By John Gardner
Band students make better employees and employers find the payback for working around rehearsal and performance schedules is a win-win for the business too.
By the time they are old enough to get a job, band students have learned the value of hard work. They have spent hours in the heat learning new skills under the watchful eyes of seniors, section leaders, staff and directors. They have been corrected, challenged — and have learned to pay the price. They have seen the benefits of dedication and are willing to commit to a job.
Band students won’t quit the job because the manager gives them criticism because they understand that is what makes them better. And they learn that striving for excellence is a worthy goal.
1. Band students understand dedication, commitment, and that striving for excellence is a worthy goal.
At the age they are joining marching band, teens are battling with balancing the reality that they are not quite adults with the increasing desire for freedom, responsibility and individuality. Some rebel against parents, push back against teachers and are super-sensitive to peer-criticism. And yet, marching band requires they give up individual freedoms for the good of the cause, makes them earn responsibility and tells them they have to look, act and behave like everybody else – uniformity.
The first time they are thrust into a fast-paced, pressurized workplace environment, teens from the general school population will be more likely to throw a tantrum, quit — or get fired. Not band students.
2. Band students understand the value of, and respect for chain on command.
Students are together in lots of different classroom mixes, but only for fifty minutes on school days for a semester or two. Band students can be together for 10-15 hours Monday through Thursday, plus 3 hours for a Friday night football game and 14 hours for a Saturday rehearsal/competition. Couples break up, personalities don’t mesh, they come from different parts of town and with different family and economic situations — but they learn to work together, a skill many non-band teens and a lot of adults never develop.
As I talk to teens (and even many of their parents), one of the most common reasons to quit a job is because of relationships with co-workers. Band students will be even more frustrated with the mediocrity and lack of cooperation and weak work ethic they will find in the workplace, but they will commit to making it work.
3. Band students know how to cooperate and collaborate with those from different backgrounds and capabilities.
In a part-time work environment there will be competition for hours, raises, promotions and responsibilities. The tendency is to look out for self and to heck with the other guy. Students compete within a band but they want everyone to do well. They compete with other bands but will wish them good luck as they pass on the way to the competition field. They will applaud for other bands – even those that beat them. Band students are team players and they understand sportsmanship.
4. Band students learn good sportsmanship.
By the time they’re ready for that first job (students usually turn 16 during sophomore or junior year), band students have already learned patience as marching band staff is teaching or fixing drill; perseverance and endurance through extreme temperatures, long rehearsals and so much more we teacher types throw at them.
They understand, through the system of seniority in most bands, that they will need to prove themselves and demonstrate strong work ethic to earn leadership positions or, when they get a job, a raise.
5. Band students learn patience, perseverance, and endurance.
There is often a penalty for arriving late to a band rehearsal. When I was in a marching band, it was a lap around the field per minute late. Some bands use push-ups — or job assignments. Arrive late today and you get to take the water to the field tomorrow. And because there are always new things happening in a rehearsal, missing is never an option. Some bands will make you an alternate for an unexcused absence. So when band students get a job with a schedule, they are there — and on time.
6. Band students learn the value of attendance and punctuality.
Bands rehearse scores of hours per minute of marching band show. Stretches, running and endurance exercises, fundamentals (yes, they already know how to march, right?) and then sets of drill over, and over. Do they get tired? Absolutely, but they understand the price of success and that there are no shortcuts to achieving it.
7. Band students learn that there are no shortcuts to success.
Most years, prior to the final competition of the season, we allow seniors to talk to the band. They say a variety of things, but there are two predominant themes: 1) Band is family, and 2) band taught them responsibility with accountability.
8. Band students learn responsibility and accountability.
Where, outside of public education, is the focus on making the student (or employee) feel good about themselves at the expense of excellence? We read about schools eliminating valedictorians and class rank or even grades, so lower achievers don’t get a negative vibe.
When my child was in first grade, the education fad of the day was a program called “writing to read”, where the emphasis was on the child being able to read whatever they wrote. Spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc…. were not corrected. Teachers emphasized that a child reader would have a higher self-esteem.
Students who have gone through a feel-good system can hit a brick wall when they get to college or into the workforce. Good band directors instill in their students that a healthy self-esteem comes through achieving excellence. In that pursuit, however, the student learns to accept criticism from directors, staff, seniors and section leaders – and they are willing to pay the price to get the prize.
9. Band students learn that self-esteem is raised by achieving excellence.
Because of their extreme rehearsal schedules on top of homework and, especially with the responsibilities of a job, band students develop good time management skills.
10. Band students develop time management skills.