Smiling politely through yet another performance by my son's school band tonight, I wondered: why do school bands play music so different from what the kids, or even their parents, choose in their free time? Music at parties, movies, etc. is pretty different. The novels kids read in English class differ from the novels they or their parents read in their free time, but most people accept that school novels are deeper, subtler, etc., so that kids learn more by studying them. But do most people really accept a similar claim about band music? What gives?
Bottom line: School bands are business driven. Instrument makers/music stores have vested interest in kids buying, renting, repairing instruments, and selling band scores. The repertoire is typically mass produced by second rate, middle-aged white "composers" who use predicable, formulaic writing. The bland mush is pushed heavily by publishers and eaten up by band directors looking for material to fill a rehearsal. Kids are rarely exposed to multiple genres, almost never play outside of the band, and typically stop playing when they graduate. The class usually concentrates on 3 skills: how to play an instrument, read music, and follow a conductor. Students lack independent music making skills and seldom engage in creative pursuits. School bands are long past their prime.
to me some people do and some dont.take me for exsample i love them cause our band comes up with ours and people eat it up,mainly cause its something new and exsiteing.but thats pep band.and im a 8th grader in the high school band so i have both pep and middle school band.i like the middle school's better cause its party like a rock star,crazy train,finle countdown,& many more!!!!
RIPLEY TIGERS FOR EVER
THANKS FOR NOT READING IF U DIDNT BUT IF U DID IM VERY GREAT FULL,from a very very weird trumpet player
Who likes band music? I do! My band students do! Community members who participate in community bands ranging from ages 14-88 do! Audiences who attend outdoor and indoor band concerts do!
Band music isn't a "style" of music.... it is a medium of musical expression. A good band and band director will rehearse and perform a multitude of musical styles through a variety of musical periods including those popular but sometimes forgettable hits.
However to answer your question... band in school is still an environment for learning for its members. Kids get quite excited to learn and master their instrument, and their musical taste might suprise you. Musical taste is a personal idea and varies as much as someone's favorite food, book, or color. It is my job as a music educator to enable my students to express themselves through their instrument by exposing them to a wide variety of musical styles, and technical challenges.
For example...on a recent concert I programmed a contemporary "band opener", a Latin Rock piece, a classical opera piece, a western "movie" motive song, Stars & stripes Forever and Pirates of the Caribbean. Know which one won hands down as the group favorite? the CLASSICAL one (Toreador Song from Carmen)... go figure! I thought for sure it would be Pirates! That was the consensus of my 6th grade band.
School music groups frequently participate in contests, and contest judges do not respect more popular styles. Complexity of music is one of the ways to score points.Cassical music, as an example,is respected as being more difficult, even if the arangement is not really hard at all, so it will score more points. In most marching band or drum corps contests, the group playing classical and jazz music will be closer to the top and the popular music will be toward the bottom. There will also be a higher number of band kids who like classical and jazz music than the general population, and will prefer to play those styles.
As a former marching band, symphonic band, jazz band, and current show band member, I can tell you some reasons:The music the band plays depends upon different criterias. For example, Marching band music is usually up beat and recognizable because it is too entertain a football crowd and it also has to please judges when the band competes(a very fun and energetic part of marching band); symphonic music is for both entertainment, showing off, AND for pleasing judges at district festival competitions in hopes of going to state competitions; jazz band and show band are basically for pure entertainmetn and fun.The music is different for MULTIPLE reasons. Sometimes it can be because of the particular arrangement and other times it can be because the particular band may not have had certain instruments that the song called for so the director had to improvise (such as give major parts to different instruments by transposing. A tedious process).One thing is for sure though, no matter how much you like the music, the band members playing it have worked their butts off to make sure it comes out right and to tell them they are no good will be a huge mistake that will hurt their feelings very much. Marching band is a difficult sport because you must use hand-eye coordination, memorization, musical talent, mathematical skills, and you MUST have STRONG ENDURANCE of many different weather conditions. My marching band had band camp for 3weeks before school started from 8am-8pm 5days a week and then after school started we had to practice after school until 8pm. So if anyone ever tells you band is not a sport, you remember that we work harder than pretty much any ball team you'll ever see!
