Your School Band or Orchestra: A Student Appreciation

Mike Lawson • Commentary • October 1, 2018

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Playing in a school band or orchestra can be a satisfying and enriching experience for students. School ensembles offer many potential benefits for student musicians, some of which can last a lifetime and extend to areas outside of music. Here are 25 reasons for students to love playing in a school band or orchestra:

Because playing in a band or orchestra is something special. The zing of a string. The toot of a flute. The world of a band or orchestra is filled with the wonderful sounds of musical instruments which, when the musicians bring them to life, fill the air with magic.

Because you’re part of something bigger than yourself. Not to wax philosophically, but there’s something to be said about being part of a group that accomplishes something wonderful. You may be a cog in a wheel, but when that wheel turns and all the cogs synchronize together to produce something artistic and beautiful, it’s bigger than the sum of its parts.

Because playing concerts is exciting. The lights go dim, the audience excitedly waits for the concert to begin, the conductor raises the baton, and you’re on stage ready to create some great musical entertainment. What could be better than that?

Because you’re a star in the show! The program begins, and the spotlight is on each and every student on the concert stage or on the marching field. Everyone shines as the music pours out. Welcome to show biz, kid!

Because you enhance your musical skills. The compositions you play in band or orchestra can be challenging and practicing them improves your skills. You need to pay attention not just to notes but to key signatures, time signatures, and musical terms. To playing with other musicians. To watching the conductor. All this goes into making you a better musician.

Because you enhance your disciplinary skills. Rehearsal is at 3 p.m. next Tuesday. Make sure you have your part down. Dress appropriately. Be sure to show up on time. Bring supplies as requested. Being a band or orchestra member comes with responsibilities and the diligent student musician will develop good work habits that can last a lifetime.

Because you improve your cognitive powers. You’re reading notes, you’re watching time signatures and key signatures, you’re listening to your fellow musicians, you’re following the conductor. You’re multi-tasking and your hand-eye-brain coordination needs to be in tip-top shape. Playing in band or orchestra helps that.

Because it enhances your appreciation for concert music. Playing concert music will help develop your understanding and appreciation of it. You’ll have favorite compositions that give you much pleasure. Why not take your appreciation for this music and go to concerts or listen to recordings of it? Hours of delight await you!

Because it can be a voyage of musical discovery for you. So, with the compositions your band or orchestra is playing you’ve discovered new styles of music or composers you never heard of before. Let your inquisitiveness take over! Make it your business to research composers, compositions, styles of music, conductors, musicians–anything you come across that piques your interest. And it’s easy today with the Internet where inordinate amounts of music and information are right there at your fingertips. Let your experience in band or orchestra be the beginning of as a musical journey for you.

Because you’re performing with your peers. One day you’ll be out in the world and if you play in a band or orchestra the musicians will be of different ages and from different backgrounds. For now, your fellow musicians are your age or around your age, they’re from your locale, they’re your friends or acquaintances, and you’re all playing together at a very special time in your life. It goes fast, so enjoy it.

Because you get to perform under a talented and dedicated educator and musician—your conductor. There’s a new piece of music on all the music stands. You and your fellow student musicians begin to play. The performance is rough at first but over time it gets better. The same goes for the next piece of music and the next, until you build a concert program. Eventually, it all comes together. Your conductor is your guide to shaping roughness into sharpness. He or she has the confidence, poise and patience to make your school group something special. Listen, respect, pay attention, ask questions and grow musically. Your conductor is there to help you grow musically and come together as a group to become the best performing ensemble you can be. Your conductor is your expert tour guide in your school music journey.

Because you’re providing entertainment for your school and local community. School concerts are joyous occasions and parents of student musicians as well as other local people in the community look forward to being entertained by the school band and orchestra. By presenting exciting concert programs that people enjoy—music puts people in a good mood, soothes their feelings, entertains them, makes them forget about their problems temporarily– you are providing a wonderful service for your school and community.

