6 Things I Learned From My High School Band Director

High school was a strange time. It acted as a transitional period from the preteen angst of middle school to the pretend-adulthood of college. I learned a lot in my four years, including how to procrastinate effectively and when it was acceptable to wear sweatpants (every day). However, some of the more practical and meaningful lessons I gleaned from the time I spent on the marching field or in the band room. Coaches are often praised for their life advice, but I'm taking this opportunity to give credit where it's due: to high school band directors. Here are six tidbits I learned from mine:

1. When to act professionally... and when to have fun.

Our band director knew how to get down to business; he did not mess around when it came to performance days or precious rehearsal time. I remember all the prank wars on the boys' floor during band camp (stolen mattresses, barricaded doors, silly string, etc.). When our director heard about it... he swiped all of their pillows during sectional rehearsal. It's necessary to be professional sometimes, but it's just as important to let loose and join in the shenanigans.

2. "Don't do anything stupid."

Every year, during the week before prom, our band director would tell us, "Don't do anything stupid. I want to see you all in class on Monday." This advice is still applicable, even though we're not reckless and naive adolescents anymore (maybe). Want to take six shots the night before an exam? Don't do anything stupid, unless you're prepared to deal with the stupid consequences.

3. Family comes first.

A couple years ago, our band director transferred to a different school closer to home, so he could spend more time with his wife and kids. His former students miss him, but he has my respect. Family > career, without a doubt.

4. Money isn't everything.

Anyone pursuing a degree in music, education, or (even better) music education must take this saying to heart. Our band director spent countless unpaid hours working on marching band drills and planning trips and activities for his students because he was dedicated to and enjoyed his job. If you have the privilege to pursue something you love, do it! There are better things to be than a billionaire.

5. If you love something, don't quit.

I can't tell you how many times I was encouraged (rather sternly) not to give up music when I started college. Whether you join pep band, a jazz ensemble, or even a choir or theatre group, your passion for music doesn't have to be left behind with your cap and gown.

6. Music is more than the weekly top 40.

Clearly, I learned a thing or two about music from my band director. Titles, composers, dynamics, time signatures, the way good music feels. Music has a complex and colorful history, from classical to jazz to rock and roll. We not only played music together, but we also listened and learned to appreciate music for more than catchy rhythms and thumping bass lines.

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