Band music stimulates the mind and helps in math, foreign language, and reading...but that is only if u can read music. But i love band music to be honest and that's why i play clarinet and etc. instuments in my school band. But yes band is a good thing because it is good to play classical music as a baby sleeps to stimulate brain functions and spark creativity, and you can't get that from listening to that soulja boy mess...SO in mine and many other's opinions i love band music.
This is also cool b/c u can go to any country in the world and not speak a word of their language, but u can play with them in a band and feel the passion they have for music...[and i'm only in 9th grade; i just ove music] most people are just ignorant about music and will never understand unless u've been taught otherwise. And look at top countries like Japan and see how they take music so seriously and they're most of the smartest people in our classes, or job. THat says something and how u can hear something so pretty and cry because it moved u and it doesn't have to be lyrical music either...these kinds of things just speak to people..and give u chill bumps when you hear something pretty that u know it more then and hour to write on a sheet of paper...some peices take years or a whole person's life because they really put themselves into the music...Why is it that u still have ppl going and listening to the same Mozart, Beethoven or even Hayden concers over and over again after hundreds of years??? itz because it touches a part in them that they love to feel and love to hear when it's played right. So yea when u think about it if ur band is good then you enjoy playing (i'm not saying that my band is the best cuz we're not) but it really does affect you and the discipline that it takes in marching band not to move no matter what even if a bee stings you like it did one of my friends...it teaches you respect, pride, and discipline...I mean not many people would stay in the hot sun and run back and forth up and down a field (and ppl say marching isn't hard) and ppl wit asthma doingit just cuz they love to be in band and passing out after every show cuz it took so much out of them...thatz heart and will and determination...or a boy who died while marching cuz he had a bad heart but it meant so much to him that he did what he liked and grew to love...Band means a whole lot to people its just that so many americans (and yes i am american also) are so close-minded that they don't notice that section leaders and band officers are look at HIGHLY when there are National Guard Recruiters are recruiting...so if ur nation looks at music as being important then yea itz gotta be something.thankz for reading =-) *~jaz~*
Oh, but you do have to defend that, Phil.
The school band plays classical music, too: Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughn Williams, John Philip Sousa, Samuel Adler, Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, Samuel Barber (speaking of music to inspire people to charge into a hail of bullets), William Schuman, Percy Grainger, Karel Husa, Tania León, David Maslanka, John Corigliano, Richard Strauss, Malcolm Arnold, Henry Cowell, Charles Gounod, Vincent Persichetti, Warren Benson, Daniel Bukvich, Chen Yi, Michael Colgrass, Olivier Messiaen, Darius Milhaud, Ingolf Dahl....
And that's just the repertoire from composers over 50 or no longer with us. There's still plenty of new blood coming in and the chances of becoming part of the "canon" are rather good, because college bands are much more emotionally invested in new music than orchestras are.
A lot of classical composers these days like working with college bands because their pieces actually get more than four rehearsals before the concert, which is par for the course for professional orchestras. Then other college groups program the piece, so the piece gets more exposure, too, than the average new work for orchestra.
Mr. Hanson, I don't know how old your child is, but if s/he actually sticks with band, and does some serious practicing, s/he's bound to encounter some fantastic music written for band (and yes some incredible schlock, too, but it's not like that doesn't exist in orchestral repertoire...). Now whether you like that music or not is a different matter entirely. I hope your child has the tenacity to stick to their musical guns when they realize that your tastes don't match up. I remember well the disappointment I felt when I realized that my parents weren't interested in moving beyond Stravinsky or swing in their classical and jazz tastes, and that the day would come when they would not really be interested in the kind of music I was making. Don't forget to be supportive (thankfully, my parents did not forget, either, but I know not to expect enthusiasm for the actual sounds...).
I love band music. I had a roommate who didn't like anything but band music. His opinion was that any music that couldn't inspire people to charge into a hail of bullets wasn't worth playing.
Band and orchestra overlap, but are different. The school orchestra plays classical music, and hopefully I don't have to defend that. The band is made of instruments that are chosen for their loudness, shininess, and for being able to be played while marching.
Lindsay - What do you call someone who spends all his time with musicians? A drummer. :)
Whenever I'm presented with the question, what kind of ________ do you like?, I hesitate to answer at all. I like music that starts simply and builds in complexity. I like food in small portions with powerful flavor. I like writing with poetic phrasing and revolutionary insights. Subtleties like these are bound to be present within any genre of creative production.
