounding noise.

12. Music builds imagination and intellectual curiosity:
Introducing music in the early childhood years can help foster a positive attitude toward learning and curiosity. Artistic education develops the whole brain and develops a child’s imagination.

13. Music can be relaxing:
Students can fight stress by learning to play music. Soothing music is especially helpful in helping kids relax.

14. Musical instruments can teach discipline:
Kids who learn to play an instrument can learn a valuable lesson in discipline. They will have to set time aside to practice and rise to the challenge of learning with discipline to master playing their instrument.

15. Preparation for the creative economy:
Investing in creative education can prepare students for the 21st century workforce. The new economy has created more artistic careers, and these jobs may grow faster than others in the future.

16. Development in creative thinking:
Kids who study the arts can learn to think creatively. This kind of education can help them solve problems by thinking outside the box and realizing that there may be more than one right answer.

17. Music can develop spatial intelligence:
Students who study music can improve the development of spatial intelligence, which allows them to perceive the world accurately and form mental pictures. Spatial intelligence is helpful for advanced mathematics and more.

18. Kids can learn teamwork:
Many musical education programs require teamwork as part of a band or orchestra. In these groups, students will learn how to work together and build camaraderie.

19. Responsible risk-taking:
Performing a musical piece can bring fear and anxiety. Doing so teaches kids how to take risks and deal with fear, which will help them become successful and reach their potential.

20. Better self-confidence:
With encouragement from teachers and parents, students playing a musical instrument can build pride and confidence. Musical education is also likely to develop better communication for students.

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