Monday, April 14, 2008

The Middle School Band

This year I'm the band parent for our middle school band. We have lots of band families--nearly 200 of them--who work the carwash and the bake sales and send in checks and chaperone the field trips. They are great, and constantly surprise me with their generosity. But I'm the one who sends out all the emails, writes the fundraising letters, and coordinates with the band teacher. To be honest, it's more work than I thought it would be. But then it's something I support unequivocally. I have no mixed feelings about it. The band is great! Participating in band has been a huge part of both my sons' experience in middle school. And the band teacher gives 150 percent every day to his students, and often more.
On Friday, the band teacher took the advanced band, all 55 of them, down on a charter bus to a high school in San Mateo to play in the CMEA festival. There ended up just being three adults chaperoning: me, a woman whose son wasn't even in the advanced band but just wanted to help, and a stepmother of one of the band members who toted along her two-month-old baby in a snuggly. See what I mean about the generosity?
At the festival, the band played for judges who rated them and then gave them a mini-workshop on improving their performance of the pieces they had just played. The students were a little cowed walking through an unfamilar high school, and stared enviously at the swimming pool in the center of the suburban campus (as did I!). But once they started warming up they were their usual focused, distracted, wise-cracking, serious, giggling selves--in short, that whole mix of contradictions that middle schoolers are. The only mishap was the student who discovered he had brought the broken baritone horn and couldn't play. Their performance for the judges was crisp and energized, and they earned a unanimous superior rating. We were all proud.
I watched them get off the bus back at our school at the end of the day. They are all shapes and sizes, some midway through their growth spurts, some eagerly awaiting them. Long hair, short hair, short and pudgy, tall and awkward, sagging, too-short pants--it's all there. Mostly the girls are poised and seem several years ahead of the boys in maturity. (The important word here is "seem.") But each of them already looked a bit more mature than they had in the morning, getting on the bus. They looked like they had accomplished something and it felt pretty good.

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