School’s Out Completely…

Mike Lawson • Perspective • April 30, 2020

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Out for summer

Out till fall

We might not come back at all

School’s out forever

School’s out for summer

School’s out with fever

School’s out completely

When Alice Cooper sang the words that every school kid in the 1970’s rejoiced in as their own personal triumphant end-of-spring anthem, they had no way of knowing just how the lyrics would apply some 48 years later. Yet, here we are. All across the world, and certainly all across the U.S.A., school is out with fever. Completely.

For millions of kids, there is much rejoicing. And for millions of others, there is not. School is their respite from a bad home life, it is where they may get the best five meals of the week (and we all know that doesn’t necessarily say much). School is where their friends are, and for some, their tormentors. It’s quite a mixed bag to step back and look at, isn’t it? For the band kids, especially the seniors who won’t get another shot, it is full of hard work raising money for awesome trips being lost, and that experience becoming part of their life story now. No grad night trips, no graduation celebrations. No parades or theme parks. It is full of disappointment at having worked so hard to be able to read and perform difficult passages from their repertoire, now reduced to no concerts, or at best, a homemade video of them playing their part.

Last month, amazing teachers scrambled to prepare paper packets and online course materials and heroically followed their administrators’ directives for a completely unprecedented event. They were even asked to create “virtual band practices” and “virtual band performances” by some slightly-clueless administrators who had seen these marvelous videos online with multiple screens of kids playing their parts with their fellow students, and just assumed it was as easy as plopping that student in front of a webcam and pressing record. I’m an audio engineering geek and spend countless hours in front of Pro Tools and myriad other digital audio workstations. I’m probably more advanced than most of our readers in the audio and video editing world, and when it comes to video, I’m not very good. Trying to lay this at the feet of music educators to suddenly adapt technology that many of them have been denied in their jobs, with students who may or may not have access to it at home, not to mention the tech/bandwidth speed variances, or little things like there really being no solutions for zero latency simultaneous video and audio streaming from little Johnny and Suzy’s living room… Well, you get the picture. This week I saw letters from school districts instructing students with school instruments to return them on a certain date, according to the first letter of their last name. Not only did they lose out on finishing your music program, even remotely, but they don’t get to practice this summer, there are no summer band programs. The fortunate kids whose parents are supportive and can afford to buy instruments, are always more equal than others, whose parents can’t, or even won’t. In the fall, the new kids without their own instruments will be beginner band students all over again. And that sucks.

But this too will all pass at some point. The thing SBO can encourage you to do is to look firmly at the future. Start planning next year’s band trip, festival performances, repertoire and schedules, and start planning now. Engage your boosters, fundraiser partners, travel planners.

Let your students know you are doing so. This will encourage them, and let them, and perhaps you, know that all things must pass, and this will too. Life goes on. Things will return to some semblance of normalcy, and the band plays on.

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