Five Things to Know if Your Teen is Joining the Marching Band

High School marching band: you either totally get it or you don’t get it at all. 

Sure, you’ve probably seen the band perform its halftime show at your local football games, but there’s so much more to band than meets the eye. Band is a whole culture and unlike most of the other extracurriculars in high school. Band practices are long and often strenuous. The band kids practice before school and after school. Sometimes the stadium lights shut off while they’re practicing at 8:59 p.m. on a Monday night and they keep on playing. Just like sports players, band students must maintain passing grades in their classes and the music that they play is crazy difficult. Long story short, marching band is no joke and probably shouldn’t be entered into lightly.

I was in the band when I was in high school back in the early (cough, cough) 1990s, and now my daughter is a freshman in the high school band. Perhaps my memory is poor, but I don’t recall the band being as… intense as it is now. Gone are the days of bands marching back and forth in a line across the field. These days, the halftime shows include props, dancers, acrobatics, and pyrotechnics. (OK, not actually pyrotechnics, but don’t rule out pyrotechnics for next year.) 

Don’t get me wrong, I am really enjoying this season of life. But I’d be lying if I told you that I completely understood—going into it—what the marching band would demand of our family. Being active in the band is a commitment that involves everyone in the household, so it’s important to make an informed decision before your teen is in the thick of marching band. 

Here are some things to consider if you have a teen about to embark on a journey in the high school marching band.

Budget Accordingly

I don’t know how much or even IF my parents had to pay any money for me to be in my high school band, but we paid a significant amount in fees for our daughter to join. This fee fluctuates from school to school (I’ve heard rumors about what some bands charge in registration fees, and let’s just say that I needed the smelling salts after hearing that number!), but our fee was still more than I anticipated. The good news is that this fee included all of the special clothing and uniform items that she needed for the marching season, as well as most of the meals that she eats on game days and during contests and special performances. Also, most schools offer scholarships for kids who can’t afford the registration fees, so PLEASE do not let the cost deter your child from joining the band. There is lots of help out there—just ask your band directors. No student who wants to join the band is turned away because they can’t afford it. 

Plan Your Summer Carefully

Even though I knew that my daughter’s summer band camp started the last week of July, I didn’t do a very good job of making sure that we enjoyed summer to the fullest during June and early July. Once band camp started, she was gone all day, every day. Also, I’ll know better next year, but we missed the chance to schedule her dentist appointment, doctor appointment, and haircut during our small summer window before summer band started. Now, she’ll have to wait until December to get these things done. I’ve learned my lesson, and next year I’ll schedule these appointments for early in the summer. 

Keep Your October Calendar Wide Open

They don’t call it “Bandtober” for nothing. The month of October is FILLED with band events. Friday night football games aside, October is the season for marching contests and festive performances. We had very few free weekend days in October. 

Get Involved

Every high school has a Band Boosters organization. No matter how you typically feel about parent volunteer organizations, consider getting involved in the Band Boosters. They do so much for the band kids and band directors and, honestly, the band couldn’t function without them. This dedicated group of volunteers shows up tirelessly and takes care of the band like no one else. Plus, band parents are awesome! You just might meet some new friends in the Band Boosters! 

Embrace It

As I type this, we are up to our eyeballs in marching band events. My calendar is a mess, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The band kids are a dedicated bunch of young almost-adults who manage to work their tails off every day, while also keeping their grades up and juggling all of their other responsibilities—many have jobs, things going on with their families, etc. 

I continually marvel at the attitudes of these kids who show up and show out every single day. It’s also such a great experience for our daughter. She has a built-in friend and accountability group within the band and I love that she is part of something at her high school. I know I’ll look back on these days of feeding band students, frantically moving equipment on and off the football field before and after the halftime show, and sitting in the stands cheering on the band, football team, and cheerleaders and know that these were the special days. I hope that you’ll have these special days, too. 

 

Jenny is a 40-something, married mother of two (Anna, 2007 and Jack, 2009), who migrated to the Hill Country after doing a 14 year stint in Houston. When Jenny isn’t walking her slightly neurotic (and completely beloved) rescued Weimaraner, she enjoys writing, making to-do lists, and folding laundry (and sarcasm). Jenny holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University--Corpus Christi, and completed graduate coursework in Guidance and Counseling. She is a freelance writer who writes a weekly pet column for a Houston newspaper, and is a contributor at Dog Friendly San Antonio, New Braunfels Monthly and San Antonio Woman, as well as assorted other publications. You can also find her on Instagram (introvertsguidetosobriety). Favorite Restaurant: Bohanan's Favorite Landmark: The Alamo (duh) Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Wurstfest (not technically SAT, but closer to Jenny's stomping grounds).