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Author: Penny 
Date:   1999-08-27 03:18

I guess this is more of a vent session, but nobody really knows what I'm actually going through on other boards. I'm a section leader this year. I never knew it was going to be so hard and stressful. We have to play our meorized music in front of our drum majors to prove that we know it in our band. Well, my section will not meorize their music. I've tried everything and I don't know what else to do. I just got 3 new people in my section. They're all doing well, but it is hard to catch them up. Our rehearsals our 3 hours long and I'm usually the last one to leave so I don't get home till 8:00 or after. Then I am taking all honors classes so I have 3 to 4 hours of homeowork to do plus practicing for at least 30 minutes. I've been playing so much though my mouth piece is rubbing my lower lip raw and now my wrist is starting to hurt with every little thing I do. My band director was supposed to be looking into a neck strap, but he still hasn't done it and probably won't. I totally broke down today. My boyfriend went home with a wet shirt because my face was burried in his chest and I was balling. Anyway, I should go to bed. It won't do any good because I will still wake up tired, but I should at least try to sleep anyway. Thanks for listening and I'm sorry this is totally off subject.

Reply To Message
 RE: Exhausted.
Author: Mario 
Date:   1999-08-27 13:14

The more I read remarks on US-style marching bands on this Board, the more I believe that there is something profundly flawed in the culture and values of this narrow, uninspired form of banal music.

I also understand that, in middle America, the only way to have access to music is to join the local marching band. This is truly sad.

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 RE: Exhausted.
Author: steve 
Date:   1999-08-27 14:23

mario said...
"The more I read remarks on US-style marching bands on this Board, the more I believe that there is something profundly flawed in the culture and values of this narrow, uninspired form of banal music."

mario, i'm not sure where you're from, but you are bringing up an important point....but the issue is not the music, as banal as it may be....the issue is how competition has reached idiotic levels in all areas of american society....

look, marching band is supposed to be fun!!! if a situation exists that produces stress on the level penny described, then there is something flawed with the attitude of the person in charge of the band...I will bet that the director gives pep talks about how "we are gonna win this competition, or bury this other band", and if you dont have the killer/winner instinct, you can't compete in my band, or some such crap...

in recent years, marching band competitions have taken on the same intensity as high school football programs at their worst...a win at all costs attitude....the concept of an artistic contest is stupid to start with (Bartok said such contests are for horses), and tragic when it causes a young musician to cry in her boyfriend's shirt. This is not music. This is not education, and this is not mentoring. Penny, your director should be ashamed of him/her self.

I think some of the problem is caused by an organization called Bands of America (BOA) which codifies and promotes marching band competition, and sells the concept to parents as a character building exercise tangentially associated with Revelli's name...and high competition placement can encourage people to give more money to the HS music program, so in a way, its about money and greed at the expense of young people, a concept that pollutes american society at all levels.

I'm a bandsman...I was a section leader in a suburban cleveland HS band for 4 years, and marched for 4 years and led a section in John Paynter's Wildcat marching band at Northwestern in the early 70's....the only competition was with yourself....be the best, and if you needed help, Mr Paynter would help you, cheer you on, and teach you about music and life...

Penny, Tell your director to go to hell

(off of soapbox)


Reply To Message
 The More Things Change...
Author: paul 
Date:   1999-08-27 18:20

...the more they stay the same.

They did the same idiotic stuff 20 years ago for the same reasons. Been there, done that when I was in high school. The UIL competitions can be excruciating on all kinds of competitive areas, including sports, music, art, mathematics, forensics (debate, speech, etc.), foreign language, and much more. A typical US high school student who is aspiring to be competitive for college must have high grades in all studies (honors courses were starting to become mandatory back when I was in high school), lots of expertise and awards in extracurricular activities (such as the above mentioned UIL competitions), community service awards, recommendations from instructors and mentors in the education industry, and recommendations from neighbors and employers. Yes, the kids have to be employed, too. That's a lot of pressure to perform, just to get into college.

