Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Marching Band 101

One of the challenges of a large public school system is to constantly improve transitional moments to make students more at ease. Read below as 9th graders are introduced to what lies ahead for their high school years in the band program. 

—Ric Dressen @EdinaSuper

It is a lovely, warm Indian summer October  evening—one of the many we have been blessed with this fall. The lights of Kuhlman field are bright in the night sky. On one end of the field, empty instrument cases of every shape and size are strewn about,  tossed carelessly with sweatshirts, water bottles and odd items. Hundreds of band students are scattered on the field: some in clusters of their section, others running back and forth. Some kids are chatting. A Frisbee and a football can be seen flying through the air over the emerald Astroturf. There is a feeling of anticipation, as just before a game starts, but this time the bleachers are empty, except for parents of ninth graders slowly filing in and taking a seat.

This was the ninth grade marching band night. It is the first time that all the ninth graders in band from both South View and Valley View join forces during a marching rehearsal on the football field with the tenth, eleventh and twelfth graders. The ninth graders have learned the music during class time. The evening is designed to give the ninth graders a taste of marching, learn a couple of basic formations, and meet the older kids and the band directors. There was also an opportunity for the parents to ask Mr. Paul Kile and Mr. Andrew Richter questions about the high school band program. When all these students from four grades are together, they number around 450.

To see 450 musicians working together is impressive.  They do the circular swam in the middle—forming the ‘Hornet’s nest.’ They spell out E-D-I-N-A  in huge human letters.  The drum majors – the seniors who lead on the field—work extra hard to include these soon-to-be sophomores.  We sing, cheer and clap for their inaugural efforts.  Mr. Richter does a nice job speaking clearly into the microphone, directing the students while explaining to the parents what is happening. He also talks about the band trip this fall.  In November, the Edina High School band will march in the 92nd annual Veteran’s Day Parade in New York City.

As a parent who has already had one ‘bandie’ graduate, I understand the many benefits of being part of this large, powerhouse group.  I could write about the diversity of the band, the bonding experience,  the fabulous trips. There is the excellent leadership, the high standards of musicianship, and the long standing tradition of Pops—the lively variety show produced for the community every February, primarily by the seniors. There are wonderful concerts, and friendships formed among the parents. And most definitely, the band’s presence makes a home football game and the homecoming parade complete.

But on this mild October night, it’s transition in action. This well-planned evening has taken away a little fear of the unknown heading into high school. Putting on that band uniform for the first time is a little scary—much like trying that instrument was in the 5th grade.  So I applaud this evening, and not just for the perfect weather.

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