By Gary Fagan,
Alfred Concert Band Writer
While we all know as music educators that there is no substitute for great teaching to build and promote your band program, experienced teachers learn that there are other methods available to make any program more outstanding. Getting other adult members of the school community and the community at large involved musically is one way to build interest and excitement in any size program.
Over the 36 years that I taught music one of my most rewarding efforts in this regard was to organize several parent bands. It is likely that many of your band students’ parents were in band when they were younger, and it is also possible a good number of them still play. Getting these people back on their instruments in a performance situation proves exciting not only for the adults involved, but for students who would be “blown away” seeing and hearing their parents and other school personnel doing what they do.
The “Over-The-Hill Band” rehearsed only two or three times in the evenings prior to the spring concert at the end of the year. The music was at the Grade 2 level, which made it accessible to individuals who had not played for many years, and hence many parents participated and became very excited to be playing once again. Programming one of my own pieces also helped build enthusiasm for the event.
It is also easy to get other faculty and staff members involved if the program is smaller and there are not enough parents to create a complete instrumentation. My principal was a former french horn player and one of the office secretaries was a former clarinetist in my band twenty years ago. I was even able to get a couple of physical education teachers who had very little musical training to cover triangle and wood block parts. It is possible as well to get other community members from outside the school to participate if the need arises. Parents literally pulled instruments out of their attics, took them to a local repair shop for servicing, and began practicing months before the concert. I also loaned out some spare instruments to parents who no longer owned one.
This is an outstanding way to teach students that playing music can be a lifetime endeavor and that you are never too old to play in a band. It also scored points for my program with administrators who participated in several ways. They were able to observe the planning and organization it took to pull together and rehearse the group. Administrators also love to see the band become involved in activities that generate interest from the community and potentially bring about some positive press coverage.
This type of activity is sure to generate interest in your program. It requires a small amount to work, but produces significant returns for all involved.