However, if I didn't have all of this going for me, I wouldn't have survived the rigors of an engineering degree in college. I learned the value of hard work on all fronts. I learned how to dig ditches and swing a 16 pound sledge hammer as a roughneck (oilfield worker) during the summers to earn the money for the next year of college. Yes, it was difficult, because I also learned how to fail and recover from it. When others quit, I persevered. It took me 5 and 1/2 years to earn my engineering degree. I've never looked back.

That's the goal of this game. Can you persevere in the face of undaunting competition? Can you survive in the jungle of professional rivalry? Can you work harder and think smarter than all of your peers? Can you quickly learn and adapt to new situations and still come out smelling like a rose instead of its fertilizer? That's what this process is all about. It's supposed to bring out the best in prospective college students and future white collar workers.

Reply To Message
 RE: Exhausted.
Author: Mario 
Date:   1999-08-27 18:34

When I was a teenager, I joined the local Concert Band. the essence of the mission of the band was to give concerts, first its own bi-annual concert, but also many other concerts in parks and as part of communittee functions in our town. A few times per year, we were bussed to another city to give a concert there as part of an exchange program between various concert bands in my Country (Canada).

We were getting a little bit of money from the local Military militia as a grant. In return, we had to accept to partake in a couple of parades per year relevant to the Militia (Canada Day, ceremonial events related to the militia,etc.). So, I got to learn to play and march, probably not very well, but well enough to integrate our Marching and Music in other public activities.

At some point in time, I was selected to join what is the Canada equivalent of all-state where the best young musician of my Province gathered 3 times per year to prepare an outstanding concerts. By the time I was 17, I had already played in concert things such as Carmina Burana, The Firebirds, Willian tell Overture, etc. First class music.

So, Marching was a necessary price to pay to fund our pursuit of good music. It was not the focus of our effort.

We also competed in various Concert Bands competition, moving from Class C to Class A and eventually winning the top award. It took us several years to get there. I remember my Musical Director telling us that those competitions were important to measure our progresses through these competitions, and that the thing that mattered was that we were moving up years after years. Improving was the goal, not winning. This is a fundamental difference in perspective. You can win without necessarily excelling (chose your competitions as such, and you can win). But if you drive toward excellence, winnings will follow.

There is nothing wrong with pushing to the limit the skills in Marching Bands with individuals who choose to. From this point-of-view, Marching becomes a competitive sport where the purpose of the game is to win. But music (as with many other sports) is first above all a sharing activity. If all people in the room play excellent music, all will benefit even if nobody wins. By the same token, if you undertake a trek with a group of bikers, all can excel and nobody needs to "win". In both case, you need to train, to push yourself, maybe to test yourself every now and then in contests.

In our North-American society, the focus is now winning in many endeavors. "Winner takes all!" It seems to be dragging music down. What happened to excellence?

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 RE: Exhausted., relax!
Author: Don Berger 
Date:   1999-08-27 18:53

What a great and timely discussion in both posts. Happily, the pressures for achievment and excellence? in my day were less than what we experienced with our children, and we have seen the pressures only increase [much too much] on our grandchildren. We hope "venting" will be part of your solution, Penny, and agreeing, by and large, with the sentiments offered you, I suggest trying to NOT carry the world's problems on your shoulders. For myself, playing music during the last 50 years has been both a treat and a retreat, best wishes, Don

Reply To Message
 RE: Exhausted.
Author: Bart 
Date:   1999-08-27 20:27

After re-reading Penny´s message, and the various replies, I´m still puzzled by what is the driving force behind this competitive spirit.

From what I read, I would conclude that schools are way to actively involved in kids´ lives. Yes, there are definitely very valuable skills to learn. But as far as the ´extracurricular activities´ with a more ´leisure´ character are concerned, such as sports and music, their roles should be much different from what I understand they are in the US.

To provide some comparison material: when I was in high school (graduated 9 years ago, from a high school in a city some 30 km from Amsterdam), playing any musical instrument to a decent level was not required. There were a school orchestra & a big band, which you could join on a voluntary basis. Same thing for cabaret etc. No grades were given for this, thereby keeping it literally *extra*curricular. The obligatory music classes were about music history etc., for which no special musical talent was required. For one thing, students were not made to stay for practice in school until 8.00 at night. Music competitions at high school level simply didn´t exist.

