Friday, April 30, 2010

Misuse of "Band"

By Mark T. Burke

Good morning Mrs. Gibson, I would like to introduce you to Ms. Rinard, our "Band Director" here at Sonestown Elementary."

REWIND....our "Band Director" ???

Ok, so maybe Ms. Rinard should be flattered.  Historically, being a Band Director brought with it a certain level of prestige.  Fast forward to 2010 and I'm not convinced that labeling school music teachers as "Band Directors" is a good thing.

Here's another example of how the term "Band" can be misused.

"The 5th period bell rings.  Rebecca enters the classroom.  Rebecca's teacher says,  

"Hi Rebecca, here's an overview of what we'll be working on during class since I know you have Band Lessons this period."

Every time I hear this phrase, I picture Rebecca going to the Band Room to learn how to be a Band member.  I envision her learning how to sit up straight, placing both feet flat on the floor and learning how to raise her instrument when the Band Director raises their baton.  I picture her trying on her Band uniform just to make sure it fits properly with her pants hemmed to JUST the right length.  Maybe I've read to many Harry L. Dinkle strips.

The use of the term "Band" is out of control.  We need to reign it in immediate to avoid loosing all credibility.  So let's clear up some misconceptions.

First, I did not go to college to major in "Band."
I did not graduate with a degree in "Band."
When I was in high school, I did not go home and practice "Band."
I was called a Band Geek in school -- wait, that's a fact not a misconception..and it still hurts!
My mother did not yelled down the stairs -- "Stop Playing BAND and come to dinner."

Band is an ensemble...yes...hold your ears.  A BAND, is a group of people, BANNED together to perform music.

I think we all know that "Band" means something much more than Band.  Confused must not be a Band member.  I'll go a bit slower.  See "Band" can be considered as a spiritual thing whereas Band is a label used to describe a certain type of musical ensemble.  I think this is where some have become accepting, comfortable even, with the 20th century use of Band.  Now that I think about it, maybe "Band" is a good thing, a higher level of existence even.  Focus Mark...

Here are a few ways to rethink the use of "Band." 
  • Students do not go to Band Lessons.  They participate in "Instrumental Music" lessons.
  • Students are not taught by Band Directors.  Band directing is an activity that some music teachers are skilled at.  When participating in the activity of Band, the person at the front of the room, normally holding a baton can be called, the "Band Director."  When this person is not in front of the Band, they are more appropriately called an Instrumental Music Instructor, or Teacher of Instrumental Music, or Director of Instrumental Music.
  • Oh, here's a biggy.  There is no such thing as "Band Class."  I shiver when I hear that one.
I think that totally clears up this issue.  I now expect a worldwide shift to the proper use of the term Band.
Do you have examples of how the term "Band" is misused.  Let us know...and have some fun too!  :-)   

Visit viaAcademies today to learn how we can help you improve your Band with online Band lessons and Band curriculum.  We can even show you how to create a flexible and affordable Summer Band program.  Band is fun!  Take it online with viaAcademies and help your students, Make Music Click! (Darn, I forgot the rules....)     


  1. This is interesting semantics. As a student, I did not consider myself an "instrumentalist", I was a "clarinet player in the band". I was a "band geek" and once I was in that social strata where I felt accepted and valuable, I wore that persona with pride. Once I switched to Music Ed. as a major (I was an Engineering major first), I still thought of myself as "I'm going to be a band director!"

    Since the band program at most American schools tends to be the most publically visible (since they are part of the culture of H.S. football), the general populous sees the ENSEMBLE, not the educational curricular offering. This is magnified when school districts offer a competitive marching band program that is completely extra-curricular. "Band" becomes another sports team.

    The paradigm shift that is needed is that performing ensembles need to educate the ENTIRE musician, not just "learning the 3rd clarinet part to the Holst Suite in Eb". Performing and non-performing music classes alike need to get their students COMPOSING music using the awesome free tools available online. We need to make every student maximize their potential, which means becoming as INDEPENDENT a performer and creator of music as possible.

    The best advocacy for our music education programs is not winning competitions, it is creating an environment where students are becoming magnificent human beings through the creation of music (to borrow loosely from George Hopkins).

  2. I agree Tom. And you hit on the points of my little story perfectly. The only thing I would add is that while I agree there are tons of great free aids online, I think organized music ed is the key. I guess that makes sense considering I am on the viaAcademies team.

    There's also the outward facing comprehension of the value of music, music teachers and music programs as well, which you point out.