The weekend of September 19-20 marks the biggest weekend of the fall for Illinois high school marching bands, which will perform at no fewer than eight festivals on Saturday and one on Sunday. On Saturday alone, 141 bands will take the field across the state.
Since it’s only the second weekend of marching band competition and bands are still working diligently on their shows—a few shows this weekend are still being presented in an unfinished state—this gives us time to reflect on a few things. We know, after all, what will be coming out of band students this weekend (music), and you may wonder, What will be going into them? Into their brains? Into their long-term maturation and development?
The answer is that the lessons they learn will be as diverse as they are. Here are three take-home lessons from a high school marching band career that I think are particularly appropriate in today’s politically charged school environment (and around the upcoming presidential election):
- Discipline and Time Management. Students have to memorize the music in order to play in a marching band, which is challenging for adolescents. They therefore have to discipline their mind, focus their concentration on the task at hand, and block out distractions that may lead their mind or attention away from performance excellence. This ability to focus patiently, long enough to achieve a goal, will help them throughout life as they master skills and knowledge in college, as a parent, in a career, in the military, or wherever their life paths take them.
- Teamwork. Even middle school students can understand the importance of teamwork in a marching band. One player can only play one instrument (at a time), but in order to get the finished product, you need all sorts of instruments and all sorts of team members. But unlike sports teams, which have a goal of shutting down opponents, marching band “teams” have the goal of making themselves better. This is much more similar to real-life scenarios than sports teams can ever dream of coming. For example, suppose a marching trumpeter grows up to become a surgeon. In the operating room, the use of cross-disciplinary teams, which would parallel the teamwork by musicians on different instruments, improves OR scheduling and even patient outcomes, Elizabeth van Veen-Berkx and her colleagues concluded in a study published by the American College of Surgeons earlier this year.
- Manners and Generosity. When you’re around marching bands as much as I have been, you’re going to witness some Kodak moments, maybe not the one-picture-frame kind but certainly the one-moment-in-time kind. One such moment for me occurred at the Stagg Marching Jamboree about 20 years ago. Dave Morrison, who will be adjudicating this weekend at the Morton Marching Band Invitational, was leading his Prospect Knights around the track back to their buses. They were marching in cadence and in parade formation, and about 50 or 75 members of the Victor J Andrew Thunderbolts, led by Dan Romano, who has also since retired, spontaneously broke into applause. Applauding for other bands, which happens all the time on the gridiron whenever there’s not a football team on it, teaches one of life’s most important lessons about diplomacy, acceptance of those who are different, and—dare I say—an appreciation for, and even a celebration of, those differences. Cheering for others takes nothing away from oneself.
Noon, Monticello, Sage City Invitational
12:30, Naperville Central, Marching Classic
2:45, Edwardsville, Tiger Ambush Classic
3:00, Morton Marching Invitational
IMPORTANT NOTE: Bad weather in Illinois Friday, September 18, caused the football game between Morton and Limestone to be suspended in the third quarter with Limestone leading 14-6. The game started at Morton, but because of the marching band festival, the continuation of the game has been moved to Leach Stadium in Bartonville, at Limestone Community High School. Resumption is expected at 2:00 Saturday, but back in Morton, the marching invitational is expected to proceed as originally scheduled.
3:15, Geneseo Maple Leaf Classic
3:30, Wheeling, Chicagoland Marching Band Festival
IMPORTANT NOTE: Bad weather in Illinois Friday, September 18, caused the football game between Wheeling and Barrington to be suspended with 1:54 left in the first quarter and Barrington leading 14-7. Because of the Chicagoland Marching Band Festival at Wheeling, the continuation of the game will take place at Hersey High School, beginning at 1:30 Saturday. The CMBF is expected to proceed as originally scheduled.
4:20, Murphysboro, Drums at Appletime
4:30, Pontiac Indian Showdown
IMPORTANT NOTE: Bad weather in Illinois Friday, September 18, caused the football game between Pontiac and Mahomet-Seymour to be postponed. The game will take place at 6 PM Monday as a home game for Pontiac. As a result of that rescheduling, the field is clear for the Indian showdown on Saturday.
What are some of your Kodak moments in marching band, and what do you think they taught you?