Posts Tagged ‘band students’

Covers

BooksSummer Band. In BandLand that means it’s time to plant a new crop of beginning band students. For two weeks in June each year I spend my days sowing seeds that I pray will one day yield a bountiful musical harvest.

Today is the last day of this year’s Summer Band, which has flown by. We are on our way to Indiana Beach for a day at the amusement park, a Backpack Middle School tradition that dates back to 1973. It gives the kids a fun way to wrap up our time together, and it gives me the opportunity to get to know them better outside the classroom. Take Brittany, for instance, who is sitting across the aisle from me on our school bus. When she came to her first lesson two weeks ago she was quiet and nervous. Eager to please, she listened intently every day and has already made great progress on her clarinet, as have all the girls in her section. Now, she is relaxed, talking freely, and asking a lot of questions.

 “Is it supposed rain today?”

 “How long ‘til we get there?”

 “What if I get lost while I’m at Indiana Beach?”

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Some students seem to be an open book. What you see is what you get. Others have to be read more deeply. First impressions can be misleading. My first impression of Brady left me thinking he would never learn to play the saxophone. He was late to the first rehearsal, and to most of the practices since; he seemed scattered, unfocused, and distracted, so that I thought he might be one of our special education students; and to top it all off, he has significant dental issues that made me wonder if he should be a drummer, instead. But near the end of our first lesson I asked a math-related question (I don’t remember why). With only a slight hesitation, and while everyone else was still thinking, or not thinking, Brady answered, “22,” and he was right.

“You’re pretty good at math, aren’t you, Brady?” I commented. He sort of smiled, but didn’t say anything. Every day since then I’ve seen further evidence of his abilities. He may be one of the smartest kids in the class. Though he has difficulty following directions and focusing, for which he takes medication, he is one of the fastest in his class at naming notes and playing them on his saxophone, and at counting rhythms. Clearly, my first impression was incorrect.

Suzie, on the other hand, is sweetness defined. Slim and blond, she is a pretty girl you instantly like and trust. She just seems good, and actually, she is. She pays attention, follows directions, and she is quiet in class, hardly saying five words in two weeks. But, far from being unfriendly, she is always ready with a smile. Like I said, she is a sweet girl, which is why her answer to my question below caught me off guard.

Yesterday I took a few minutes to go over some rules and reminders for our trip today, one of which is that students are not to be alone at the park, but should be in groups of two or more at all times.

“So,” I asked the class, “Suppose you are with three others, and they want to go on a ride that you are scared to go on. What are your options?”

Much to my surprise and great delight, Suzie said, “Suck it up and get on the ride.”

This was so unexpected that I laughed out loud and said, “You say nothing for two weeks, then you say that?” Of course, she smiled. Clearly there is more to this young lady than first meets the eye.

If it is true that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, how much more so for these young novels that are still being written?

Franken-note

“It’s Alive!” I cried out, a little maniacally.  “Did you hear that?  You’re starting to get it.  I actually recognized the song that time!”

My sixth grade band students were caught off guard.  They have been working on a simple version of the Hallelujah Chorus for the Christmas Concert (I’m glad the Backpack School System still lets me call it a “Christmas” concert) and they are just starting to figure out the notes and rhythms.

“Now for the real work,” I said.

“What?” they asked.  “You said it sounded pretty good.”

“Oh, no, we have only just brought our creation to life.  Unless we’re happy to let it stumble clumsily around BandLand, babbling incoherently, and knocking things over – not unlike some of you – we will need to make it do more than walk and talk.”

“What do you mean?”

“Rhythms and notes are the bare bones of music; now we need to dress it up with good intonation, phrasing, articulation, dynamics, and balance.  It needs to be graceful, with good manners.  So let’s get to it.”

And with that we set out to make our creation presentable in polite company.

Generation Gaps

My 8th grade band students played the Star Spangled Banner and the school song with the high school band at the football game Friday night.  They did a great job, too.  It was their first experience out on the field in front of the home town crowd.  More than one parent recorded the event for posterity.

One student had not been able to make it to the event due to a family emergency, but she called me on my cell phone to let me know.  I didn’t recognize her number, so when we hung up I saved it to my contacts folder so my phone would identify her in the future.  As it turned out, she called me two more times with updates, but my phone didn’t display her name either time because she was using different phones.

“How many cell phones do you have?” I asked her.

“Oh.  Well, the first time I used my mom’s phone.  Then, I used my dad’s.  This time I’m calling on my sister’s phone,” she explained.

“I give up,” I said.  “I can’t keep up.”

After the pregame performance the band sat up in the stands to watch the game and play pep tunes.  It was a beautiful evening; the setting sun was painting bright reds and pinks and oranges on the wispy clouds.  I pointed this out to one of my students, who agreed that it was a spectacular sight.

“Wow.  I wish I had my phone,” he said.

I wondered why.  Was he going to call someone and tell them to check out the sunset?  Then I realized, of course, that he wanted to take a picture with his camera phone.  I use my phone for making calls.  My students use their phones for texting, checking the weather, taking pictures, listening to music, and much more.  They only make phone calls when the person on the other end doesn’t text (like me).

Later, while sitting with the band in the stands, I caught the smell of barbecue coming from the concession stand.  Austin got a whiff of it, too.

“Mr. Shaver, do you smell like pulled pork?” he asked me.

“What?  What would make you ask such a question?  Besides, I was going more for a scrambled eggs effect…”

“No,” he laughed, “Can’t you smell, you know, like, the pulled pork in the air?”

“Oh!  Holy cow!  You have got to be more careful how you use the word ‘like’!”

Earlier this week a student asked me how old I am.

“How old do you think I am?” I responded.

“I’ll bet you are in your twenties,” he guessed.

I nearly choked.  Then I gave him some BandLand bonus points.