Combined bands = political tyranny?

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    I teach in a really small district. I have the student talent to have them perform “Sleep” this semester for the spring concert as a combined band/choir piece, but my instrumentation is really messed up, even moreso after you subtract all the band kids that are singing in the choir. I have a freakishly strong middle school band this year, and I thought it would really help the group sound if I used them to fill in some of these gaping holes. In addition, what a great experience for the middle school kids to play with the high school kids. Apparently, one of my three seniors (and strongest musician in the group = you can do the math) missed the memo on this, and as it came casually and briefly into conversation as an answer to a student question, she actually picked a fight with me in the middle of class over it. I asked her to meet with me in my office after class to discuss it, as this was not the appropriate time or place, and she refused. Her parents have already made it clear that they’re perfectly content with me walking on eggshells in the absence of giving her special treatment, so this is just another layer on the cake.

    Am I in the wrong here? I’m really trying to elevate the experiences of these kids here, who have been indirectly conditioned to think that just because they live in the middle of nowhere, they have no potential or reason to approach music performance in a respectful and professional manner. I want them to be able to perform quality music if we have the resources to do it, even if they’re not immediately in the building. There are a ton of schools who have their advanced younger students play with the more experienced groups, especially when they need additional parts covered. I thought I discussed this with the class and no one made a peep about it before today. Is this just another entitled-senior-wants-the-spotlight-before-graduating scenario, or have I inadvertently started a war?


    I would tell your students that you are using the performance as a recruiting opportunity for your high school band. I have two middle school feeders to my high school (though I have only 35 members in my band – and odd instrumentation to boot) – we do these things several times per year. Each of the middle schools is in a different city. There is a parade in the fall that I do with one middle school, and a parade in the spring that I do with the other school. We have a “band night” at one of our football games that both of the middle schools perform with us at half-time. I always invite our upcoming 8th graders to perform 1 or 2 pieces on our spring concert, and at our graduation. In my mind, it gives those middle school students an idea of what being a member in our band would be like, and most likely would increase their chances of joining my program.

    I should say that when I started 4 years ago, I only had 12 students in the program, so recruiting has always been a top priority with me. My current students realize this. Some of them complain a little before the first event in the fall (especially the upper classmen), but then I just remind them of how much we have grown in just a short amount of time. This tends to stop the complaining. Of course, they always seem to have fun after the event is over.

    I personally don’t see the issue with doing this if it is going to help you / your program.

    Is she the only student that has complained about it? If so, I think I would just ignore her – sounds like she just wants the spotlight to me. If you have a good number of students complaining about it – you might want to approach it like I have. I don’t tend to give into students or parents that think they should get special treatment – even if they are my best players. I think at this point, your parents and students should realize that you are the one in charge, and you know what is best for your band program.

    Another question – what would the choir sound like if you didn’t have your band students singing in the choir? Would that greatly help your instrumentation?


    i may be cold by putting it this way, but what do you feel is more important?
    1 – a senior that’s the best in the class
    2 – middle school students

    i guess the way i would put it is that this senior who has a parent that causes issues will only be in your class for a couple more months and then they will be gone. what you should probably care more about is the middle school students who you are working to retain for the next 4 to 6 years (depending on their age). i would view them as the one who would have a longer lasting influence. on a side note i know my administration would have backed me if i had sent that student to the office since it’s their instructions that if they fight you in class i have to win, which means they have to be kicked out. my principal likes to say “if you wrestle with a pig, you get muddy and the pig enjoys it”

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