July 20, 2011

Do You Hear What I Hear?

One thing parents of high schoolers can expect during the hot days of summer is late afternoon and evening practices. Football, track, cheerleading, marching band students and others, spend weeks of their summer vacations sweating themselves to the point of dehydration and missing out on summer jobs and parties. That's commitment.

I was not involved in band when I was a teen. At football games, I supposed the kids put together their halftime shows with a few practices and some intellectual coordination. Now, as a band parent these past five years, the behind the scenes lives of marching band kids has opened my eyes. 

The Newnan, Georgia, Northgate Vikings Marching Band. 2008

Two of my children have embraced music education in the school system, and I have learned that the financial cuts made to these types of programs are just as important as those made to general education. Music programs have given my children opportunities to find peers with whom they can relate, have taught responsibility and discipline, and opened their minds to grasping other academic subjects. As a family with ADHD and Asperger children, I can testify that programs such as marching band, may have literally saved the life of one of my kids. It has at the very least, kept him on a charted course in the right direction. 

The center tuba player is mine.

In our neck of the woods, the marching band student gives up July through November of every year. He stands at a attention, runs or marches over three hours a day, after a long day of school, until late in the evening at least four times a week. Some Saturdays are sacrificed from dawn to dusk. These kids sweat, sunburn, endure mosquitos, gnats and stinging insects, ankle and foot problems, and chafing (Ouch!). They don't just memorize marching patterns, but pages and pages of sheet music. On top of this, they perform in thick, wool uniforms while standing in the baking sun or soaking rain. 

The tenor sax player is mine, too.

Besides the benefits already listed, I can share as an observer, that when these students place in competition or cheer on a winning football game there is a joy and camaraderie that can't be denied. It touches my heart to see music and hard work bring people together. 

This week, my third child is attending his last band camp. While I'm sad it's his senior year, I'm also excited that he has goals and is excited for his future. In our case, that doesn't mean he will pursue music as a profession, but it I know it has given him the tools to succeed along with many fond memories. 

The Arts and Athletics are necessary programs for our schools. I hope if you have ever wondered what you can do for your child, you will consider placing him or her in music or a sport when they enter middle school. By high school, there will be so many options to choose from, and an early taste of these experiences can be the positive catalyst to keep them focused as they grow into adulthood.

It may only be summertime, but I am already getting excited for football season.  And that's thanks to all of those band kids out there taking the field.

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