Learning to play an instrument was/is typically done with a private teacher or a special (subsidized) music school.

With physical education, things were even better. Two hours a week of various sports, with the students´ attitude as de facto standard for assigning grades, i.e. did you contribute to a pleasant team environment. Here, as in music, anyone wanting to be active in a specific sport would join a local club of choice. This allowed for mixing with students from other schools as well, rather than sticking to one school community. Sure there was competition, but only to the extent one personally chose.

I feel that schools can play an important role in a kid´s development. But instead of doing this by promoting over-competition and applying excess pressure to perform, they should nurture social skills. Many of which are learned out-side the school situation, for which reason school should not be too time-consuming. Conceptual thinking, theoretical knowledge and applied skills can be achieved by other methods of education.
Participating in leisure activities such as music in an over-competitive school situation would probably have deprived me of much of the fun and contacts I had, doing it on a voluntary basis.

Contrary to Paul, who described his 5.5-year engineering education as a survival period full of woes, I invested 6 won-derful years to obtain my finance degree. Instead of 16 pound - sledge hammer - roughneck labour in the oilfields, I had great fun working behind our fraternity's bar, consuming modest quantities of a renown Dutch premium draught beer, and further developing my social skills.

The people who inspired me the most, in my education, in my profession, in my hobbies, AND in my clarinet playing, have never been the people who were in it to be better than ´the competition´. It were the people who loved what they were doing - and showed they loved it. The people who didn´t do it the rough way, but in an elegant fashion.

To get back to Penny´s story: if I were Penny, I´d quit the band and follow some other, less stressful class. This way, I´m sure I would continue to like my instrument / music, and I would not regard my fellow clarinetists as uncoopera-tive & rather-be-without-than-with-you people.

Competition is OK, but I felt that I should provide some counterweight to this philosophy which seems to have gone out of control.

Reply To Message
 Enjoy Music to Relax
Author: paul 
Date:   1999-08-27 20:38

I have to agree with Don's posting above.

I now enjoy music to relax. I listen to it going back and forth to work, with the local classical station playing exquisite pieces during the rush hours. I get to enjoy at least two hours of fine music without any advertisements each work day. Often the music contains superb clarinet works by some of the very best in the business, both past and present. The music helps to dissolve the "road rage" tendencies that I have every now and then in rush hour traffic. Then, there's my more or less daily practice time with my drill books and my horn. It's hard work, but it's fun work at the same time. My, how the practice hour just zips by!

The rest of my day is spent doing what I have to do to survive in today's competitive world. So, I live for the times that I can enjoy good music and be at peace with the world and with myself. It makes up for all the other "stuff" that I have to put up with all of the other times.

Reply To Message
 RE: Exhausted., relax!
Author: William Fuller 
Date:   1999-08-27 23:26

Well Said. Bart!!!!!!

Reply To Message
 RE: Exhausted.
Author: LJClarinetGuy 
Date:   1999-08-28 02:38

Hey there Penny. The only thing I can say is to try to take everything one at a time, and try to relax while taking care of what needs to be done. I'm the Head Drum Major for my band while still holding the responsibilities of taking care of my little clarinets :) and passing at 3 AP courses and 2 other classes. I know what the long days feel like, and even long weekends when I have to go to our band hall to get stuff ready for the next week. It's hard work to keep up with, and sometimes I don't have the chance to talk to my girlfriend either, but I manage to get through it. Just relax and let the responsibility you have be a pleasurable challenge, not a weighty burden.


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 RE: Exhausted.
Author: Dee 
Date:   1999-08-28 04:28

Mario wrote:
...I also understand that, in middle America, the only way to have access to music is to join the local marching band.

This is not entirely true. Schools in many areas do overdo this. However in the school that my children attend, the director focuses on concert band. They march a couple of parades a year but nothing fancy.

Then of course many towns and cities have community bands separate from the school bands. Many of these do not march at all. Others may march once or twice a year and it's optional.

