Marching Band Handbook: An Open Letter To Band Parents

Marching Band Handbook: An Open Letter To Band Parents

Thanks for everything you do!

It’s officially marching band season, and that means lots of sunburn, sore legs, and pages upon pages of music and drill. You've signed up for your high school’s marching band, and you don’t know what to expect, or maybe you are going to college five states away and don’t know how to adjust to band life in your new home. Your section leaders may have sent you a list of what you need to tote along, but a couple Creators at Furman are here to fill in the blanks! College or high school, we’ve got you covered.

At high school and college football games, watching the half-time marching band show may be a favorite time of the night. Well, just like any other team collaboration, the show you're enjoying is the result of not just the members on the field working together but also the work of band directors, volunteers, staff, and ESPECIALLY the ever-faithful band parents.

For those who don't get to see behind the scenes... without the supportive backbone of parents that put in hours, days, and months of their time to keep the band going, the marching band would fall apart. Band parents, this one's for you.

This last week, I returned to my alma mater as a tech for their band camp. As a returning alum, I knew how the band itself operated on the field, but I had the chance to step back and realize something: in the moment, trying to get the technique down, hit your dot, pay attention to forms, keep from getting yelled at from the tower, or getting swept up in the competition, it's easy to forget about what's going on the other 98% of the time.

Throughout our 9am - 12pm rehearsal, I could walk into the back hallway behind the band room and find probably a dozen or more band moms helping to prepare and set up for lunch. Repeat around dinner time except on a slightly bigger scale.

I remember back during all of those competitions when I would come off the field upset about a messed up form or a section member being out of line or a mistake or something of the sort, and walking right past the lines of band parents who had gathered by our buses to congratulate us - only being able to muster a half smile.

I remember watching the pit moms and dads shuffle percussion instruments and even props on and off the field at every single one of our competitions; sometimes even beating the rest of the band - and we only had ourselves to set up.

I remember the two years that I didn't have my driver's license, so my mom or dad would have to take me to our dark-thirty call times to go to competitions. Especially when we would have to be at the school by 5:15am.

I remember pulling up to the school after State competition my freshman year - and every year after that - hearing the chorus of car horns and excited screams as our seemingly crazy parents greeted and congratulated us after a long competition day.

I was lucky that in my four years with the band, I got to travel to Hawaii and New York City. Since I could not work at the time, I remember how hard my parents worked to be able to pay for our family's trip fees.

During band camps, I remember watching student after student drop out of formations in the 105 degree South Carolina heat and humidity to end up in the first aid tent where our dedicated moms would care for said student.

I remember helping pit dads unload the trailers at the end of a long competition day - and admittedly, not helping a couple times when I get too swept up in the after-competition shuffle...

I remember the grandfather, whose grandson graduated the year before me, who continued to drive the 18-wheeler that carried all of our equipment, uniforms, and props. He stands alongside the many parents and grandparents that have stuck around way after their children have graduated.

I remember watching one band mom after another walk up to my head band director with cold water bottles, placing them on his tower.

I remember the hours I spent with my mom and dad at dinner or in the car after competitions, complaining, being proud, getting excited, or just sharing my favorite things about this organization and what it was doing for my levels of responsibility, stress management, and just overall happiness. Even though at times, it didn't feel like it.

I remember band parents becoming my second, third, fourth, and so on... parents; while their kids in the band alongside me, became my family.

I remember so many other things I can accredit to band parents.

After spending time on the outside looking in, I want to make sure every band parent across the country gets a "thank you." Whether it be from a director, your child, or the sweaty kid saying "thanks" for the tray of food you hand them at lunch break, I want you to know that you are one of the best things that can happen to a band program. You are loved.

Thanks to all of you amazing parents out there!

Cover Image Credit: Flickr - RL Beaton

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8 Movies That Brought Out The Broadway Star In All Of Us

Get ready to sing along.

Let's get together and sing and dance. Everybody loves a good musical, especially when it brings out their inner Broadway star. Everyone loves the movies that randomly burst into song mid-conversation. There are movie musicals for all of us, now let's go find our inner Broadway star.

1. "Grease"

"Tell me more, tell me more." Friendships, romances and adventures of high school kids in the 1950's. Follow along this summer love story and sing along their journey.

2. "High School Musical"

As the star athlete falls in love with the nerdy new girl, we fall in love with the two as well. "We're all in this together" as we watch the three movie musicals and sing along knowing every word.

3. "Mamma Mia!"