Because playing in a school band or orchestra can be a conduit to a music career. You may be so inspired by playing in your school group that you consider having a professional career in music. Do you want to play in a symphonic orchestra? A professional concert band? A “pops” band? Or any other kind of professional ensemble? To play in any professional group you’ll need experience and the school band or orchestra can be an integral part of the pathway to that goal.

Because it gives you something to look forward to. Whether it’s a concert that evening or band or orchestra period during school time, it makes your day a little extra special.

Because band or orchestra provides opportunities to forge new friendships or form ensembles with your fellow musicians. You and all your band- or orchestra-mates have at least a couple things in common: you love music (surely, as you wouldn’t be in a performing ensemble if you didn’t) and you play a musical instrument. Why not take that commonality and forge friendships outside of school or start a music group like a rock band or classical string quartet?

Because it looks good on your college application or resume. Even better, try to spice up your musical history with some out-of-the-box endeavor or accomplishment you made.

Because you’re carrying on a long heritage of school bands and orchestras. Traditions are great—there are Fourth of July fireworks, Thanksgiving dinners, holiday parades. School bands and orchestras have been around for a very long time, and you’re keeping them alive by playing in them, which is especially noteworthy in this digital age in which synthesizers and electronic drum kits have become common. Rah rah for acoustic musical instruments!

Because you may get to travel with your school band or orchestra. Band camps, parades, competitions, festivals, concerts in remote locations—these are some of the places school bands and orchestras go to. Traveling is fun and you get to see local sites and attractions and check out local restaurants.

Because you get to meet interesting people. You never know who you’ll meet at concerts, band camps or wherever playing with your school band or orchestra leads you. Don’t be shy in talking about yourself. Maybe it could be someone who could advance your musical aspirations.

Because it can help make you entrepreneurial. Raising money for a band trip or new marching band uniforms? Think of good, creative ideas to help you reach your goal, and it’ll help hone your entrepreneurial skills.

Because you can learn valuable life lessons. You may not like everything you play in band or orchestra, but you learn to embrace it. It teaches you patience, forbearance and perseverance. You also learn to work with others in carrying out duties or responsibilities of band or orchestra. As you continue in your school ensemble, you grow and mature.

Because you have the support of your family and friends. Everyone wants to see school bands and orchestras succeed. And that makes you try even harder to be your best.

Because it’s a payoff for learning your instrument. You may study privately but when you play in tandem with clarinets, flutes, oboes, violins, cellos, French horns, trumpets, trombones, tubas, drums, or whatever the case may be, and the music flows beautifully, it’s thrilling. Playing in your school band or orchestra is one the best rewards you can have for working hard over the years to learn your instrument.

Because it’s fun! Like movies, videogames and sports, music is fun. It’s even more fun when you get to make it!

Because you can’t wait for the next concert. From the stage the final notes of the last composition in your concert program come to a soaring end and the audience applauds enthusiastically. The concert is over, the lights in the auditorium come on again, and you feel exhilarated but kind of sad that it’s all over. You go home and although tired, you can’t wait to do it all over again—learn new pieces, rehearse with your group, meet with your fellow musicians, work with your conductor—because your passion for music is unquenchable and you have a special place in your heart for your school band or orchestra.

Harvey Rachlin is an award-winning author of thirteen books including The Songwriter’s Handbook and The Songwriter’s and Musician’s Guide to Making Great Demos. His Encyclopedia of the Music Business won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for excellence in music journalism, was named Outstanding Music Reference Book of the Year by the American Library Association and was recommended by Academy Award-winning composer Henry Mancini on the 1984 internationally-televised Grammy Awards. His books have been praised by such music luminaries as Elton John, Aaron Copland, Richard Rodgers, Henry Mancini, Burt Bacharach, Marvin Hamlisch, Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne, Morton Gould, and Johnny Mathis. He runs the Music Business program at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York.

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