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 RE: Exhausted.
Author: Lisa 
Date:   1999-08-29 03:39

I would have to agree with Dee. I am currently a senior and my school just started a marching band. Before we started to learn anything the majority of the band had bad attitudes because they thought it was going to be work, work, work. Now almost everyone loves to march and half of the band had the music memorized in the first week. I am drum major and as drum major I feel I have the most responsibility but I am still having a blast marching around the school parking lot.
Penny, I know where you are coming from on being stressed as a section leader, because our concert band is really competitive. But just as a suggestion maybe you should get your section together and give them a little pep talk. When my section did this we (the 2nd chair girl and I) told everyone a gift they bring to our section like one girl always makes me smile. So that got them a little more excited about being part of the group. Then we set a goal for our section that we would all be confident on our parts and we are going to accomplish that by asking questions right away. Everyone gave their input on how they would like to see the section improve and it was really good for us. We also talked about solo and ensembles contests because those are very competitive for us. I got the younger members excited about being part of clarinet choir and some of them have expressed interest in getting music for choir and smaller ensembles as soon as they can. We went into the school year with three people ready to quit and now they are excited about the year and everything we have to look forward too.
Hope things start to get better. And maybe talking to your director might help too. Just tell him that you are trying your hardest because it sounds like you are doing a good job if you stay after and everything. Many section leaders don't do that. Good luck.

Reply To Message
 RE: The More Things Change...
Author: steve 
Date:   1999-08-31 16:19

paul said:
"That's the goal of this game. Can you persevere in the face of undaunting competition? Can you survive in the jungle of professional rivalry? Can you work harder and think smarter than all of your peers? Can you quickly learn and adapt to new situations and still come out smelling like a rose instead of its fertilizer? That's what this process is all about. It's supposed to bring out the best in prospective college students and future white collar workers."

yep, paul you're right....but who benefits from this?? not the folks who have been through the mill to become corporate drones making several orders of magnitude less money than the upper management and find they have no time to play music...

why has corporate america defined how we live? why do you see a sign on a parochial school saying "This school saves x dollars in public expenditures for education" instead of "this school has a different way of educating young people, and we think it's better than the public schools?"..not that I agree or disagree with this assertion, but why do we use the metrics of "saving money" to define educational worth?...Is the fact that you and I can brag about having the crap knocked out of us by the american educational system (I worked in union carbide factories to put myself through the pressure cooker of Northwestern Univ, and I served time in the chem dept of u of illinois, phd '81)really a good thing? and for who???

The thought that penny is associating marching, music, stress and tears instead of marching, music, fun, and friendship says to me that something is screwed up about our trial by fire society...


Reply To Message
 RE: The More Things Change...
Author: Mark Charette 
Date:   1999-08-31 18:09

steve wrote:
why has corporate america defined how we live?
Why do you let it? Form your own company (or start one with a friend) and define your own little corner of "corporate America". That's what I did, more than once. That way I can't blame my position on some faceless corporation - the corporation _is_ me (or close to it, anyway).

Reply To Message
 RE: The More Things Change...
Author: steve 
Date:   1999-08-31 20:44

mark wrote:
"why has corporate america defined how we live?
Why do you let it? Form your own company (or start one with a friend) and define your own little corner of "corporate America". That's what I did, more than once. That way I can't blame my position on some faceless corporation - the corporation _is_ me (or close to it, anyway)."

excellent point, and modern technology makes it more feasible for someone to define his own little corner....but I was referring more to societal attitudes....we are so concerned with the "bottom line" and "competition" and "winning" that we allow our lives to be tracked as balance sheets and attempt to get self worth from citing competitive outcomes, even if they are non-sensical...

ask anyone on the street, musician or non musician the following question: Larry Combs beat Fred Ormand for the Chicago gig. fred now teaches at U Mich. Who is the better clarinettist??? I will bet you the preponderant answer will be Larry, because he WON!!!! Fred is NUMBER 2!!!! Who needs NUMBER 2!!!....the fact that fred and larry are both superb musicians who really can't be compared is lost to our sickness of obsessive competition and ranking...a necessary exercise if you are a mega corporation competing for profits and market share in a world market.....this attitude, when applied to real life, as idiotic as it seems, is not that damaging for battle hardened adults, who can ignore it, but it's criminal to subject children and students to it....yes, that's the way it is out there...it's not right...I wish we could change it.

best wishes, s.

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