Dropping Band

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Today was Katie’s last orchestra concert as a middle schooler. Sitting in the auditorium before they ensemble started to play,my mind began to wander. I should be heading to a band concert this week as well, but sadly I will not.

Evan is not a quitter, in any respect of the word, but regrettably, Evan dropped band halfway through the year.

Two years ago, Evan’s fifth grade teacher pulled me aside to show me an essay he had written The assignment was to write about a memorable moment. I am pretty sure it was titled, “The Best Day of My Life…” Evan chose to write about how he felt when we presented him with a new saxophone.

The constant honking of a new saxophone player filled our home.

The elementary school band instructor was wonderful and worked with Evan to help him overcome any challenges he faced. Evan spent a lot of time practicing. Little did I know that he was in his room, working hard writing music. He composed a song, just for me, and he played it for me on my birthday.

Evan could not wait to get to Middle School. There, he would have band instruction every other day instead of once a week.

Now, Evan did not have the greatest year in band last year, but it was his first year in a new school.

Evan was defeated. He practiced, yet he never felt good enough.. Not every child is going to become a professional musician. There doesn’t seem to be any recognition of effort.

If you want a child to want to come to lessons, treat them with respect. Make them feel like a valuable member of the band.

Do not turn a child away when they come for lessons, especially when it is the last week of the quarter. If they show up with an old reed (and no replacement one) do not rip the reed out of the child’s hand, throw it out, and send the child away. Two lessons were missed that day. Two black marks will be on the report card. These lessons cannot be made up.

So, Mr. Band Instructor, how many other children did you make feel insignificant this week?

Have you ever stopped to think that maybe it is not the child’s fault. He can’t drive himself to the music store to buy reeds. He doesn’t have a credit card to make the purchase. Maybe the parent forgot to buy more reeds. Maybe the parent was working overtime, and there aren’t enough hours in the day. Maybe the parent couldn’t afford replacement reeds that week.

I am sure this was not the first time you did this to a student.

Do not scold a child for trying to drop band. The first time my son, showed up to drop, he heard you verbally berating a child for wanting to drop. He came home scared to approach you.

Do not take a child’s paper, signed by his parents and his guidance counselor, put it in your desk, and tell him you will think about letting him drop. You learned that you cannot bully my son. He marched right back into guidance, and got a new paper which his guidance counselor and I signed immediately.

My son is not a quitter, but he is emotionally spent, thanks to you. He cannot take another day of this. He is done, and so are we.

Katie has been involved in the orchestra program at the same school. The instructor is wonderful, warm, and caring. She believes in positive reinforcement. She treats all the children the same, whether they struggle with their instrument or they are first violin. Everyone has worth. I can see how much she loves her students and they are so lucky to have her as their instructor.

If you live in my school district and are pondering band or orchestra for your child, choose orchestra.

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