As many have said above, it's entirely possible that your particular band director is making choices that aren't musically interesting, historically relevant, or emotionally moving. Still, that doesn't mean that "band music" doesn't have anything to offer... it just means that in order to find its value, you'll have to do some exploring, expose yourself to lots of examples, and do some intentional listening. Hopefully your child's music education will be a chance for you to do that. That's actually kind of exciting, right?
Overcoming bias, indeed. So many people from the outside looking in. Who are the professional musicians here? Who are the music educators here? Any kids from drum corps? Do we overcome bias best through observation or through direct participation? If band is so irrelevant, why do artists like Outkast and Kanye West work with them? If no one likes band music, are millions of people being duped every day by evil conductors into pretending that they like the music they are playing in their college music major classes? Or did they actually choose that major because of their positive band experiences?
There is a whole music publishing industry (see Mel Bay, Hal Leonard, Kjos) that pays people to arrange the hits of today for marching band, for concert band, for string orchestra, for choir and so on. No one has to worry about copyright; all of that is taken care of by the publishers. When I was in junior high in 1986, we played a rather nice arrangement of Springsteen's "I'm on Fire," a song that had very recently tore up the charts. A friend of mine from college told me how his marching band in high school (in Myrtle Beach, SC) played "Doin' the Butt" for their field show, complete with the entire band turning their backs to the stands and shaking their behinds at the audience. People do play brand-spanking-new music from a variety of styles in school music-making settings.
When I taught elementary band, the high school band director and I made an all-city band for the sixth graders to prepare them for junior high school. We played an original rock-inspired tune that I thought was okay, but I felt I could do better, so I wrote something myself. The problem with rock is that the rhythms are often rather complicated (lots of things happen between the beats). It's not so hard to imitate them, say vocally, but when you're trying to teach music literacy, you've got to build up to rhythms like that and that takes a few years. Since these were all second year students, they had enough reading experience under their belts that I could push them a little. I was able to use some simpler, but "real" rock/pop type rhythms. It was hard, but they did it. And the kids honestly liked it. No one twisted their arm to make them say that to me. I had one second-year band with six students. I wasn't going to be able to find too many commercial charts that would make them sound good (too much would be missing), so again, I arranged some simple stuff. We did some rounds. One kid really, really wanted to play "The Chicken Dance," so heck, we did it. In a performance at the mall, no less. Theoretically, someone could have come after me for arranging "Wipeout" for this same group. The chances are pretty darn slim.
Yes there are less-than-stellar band directors out there, but there are less than stellar other teachers, too. Ultimately, you are the one responsible for your own education. Even when you have the world's best teacher, you are still teaching yourself: you are the one absorbing and processing the concepts and skills.
"The novels kids read in English class differ from the novels they or their parents read in their free time, but most people accept that school novels are deeper, subtler, etc., so that kids learn more by studying them. But do most people really accept a similar claim about band music?"
Part of the purpose of education is to expand one's sphere of knowledge and experience. Are we not supposed to teach algebra because most kids' parents don't use it in their free time? I know I felt that way back when I was taking algebra, but there are reasons we don't leave educational-decision making to the wisdom of thirteen-year-olds. As far as novels taught in school being deeper and subtler, "The Swiss Family Robinson" failed on both of those counts as required reading in my 8th-grade English class — and we were supposedly the advanced kids. The music I was making in band was far more deep, subtle, and left a more permanent mark. Just as there are good and bad books on the required reading list, there are good and bad pieces in the band repertoire. Hopefully, part of your child's music education will be learning to discern quality, too. But there's a difference between quality and taste. I don't particularly care for Mahler, for example, but I know he's a quality composer. I just don't share his musical values. Frelkins touches upon this when he talks about signaling. Musicologist Christopher Small talks about similar ideas in his books ("Musicking," "Music of the Common Tongue," and "Music/Society/Education"). Here's an appropriate quote from a talk he gave at Chamber Music America called, "Why doesn't the whole world love chamber music?": I find it interesting that when we ask, "Why doesn't the whole world love chamber music?" it doesn't seem to occur to us to ask, "Why doesn't the whole world love heavy metal music?" Or "Why doesn't the whole world love hip-hop?" Or "Why doesn't the whole world love rock 'n' roll, or sacred harp singing, or country-and-western music?"... There's no reason in the wide world why the whole world should love any specific way of musicking. All ways of musicking, and all individual performances, are to be judged, if judged at all, on their efficacy in articulating, in exploring, affirming, and celebrating their participants' sense of ideal relationships, their sense of who they are. We may not like who they are, we may perceive who they are as antipathetic or even threatening, but that has nothing to do with the matter. And conversely, when we maintain... that our way of musicking is the best, that it is the one that can give most satisfaction to those who practice it and to those who listen, that it is the most educative and formative of solidarity and discipline of character, of respect for others and the satisfaction of forming part of a collective enterprise, and so on, it only serves to reveal how little we know of how musicking operates outside our own social group.
