Band is a team. We depend on each and we strive for unity in every aspect of our rehearsals and performances. Part of what we do is bonding as well as learning techniques of musicianship.
For the past few years, we have cancelled a regular marching band practice so that our students could go to the local movie theater and experience the DCI Quarterfinals performances of the top drum corps in the activity. Several of our alumni have performed and taught with groups in this elite performance medium. Nearly our entire staff have performed and taught in DCI. We felt that this had two purposes...to allow our students to see the very best performers in an activity very similar to what they are doing, and to allow another social bonding opportunity.
Sadly, this year will be the last that we cancel a scheduled practice for such an event. The number of parents and students complaining and telling us that their students will not attend, along with the small number of participants annually has dictated this change. Mind you, the students would have been in practice from 5:45 - 9:20 anyway.... and we told them that they could leave the theater at 9:20 (making their commitment 6:15-9:20... 30 minutes LESS than the normal practice time)...yet still the flood of questions asking "Is it MANDATORY?" and telling us all of the things that the students needed to do during that time (when they would have been at regular practice anyway...)
We no longer use the word "mandatory" with our activities. When we say, "Yes, it IS mandatory", people still skip the event, typically with a lot of harsh criticism of the band program (and directors), so the word "mandatory" actually carries little meaning to them. We have started saying "We expect attendance...we are providing the opportunity for you to participate... here are the benefits". Then, it's up to the families involved to decide whether to avail themselves of the benefits and experiences, or skip them in favor of something else. It's the old adage of "You can lead a horse to water...but you can't make him drink". All around us, band members at other schools take advantage of such opportunity and reap the benefits... while we are then left to try and find ways to compensate.
We will continue to offer opportunities, and we will hope that our members take advantage. It will be in addition to our regular schedule, and we won't be cancelling practice time for only a portion of the group. Being a part of a team means working together...without that component, we will struggle when trying to achieve our maximum potential.
For those attending, you will experience some of the highest quality marching music performances in the history of the activity. You will understand more about what is possible and what quality performance looks and sounds like. You will be better for it. You will also have time to hang out with your band friends in a non-rehearsal setting and get to know them a little better. You will strengthen the bonds and perhaps develop a greater sense of support and connection to those you will perform alongside for the rest of the season.
Good, Better, Best.