4 Things Every Band Parent Needs to Know - School Band 101: The Music Concert, Young Musician, & the Instrument

band geekYour young musician comes home after school band music rehearsal and excitedly tells you that they are playing the flugelhorn instrument for the fall concert. Unless you know music you probably don't know much about instruments or school band beyond the occasional marching band at a football game. No fear. You can easily speak the same language as your child with a short introduction to music instruments and the school band.

Band Instruments
Beginning school bands usually have a limited number of instruments available, sometimes because of budget cuts, sometimes because of limited musical ability. In any case, band instruments are split up into these instrument families: percussion, woodwinds, and brass. String players generally do not play in the band.


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Percussion instruments include drums, drum set, timpani (or kettle drums), xylophone, shakers, bass drum, congas, cymbals, and triangle. Essentially anything that you hit with a stick, band with your hand, or shake is a percussion instrument. If your child chooses percussion as their instrument, you should invest in ear phones for you and the drummer, as well as several pairs of drum sticks.

A woodwind instrument historically is an instrument made of wood that has air blown into it to produce sound. However, most woodwind instruments are made of synthetic materials or metal today. The woodwind instrument family includes the flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon. A woodwind player blows into a reed to produce sound, unless the instrument is a flute. Most players go through dozens of reeds during the year. If your child ends up playing oboe or clarinet in the band, don't be surprised at how many reeds you need to buy. Saxophones also fit into the woodwind family, although they are a more modern instrument.

Brass instruments include trumpets, trombones, French horns, and tubas. The flugelhorn also belongs to the school band brass family. Usually the band will only have one tuba. A marching tuba that wraps around the player is called a Sousaphone, after the composer John Phillip Sousa who wrote "Stars and Stripes".
saxophone

Music Necessities
Your young musician will need a portable music stand, a metronome, and concert attire. Online music companies and music stores sell portable music stands for under twenty dollars. Most students will lose their music stands a few times, and you can replace an inexpensive music stand easily. A metronome helps your musician keep time. You can find both digital and analog metronomes. I suggest small digital metronomes that clip onto a music stand. The larger metronomes work better for pianists.


Band concert attire largely depends on the concert venue and the band director. For example, as a percussionist, I needed to wear all black. Unfortunately, many directors insisted I wear a skirt, extremely unpractical for drum set or even timpani. Eventually I began wearing black slacks instead. Fancier venues may require suit and tie for the boys and black gowns for the girls. For marching band, the school will supply a wide array of cheesy band uniforms complete with plastic hats and cummerbunds. You will provide marching shoes.

Other music necessities might include a music stand light and clothespins to keep the sheet music from flying in an outdoor concert. Each instrument has its music necessities, like valve oil or a drum key.

Rehearsals
Band rehearsals usually take place during the school day. Marching band rehearsals take place on the football field after school. A dress rehearsal is the rehearsal right before the final concert. The band runs through the entire program and takes care of logistics like stand lights.


Expect concert days to drain the life out of your musician. Most likely band students will meet right after school for dress rehearsal, with only a short break to catch dinner. Musicians need to arrive at a concert at least thirty minutes to an hour before the concert to warm-up. Warming up can include tuning instruments, buzzing lips for brass instruments, shaking out hands for drummers, and checking reeds for woodwinds.

Band Concert Etiquette
You will receive a program listing pieces and composers. Use this as your guide during the concert. Don't clap until the end of a piece. If a musical piece has several parts (or movements), then you do not clap between movements. No talking, coughing, sneezing, or laughing is allowed during a concert. Of course, all rules are off for a football game. Jazz concerts are more open, too.

Many parents buy their child flowers for first performance, take tons of pictures, point and wave during the concert, and give a standing ovation after a solo. The flowers are fine, but try to avoid too many pictures until after the concert. Take your cue from the rest of the audience. Standing ovations are usually reserved to the end of the concert, and yelling after a solo should only happen at a football game.

At the end of the concert, your musician might have to put away stands and percussion instruments, lock away their instrument, or even meet with the band director for an after-concert pep talk. Even though they are ready to fall asleep standing up, most musicians will go out after a concert to bond. At that point, you might have to convince your musician that its time to go home and leave the music for another day.
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