Tired of being a Pep Band…need to vent…need advice

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    I’m in my second year of teaching at a school. Unlike many interviews, I was interviewed twice, once by the principal and several band parents, and once by the band students. I was interviewed by the parents because the principal knows absolutely nothing about high school band except for the fact that the band is there to serve the school.

    Some of my parents know what festivals and music assessments are and geared most of the interview that way. So for the people who know what the real function of a band is…that is why I was hired. However, I’m CONSTANTLY bombarded by members of the administration and other faculty members telling me how I should run the band and what to play. It is getting to the point where every time I play warm-ups or scales with the band, somebody walks in and says, “that’s boring music…you need to play something fun!” This became increasingly annoying during concert season. I sent an email out to the faculty inviting them to our concert and the only reply I got was from one of the basketball coaches saying, “How can you send an email asking for people to come to your band show when the band only supports one club, the football team, and ignores all the other organizations?” The band also is expected to play in the pit for the school musical, which has always been the same week of our district concert festival/assessment. I brought that to my principal and I was dismissed.

    Our state marching band festival/competition was the night after an away football game. I send an email to the head football coach saying that we would not be attending the game because the students had to perform at 7:30 the next morning and he was alright with it…however, the administration calls me into the office scolding me for not going, and telling me that “The cheerleaders say they are school spirit first and competition second”…and I responded with the fact that this is a class, they are being graded for this, and that marching band just happens to be part of their curriculum”…they dismissed me again.

    On top of this, I’m by myself and working very hard to keep the band descent…and the special ed department keeps putting kids with special needs in the band…and they just give them recorders or drum sticks and tell them to intermingle with the band, and it’s a COMPLETE distraction. But when I tell them we are preparing for serious competition, they tell me to just play music that we play for football games, because that’s what is really important anyway. AND…halftime for football games, I’m so hesitant to march our show for the fear of the kids being booed for not playing rock n’ roll music at halftime…I just feel like I’m in a terrible situation…

    I’m at the end of my rope…I constantly feel insulted because I’m not teaching music anymore…I’m just a head cheerleader with a loud group….

    Does anybody here have any advice on fighting this before I end up changing my career?


    Been there done that. Still do it from time to time. The best advice I can give you is to fight through it, and make changes slowly. When the band is successful, folks will jump on board. But that has to happen first. Make sure the marching/pep band is playing well and marching well. Play “music everyone likes to hear”…..get the administration and community on your side. Then, after you have established the program, numbers are up, and everyone likes the band……then you do what you want musically/visually. Trying to be a purist from day one rarely works out well….it’s frustrating, but you have to be willing to play the game and bide your time. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. (sometimes I need to follow my own advice!)


    It sounds like you’re in a tough situation and the school and community don’t necessarily value music for music’s sake. Your ideas are right on, but they obviously don’t mesh with the thoughts of your principal. You’re probably going to have to appease him for a little while and play that music that you play for football games- it can work for marching. Do what you need to do to make things work at school, and do the best you can for the marching competitions. Your reputation in your school is much more important in the short term than your reputation as a marching band instructor. Your role with change within the school over time, but it can be very frustrating to begin with.

    As far as the special education students go, I’m assuming these are students with no band experience. Do they have severe disabilities? I’d keep talking to your special ed staff, guidance department, and principal about keeping band a “experience necessary” class. We can’t let anyone that wants to bang on drums into class- special education or not. They don’t stick students who have no Spanish experience into an upper-level Spanish class. . . or I hope they don’t. See if there’s any way to schedule time for them to come in during a different time, where they have the opportunity to explore sound and music at their own level. I’ve seen schools that schedule special classes (and performances) for students with severe disabilities, and this allows them to have a more appropriate experience. If this isn’t possible, could you assist the special ed teachers in planning and teaching their own sound exploration class?

    Things will get better, but it will take time. The second year is almost harder than the first- you know more about what is expected of you and you start to have great ideas about what your group COULD do (or at least I did). Stick it out, and things will happen for you. . . or you move on.

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