When I think of the character traits I want my children to develop, I think of strength, resilience, kindness, happiness, bravery, independence, balance, community, and gratefulness. Being a band director, I see how band helps students learn and develop these qualities every day.
In band, children learn to take on something difficult.
In today’s world so many things are instant;
So many things are fast and easy;
So many things are disposable.
But learning to play an instrument is just challenging as it has always been.
Students learn delayed gratification, they learn not to give up, they learn that strength takes time and dedication and work.
There are no shortcuts — which develops strength.
The band hall is a place of expected mistakes.
Students will make hundreds if not thousands of mistakes in a given class period.
Millions over the course of their musical journey.
Mistakes in band are not only expected; they are signs of growth.
Squeaks on a clarinet show that a student is learning to cover the holes.
Cracks on a trumpet show that a student is increasing range.
Missed notes on a xylophone show that a student is improving muscle memory.
And because we know that mistakes and areas of improvement will never end, we know that student’s resiliency will never stop growing.
Students in a musical ensemble are given frequent opportunities to express kindness to others.
A smile to a neighbor who performed better today than yesterday.
A thumbs-up to a friend who just nailed a solo, or a hug for a friend who just bombed one.
A five-minute help session with a younger band member who needs some experience.
A cheering section for the beginning band or the top band.
Constant encouragement and kindness can be found in band halls every day.
Children find happiness in many different activities.
Music is one that lasts a lifetime.
It allows them to put aside their worries, forget their troubles and find moments of pure joy.
Whether this is happiness over an individual achievement,
a perfect moment of musicality,
or just having a band hall to call home,
band can provide happiness when children most need it.
Playing an instrument helps children learn to be brave.
Trying something new that is a physical as well as a personal risk can be scary.
Performing by yourself for the class can be intimidating.
Performing on a stage with, or without, your band friends can be terrifying.
But these experiences can also be satisfying.
Learning to perform and step outside your comfort zone develops bravery.
From learning to assemble their instrument in beginning band, to performing a senior recital, students learn independence in band.
Students grow in independence every day in the band hall.
Learning to take care of their equipment;
learning to have their supplies;
learning to come prepared to rehearsal for your own sake and for the sake of those around you;
learning that what you do affects the group…
All of these opportunities to grow in independence are constant in band.
Students learn balance in band.
They learn that they are not always the most important part, but they are always important.
They learn that there is a busy-season in life –
a time to buckle down and work before a concert,
and there is a time to breathe, to take it easy and enjoy time with their friends.
Band is community.
Members learn that the part that they play may be different from the person who sits next to them, but both parts are equally important in creating beautiful music.
They learn precision – that accuracy of their own part is not enough –
it is equally important that they be able to play in rhythm, in sync and in tune with those around them.
They learn to listen to the director,
to the leaders in the ensemble,
to the musicians around the room.
And to thrive as a community.
Watching students at final concerts is a chance to see the gratefulness they have developed because of band and music.
I see students who are grateful for the opportunity to show their parents their hard work;
Students who are grateful for the technique and skill that they’ve mastered;
Students who are grateful for the life-long friends who are sitting beside them;
Students who are grateful that – for the rest of their life – music will be a part of them.
And as a band director, I am so grateful for the privilege to watch students develop the character traits above.
My wish is that my children – that all children in all band halls – develop strength, resilience, kindness, happiness, bravery, independence, balance, community, and gratefulness.
The music is what makes it possible.
The challenge is what makes it possible.
The dedication is what makes it possible.
Music is a great way to grow great humans.
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