“Um, how does this song go again?”
“Miss Lesley, can you hold my metronome in your purse?”
“Mrs. Jones, can you help me fix my saxophone?”
I chuckle at these questions I get asked from time to time. I’m always amazed how much band has “just happened” to me. What I once used to respond to with awkward faces of “I have no idea” have now transformed into instinctual answers of “Yes, I can help.” I am blessed for this part I play in this swarm of chaos.
What we’ve come to call “Bandtober” in our world is a very precarious time in many marching band households. I’m looking at my planner now, and we have three nights from here until November 1st in which my child will see my husband before he goes to bed. We are mid-football season, when everything is starting to run fast and furious each week. But for bands everywhere, October signifies their competition season layered on top of this already bustling time.
There are no playoffs in our realm. There are no time outs. There are no do-overs. You plan your show a year in advance. You design props, you gather your staff and your vision, and you have one chance to get the marching drill, music, and visuals correct and ready for your run at a season. Sure, you practice and adjust, but before the first step is even taken on the practice field, before the first note is played, most of it has already been settled by the staff.
Every opportunity you get to march before a competition—that’s practice, no matter where it is. When your band hits that turf the day of competition, you’ve done all you can, and this is it. One chance to win. The pressure and performance that I’ve seen these bands bring rivals any other sport, and they deserve their moment in the spotlight.
What it means for me is my husband is at evening practices during the week. Kid to bills to groceries to repairs to sickness to pets to what-is-that-green-stuff-on-the-floor!? … that all falls to me. This month I am usually managing a schedule that includes a football game and an all-day competition within a 24-48-hour period, which includes wake up calls at 4:30 AM and packing a car load of who-knows-what for my husband, myself, and our three-year-old. We then spend all day, sometimes until near midnight, supporting our band.
If you don’t get teary watching a marching band play a final note after a stellar show, keep paying attention. Every kid has a unique set of steps, physically and musically. Think about 300 people being given different maps to walk a football field; in perfect unison and none of them collide, all while playing music in tune, on beat and visually displaying a story. What it takes to get that show on the field is the work of hundreds of staff and students lead by a band director.
That band director happens to be married to me. It’s my job as his wife to understand that pressure, to respect it and to make sure that while he’s taking his run at the title, I keep the rest of the house from not only burning down, but a home to return to.
But, I’m not alone. I am blessed with a village of people around me who help. We have a set of band alum parents who help take our toddler during half times at games so I can photograph the band. I am blessed to have many friends in our band family who help keep me sane during the season. I have a small group of other band wives who help me commiserate when the going gets tough.
We call it “Band Family” in our house. The people who reach out and understand that while we may not be the reason people show up to the football game, the effort to “do our thing” is huge. You don’t have to be in band to understand, you just have to show up for support.
Let me be clear—we are not better off or more saddled than any other organization out there—football, dance, everything in this realm has its own ups and downs. We all deserve the spotlight, and I’m hoping this brings some support to the band family I have come to love very much. Have your team sit through a performance, I challenge them to go to a competition even. Learning how to respect your comrades is just as important as respecting your competition—it’s sportsmanship at its finest.
Finally, I’m asking you to reach out to your fellow band director wives. We do not march alongside our team, but we are there behind every step along the way. We want to join in with you—the pride of our school is in all of our hands, and it’s a tough job to keep the spirit without each other.