ReBand…A New School Year, A New Gig

December 17, 2008

Was that Jingle Bells?!? (Tales from a beginning band concert)

Filed under: Uncategorized — reband @ 10:58 pm

Well the big day finally arrived. All the little ones, the ones who have been playing their instruments for a whole 2 1/2 months, had their very first ever band concert. For those of you who have done this for a while, you know what to expect. You have seen the problems, you have heard the results, and you know what the parents (and kids) are going to say. Those are all things that I didn’t know at the beginning of this year, but I now I have started to understand.

I am fortunate that I have so many people who are very helpful to me and those that I can lean on for help. I have been to a few of these shindigs before so I had some idea of what to expect, but truly, it was a new experience, one that was good…and bad…and good. I knew not to be at school too early otherwise all the students would be there really early. Our concert was to start at 7:00 and I told the students that I would not be there until 6:00. So of course I arrived at 5:00 so I could get our auditorium er…I mean gym set to play after basketball practice. The first thing that I had to do was open all the doors to the gym…except to the locker room. I know, here’s a newsflash, but middle school boys SMELL BAD! Fortunately, the stench did seem to go away. Of course I might just have gotten used to it. Then I had to get all the chairs and percussion set up. All that happened pretty quickly and I was actually glad to see a couple of student arrive at 5:48 because I put them on stand duty.

Everyone was in place as they should have been by 7:45 (as I had asked them to be), um, except for a tuba, two trombones, a tenor sax, three clarinets, a french horn, a baritone, and three percussionists. Everyone really was in place by 7:50 however, something I was shocked by. We had to warm up in the gym in front of the crowd as my band room can’t hold the whole band. After playing some notes we played a couple of tunes from the method book and took a few deep breaths before getting started.

I offered a welcome, silently said a little prayer, and made sure that everyone was set to blow into the correct end of their instruments (I only had to correct two) before giving the tempo and starting that beginning band classic, Jingle Bells. As we started, I noticed that the percussion was actually not rushing (too badly) and were playing the right parts (and even the right song). The wind players were focusing on their parts and getting through pretty well, even the horn players. We managed to navigate the dreaded repeat and finished with everyone together (or at least within two beats of each other). I cut off and waited for the audience um…response. What we heard was a great round of applause. The kids really did do a “good” job, as they did for the rest of the concert as well.

Of course nothing was midwest level nor were the two “real pieces” we did even really recognizable at times, but from the comments that we got from parents at the end of the concert, you would have thought that we had just performed at Carnegie Hall (perhaps those parents had been drinking). Honestly though, looking back, it is special what beginning band students, along with some serious guidance from their band directors are actually able to pull of in such a relatively short time. I know what this group was able to do and I know how clueless I really am (and it often shows). It is one of those magic things about music and how it just seems to grow in students, even some that don’t practice at all. Simply amazing.

As I think back on the concert and discuss it with people, after the few obvious jokes about me not hearing how it sounded because I wore ear plugs, etc. I am really excited for those students and how they might grow into true musicians and am challenged to do my very best to get them there. I know that I know very little of what I should.

As I close this little entry, here’s a salute to all the beginning band directors out there who do know what they are doing and have such a great impact on students. You often don’t get the credit you truly deserve, almost never. No program could be in any resonable shape if you didn’t do what you do.  You are forgiven for your constant smell of valve oil, the all too predicable jokes, and never ending whistling of doodle all the day (out of tune of course). Instead I say thank you. Thank you for your support of me as I have started this new adventure this year and thank you from all those for whom you make the gift of music possible. Merry Christmas, you deserve the upcoming break!



  1. Watch the Music Man. The concert at the end sounds horrible. But the reaction from the audience is exactly what parents do. I figured this out my third year (when all I was teaching was beginning band). They don’t care how the band sounds.

    I told my kids:

    “The very first thing the audience sees is vastly more important than the very first thing the audience hears. What you look like determines for the audience how you sound.”

    It sort of slipped out like that one day and I fell in love with that saying. It holds true for anything you do the first semester. Second semester, sound is more important.

    Primary importance is tapping foot, great posture, great hand position, characteristic sound, and a love for music. Technique comes later. Range comes later.

    Congratulations on your concert! Mine is tomorrow…

    Comment by Joel — December 17, 2008 @ 11:59 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks for writing Joel! I’ve seen it and am not at all fond of it, and hate being called the music man even more. To me it implies that I’m a charlatan…of course, sometimes the truth hurts.

    Merry Christmas!

    Comment by reband — December 19, 2008 @ 4:53 pm | Reply

  3. […]  Was that Jingle Bells?!? (Tales from a beginning band concert) by Mr. ReBand posted at ReBand…A New School Year, A New […]

    Pingback by Music Education Blog Carnival Edition for January | Education in Music — January 1, 2009 @ 10:27 pm | Reply

  4. As barbaric as this sounds – sometimes some of those new musicians need to survive the first concert, and from that point they are hooked. I am always impressed with my colleague who handles the elementary program. The amount of attention devoted to small details given by elementary directors so that their ensemble is in the best possible situation for success is just enormous. It speaks well of your behind the scenes work to help the students achive a rather large musical goal. We often praise our groups during a rehearsal for their effort and work, but nothing boosts confidence, appeal, and love of music like a room full of support. Congratulations to you and your students!

    Comment by tjweller — January 13, 2009 @ 11:57 am | Reply

  5. Somebody wrote this in a blog a few months back, but I don’t remember who and I hope they will forgive me (was it you, ReBand?). However, I have found that it is true, so I will repeat it.

    There are two kinds of Beginning Band parents:
    1. The Cheerleaders. They knew the kids could do it, and they knew you could take them there, and they just appreciate all your hard work.
    2. The Surprised Pessimists. They are shocked that kids could actually make a song after only X months. They didn’t know their kids could do it, but they are pleased; they appreciate all your hard work, but they just couldn’t listen to that all day.

    In the end all that matters is that the kids on stage feel like rock stars.

    Comment by Cary — January 29, 2009 @ 3:19 am | Reply

  6. Hey Cary,

    It wasn’t me, but I do remember reading that somewhere and I it does seem that it holds mostly true (in my truly limited experience). Thanks for stopping in!

    I just watched the Superbowl. Truly amazing game!

    Comment by reband — February 1, 2009 @ 11:32 pm | Reply

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