My Band Students

It has been a good week at Backpack Middle School.  While it  has been busy, there were few surprises.

On Monday at 1:00 pm we had a pre-scheduled, system-wide fire drill.  The fire department even brought out the big trucks with sirens blaring.  This all occurred during 6th period band rehearsal.  When the alarm went off, my 6th graders were understandably startled.  No matter how many fire drills we have, the loud alarms still make us jump.  Nevertheless, I was unprepared for the site of one of my brass players running for the door, arms flailing.  This was uncalled for; I told him and everyone else to sit back down so we could practice exiting the building in an orderly way.  Once outside and away from the alarms, I explained that panicking would not be allowed under any circumstances.  I figured since this was a drill, we should practice doing it right.

On Tuesday and Wednesday our brand new band students received their third lessons after school; woodwinds in one group, brass and percussion on the other.  Only one 5th grader was absent, which by itself is remarkable, and both groups impressed me with their enthusiasm and attention to detail.  I can already tell that these students have the potential to do very well.  Teaching them will be like driving a sports car.  They will make fast progress.  I just have to make certain no one gets left behind.

With Thursday came the unexpected surprise of a two-hour fog delay and the opportunity to get some work done before students showed up for school at 10:00.  Then, all the classes were trimmed from 42 minutes to 28 minutes.  You might think that very little can be done in such a short time, but ironically, students often come into these abbreviated rehearsals knowing we have to get started right away.  So they seem to get focused more quickly and easily.  Of course, we don’t actually get as much done, but somehow the rehearsals are still productive and worthwhile.

Friday morning I found a note in my mailbox from one of my new 5th grade clarinet players.  She had gotten in trouble for her behavior in the middle school hallways on Tuesday when I dismissed her group from the after school rehearsal.  So the principal assigned her lunch detention during which time she wrote the following:

Dear Mr. Shaver,

I’m sorry for making you look bad by getting in trouble after band.  I know I was representing you and I was not representing you well.  And I am sorry for it.

Your Band Student,


I know she was instructed to write this note as part of her discipline, but I liked it anyway.  “Your Band Student.”  That has a nice ring to it.

Finally, on Friday afternoon the Backpack High School Band came over to the middle school and put on a show in the gym.  They were directed by my colleague and friend Mr. Fletcher, who is also known as “Top.”  He earned this nickname as a master sergeant in the Marines’ band program, and this is what everyone calls him, including the students.  The middle schoolers enjoyed seeing and hearing the band and guard members perform jazz, pep, and concert band music in a show that was very well designed and presented.  And of course, the band finished the program with every Bulldog’s favorite song, “Hail to Backpack High!”  The whole crowd was up on its feet clapping along in a certain pattern that is unique to this small Hoosier town; if you don’t get it, you just don’t get it.  Anyway, it was fun to listen to the high schoolers, especially knowing that almost every one of them had received their first lessons in the middle school as one of my band students.

*name changed


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Marcus Shaver on April 28, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    btw, isn’t the fire dept. right across the street from the school?


  2. Posted by Rachael Shaver on April 29, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Very interesting and funny. I like the part about the brass player.


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