Having a child in band can be a great experience, but also can be a challenge knowing how to help him/her be successful. Having success in band is a highly complex formula, and is not always easily understood. The following are five ways in which you can help your son or daughter to have an even more successful band experience.
1. Encourage commitment, even after tough days
The most successful band members are not discouraged by a bad day. Parents can help develop this trait by encouraging their son or daughter to persevere through any challenges that might arise. High school students usually need some help to develop everyday coping skills. It’s so easy to give up on a goal, especially in a “drive-through” “instant-gratification” world. Discuss challenges with your son or daughter and work towards long-term solutions and strategies, without involving excessive drama. This can also be done in other situations too, whether it’s a school research paper, a household project, or just committing to keeping one’s word.
2. Show them that band is valued in your home
I’m sure that all parents try to be supportive of their children’s interests, but does your son or daughter know how much you value band? When talking about music in your home, do you treat it like another extra activity, or do you value it the same as any other academic class?
Do you enjoy going to band performances? Band members will notice if their parents want to watch performances, as opposed to showing up out of obligation or simply to show your support. When your child is practicing at home, do you act interested in his/her progress? Do you notice when there is an improvement in his/her ability?
Band parents should be aware of the long-term benefits of studying music, not only the team-work and social aspects, but also the cognitive, emotional, and physical reasons. Science has a tremendous amount of data that backs up the great benefits of playing an instrument. Unfortunately, in our culture, music is sometimes pushed aside as being irrelevant. Band parents must understand the real data and be somewhat counter-cultural, in order to really value band to the fullest.
3. Help them take ownership in their playing
Successful band members are goal-oriented. They understand that hard work and deliberate practice will help them to become a better musician. High school students love to be independent and make their own decisions, but they also like when others help them to achieve their goals. Supportive parents may consider asking their student about extra opportunities they can be a part of (honor bands and extra-curricular ensembles, for example). If private lessons will help them achieve their goals, can you encourage them to pursue this? Really involved parents, especially, may need to allow their son or daughter take the initiative in making their own decisions on how to improve.
4. Share what you’re passionate about
Great band members are highly engaged during rehearsals. They enjoy playing their instrument and enjoy working together with others in a group setting. They are also typically very passionate about the music that they are performing. This passion often serves as fuel to get through all of the hard work and long days. Sharing with your son or daughter what you thought was great about a certain piece of music can initiate conversation that can help them articulate what inspires them. Whatever you are passionate about, consider allowing your son or daughter to see your enthusiasm about a particular hobby or subject. Sometimes high school students can feel as if being enthusiastic isn’t cool. Helping them to feel comfortable sharing what they’re interested in can really help energize their inner potential.
5. Embrace the band family
The importance of the social side of being in band is often underestimated by parents and directors. High school students really value these new friendships. Fortunately, these friendships are generally very positive and encouraging during these crucial teenage years. I once heard someone say that “no one ever robbed a bank on their way to band practice.” That is, the structure of being in band encourages good decisions and healthy social situations. When band members feel accepted as part of the band, they are then free to be themselves, try hard, and participate with more ease. Hanging out with other band members who try hard, enjoy each other’s company, and support one another in their goals can have a powerful impact on your child’s confidence as part of the band program.
Director of Bands,
Lancaster High School