"Mamma Mia, here I go again"... This musical keeps you on your toes as the music is so enjoyable, as you are on the journey of discovering who the father is. There is so much to keep up with you will not get bored.

4. "Camp Rock"

"We rock!" This Disney Channel movie gets you singing along, following Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers, what else could we need?

5. "The Greatest Showman"

This new movie has caught peoples attention of all ages. Inspired by P.T. Barnum, this musical celebrates the birth of an amazing show business and the man who came from nothing to create something spectacular. "This is the greatest show."

6. "Beauty and the Beast"

As everything came to life in this movie, we were able to see Beauty and the Beast in a new light and fell even more in love with the two. "Don't believe me? Ask the dishes."

7. "Hairspray"

Hairspray is one you will most definitely be singing along to as it has one of the catchiest soundtracks ever. The storyline is very meaningful as Tracy is looking to make a difference in her community, "Good morning Baltimore!"

8. "Rent"

One of the most popular musicals to date brings attention to the LGBTQ+ community in a good way. "Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes, how do you measure a year in the life?"

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Why "Love, Simon" Is A Watershed In Gay Cultural History

Romantic Comedy Breaks Ground While Playing It Safe

"Love, Simon" is the first studio-backed gay teen romance film to ever make it in wide release. This earns its status in the annals of history as a milestone in the fight for gay rights and representation.

Over the years, we have seen progression, but it's usually limited to television and such attempts at inclusion can be troubling. "Queer as Folk," had some quality points but often plays into gay stereotypes of the ostentatious sexual deviant. It is also very white.

On "The Walking Dead" the gay angle felt more like a forced distraction than a remarkable achievement, making audiences reluctant to welcome the homosexual's agenda into their zombie-killing squad. The show also succumbed to the infamous "bury your gays" trope that has plagued television and film since the dawn of the gay revolution, killing off characters Eric Raleigh and Denise Cloyd.

It also seems to me there is a lack of diversity in the gay applicant pool for TV industry jobs. There are character tropes that unfortunately lead to skewed public perceptions of how all gay people conduct themselves. Tituss Burgess on "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," Eric Stonestreet on "Modern Family," Jack McFarland on "Will and Grace," are all examples of the "effeminate, flamboyant gay person." While these beloved characters symbolize greater inclusion in the culture, many viewers are limited to these characterizations and preconceived notions about gay people are reinforced.

Some TV does a masterful job of showing gay people, warts and all and struggles notwithstanding. Shows like "The Fosters" have broken ground in portraying a young teenager toiling with the idea of his sexuality, and enduring mental troubles that are subsequent to self-discovery and "coming out."

Ellen, of course, deserves a major salute. She is an amazing, empowering woman who adopted the mantle of LGBT rights, and is the first talk show host to "come out." Her cult-status daytime talk show does for lesbians what Oprah does for African-American women.

So why is "Love, Simon" so important? There have been independent, art-house, and foreign films that have cycled and recycled gay storylines a thousand times over.

Well, one of the differences is that this is the first time a staunchly gay film has had a mainstream release. "Love, Simon" opened in 2400 theaters nationwide, by Twentieth Century Fox, and that's nothing to sneeze at.

Also, throughout cinema history, gay characters have been allowed to exist, but often they are inane, secondary ("gay best friend"), irrelevant to the plot, or exist to check off a box on the diversity quota ("inclusion riders"). A breath of fresh air comes in seeing a gay protagonist who, in essence, meets none of these complaints.

Also, contrary to many gay films, Simon receives an ending of happiness rather than AIDS, or a hate-violence-related homicide. This "gay John Hughes film" as it has been effectively called, draws a real, substantive portrait of a closeted kid and the worries, concerns, and anxieties about coming out that are universal.

His identity prompted not only laughs, but well-intentioned cheers and emotional resonance, and for a film like this to be released outside of just a few major metro-markets is earth-shattering.

The movie does have its criticisms that it is too safe and cautious with its message. It trots out liberal parents in a liberal neighborhood and centers on a humdrum white, cisgender suburbanite. But, accept it or not, this movie is a test case that could set the precedent for a host of LGBT life-affirming films. Progress may seem slow and uninspired, but it is still progress.

It's okay to be a perpetual gadfly, but please allow yourself to bask in the glorious triumph of this movie. If you want to pitch the "coming out" story of a genderqueer black kid from a repressed, rural Bible Belt community, then drive to the nearest theater and see this film!

The film industry flies or dies based on audience measurement and ticket sales. If they see overwhelming support for these stories, then demand will increase, and we will see more character sketches of gay people.

Cover Image Credit: Philip Price

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