"Classical" isn't universally avoided. Individual pieces, in fact, are often quite popular--how many people couldn't hum fragments from Beethoven's Fifth or Ninth, or the leitmotif from Ride of the Valkyries? There's plenty of dull, ponderous material as well, of course, and the people who "enjoy" classical music because of its prestige don't really promote the more accessible pieces (as it's not in their interests to let regular people actually enjoy classical).
Also, I happily listen to plenty of music that would send most people screaming out of the room (and, in fact, has). It's more in the vein of "Japanese noise rock" than anything academically respectable, though.
There has been a complete break in the traditions that govern the music that we listen to in social settings (accompaniment to dramatic performances, for example) but there has not been as much of a break in pedagogy. In music pedagogy, the institution is in control; but we use music outside institutions, too, and after several generations the music that is preserved inside the pedagogical institution sounds like flies buzzing in amber.
But I wonder why nobody mentions the kinds of music called "classical," which are universally avoided and yet accorded prestige. Nobody runs and puts Robert Jaeger's "Third Suite" (a cute piece of music that decent high school bands can play) on the box and dances to it. But people wouldn't necessarily run out of the room if you did put it on, whereas they would run screaming out of the room if you put on any academically respectable composer of the last century-plus. (There is a bit of overstatement in that last sentence, but I only have to apologize to about four people for the overstatement, which sort of proves my point.)
I think that the rough consensus (and definitely my opinion) is that it is popular music from a time when popular music was for bands; and we have school bands to accommodate lots of students.
But there are some venues still producing band music. Caliban Darklock mentions movie music and one of Nancy's commenters mentions musicals.
I detest that music and left the band immediately after I discovered that we were going to play one good Bach piece and then loads and loads of educational stuff. Fortunately I was only renting the oboe.
I had a similar experience with piano teachers. My first teacher, from when I was 5-10 wrote out music for me on a staff, by hand. He would would write simplified versions of popular tunes from sound tracks, famous classical pieces, etc.. My family moved and the new piano teacher they found for me had me playing educational pieces. I quit, and took up the oboe.
My kid's band plays a mix of songs which I think are fairly well balanced. Occasionally they will play an arrangement of a popular song, but I think there are also 'band standards', which are like fight songs just something that comes with the territory. It's not such a bad state of affairs.
My observation is that, especially with marching band competitions, most people don't have any idea what's going on. Specifically, they don't know what the judges are looking for. I attended one such competition and made a rather stereotypical complaint that our band seemed to lack spirit in that they weren't playing as loudly as the others. My son countered saying that loud playing, especially with certain instruments is something of a cheat that weaker bands use to mask their playing ability. The same goes for very syncopated drumming throughout. Making formations on the field is a great deal more difficult through softer passages of music without drums. Judges know this, crowds do not.
A good music director will therefore need to choose music that meets all of the above stated criteria, and then consider how its judged in marching band competitions - obviously most high schools don't have enough kids to have separate marching bands and concert bands.
> but are there actually places where it's hard to get an A in band?
This was certainly the case where I when to school. I learned later that this was not normal, but I have a hard time believing it's an especially rare case. As I recall, you didn't get As unless you were going to solo competitions, etc. (though I may have confused causation with correlation there).
The other important aspect is that you don't attend a high school band concert to listen to the great music (though it's much nicer in those rare cases you can). Instead, the whole point is to put on a public concert in the first place to give concrete reason and motivation for practicing in the first place. School concerts are for the players, not the audience. The same reason we have recitals in other areas (e.g. ballet). You may care how cute or well your own kid does, and knowing that other people will see them, but most people couldn't give a crap about anyone else in the show. There's an amazing gulf between the desire to show pictures of your new baby, and the appreciation others have for your enthusiasm.