We hear a lot about communication. Parents demand "good communication". The key to better organization is "strong communication". In order to function smoothly, we need "high levels of communication". The reality is that communication is a two part process. Much like a pitcher and catcher in baseball, communication is a teamwork scenario.
As music educators, we are becoming increasingly frustrated with the number of last minute excuses for students missing our scheduled events. As you know, performing in a large music ensemble is like a big jigsaw puzzle. The picture is incomplete without all the individual pieces. When we rehearse or perform with students missing, we can't do all of the things to perfect the music. When students return after missing an activity, it takes time for them to catch up...slowing the progress of the rest.
Here is a shocking fact: In the past three years, including marching band and concert band activities, we have not had a single rehearsal or performance with 100% attendance.
We try very hard to schedule only the extra time necessary for a top level performance. We do not require the band students to be here five days a week like sports or many other activities. We do not keep them here for 4-5 hours at a time on a regular basis like some other activities. We are flexible and work out situations between sports and activities so that students can do both.
The frustration sets in when we are approached a matter of a few days or hours prior to our event with the note or discussion that "I can't be there because of something that was scheduled months ago." Our followup questions go like this:
"What is the specific conflict?" We need to know this in order to try and work out compromise. If it is an excusable reason, we need to know. If it is not an excusable reason, we still need to know. "Something" is vague and nondescript. A case of the flu is specific. A Baseball game is specific. We bought tickets to a concert is specific.
"When did you plan this other activity or event?" The default answer is "a long time ago", which then begs our next question:
"Why didn't you communicate the conflict as soon as you saw both events on the calendar?" Band activities are published months in advance on the calendar and on the website. They are followed up in the newsletters, handouts sent home, the mobile band app, announcements in class, and discussion at PBPA meetings. Waiting until the last minute to communicate the conflict leaves no time for resolution. It then jeopardizes the entire band rehearsal or performance and hurts the students who must participate in an incomplete ensemble.
"What did the coach/sponsor of the conflicting activity say when you spoke with them about the situation?" The typical answer is "I didn't talk to them." Really? So band is always the event to get slighted or shortchanged? No effort to resolve the conflict, simply "I choose not to honor my commitment to you"?
When calling band parents during some of these situations, we often hear "Oh, I don't go to the website" or "I don't open e-mail". Some apparently do not speak with their children on a regular basis, or they would at least know which band the child was in or the fact the there are concert performances related to a performance based class !
We send out information far in advance in a variety of formats. (The pitcher throws the ball)
Some parents keep aware, read, and are up to date with scheduling. They work out conflicts in advance and things are done in a fair manner to all activities (they catch the ball)
Some parents do not read or keep up with scheduled activities (they miss the ball)
In order for our team to succeed, there must be "information catchers". Honest, open communication in a timely manner is the key. When you schedule something, check for conflicts. If a conflict is present, communicate early...not at the last minute. Communicate with both sides...not just one or the other. Help us to keep providing high level music experiences for your student...and for all the students who work with them in the ensemble.