Friday, October 2, 2009

Communist Band Instrument Selection

I am curious how band instruments are assigned in your town. My son had to select his top three instruments. My son is in 5th grade and when asked to select instrument choices for 5th grade, He selected the:

1. Trombone

2. Trumpet

3. Clarinet

We happily signed the form confirming his choices. We were foolish to assume that he would get a choice on his list-This is the public schools you know and it frankly, it always seems to be about the teachers and what is best and award winning bands. He tried the instruments at school and said the he could buzz the mouthpiece of trombone, but had trouble reaching the full range of slide, he could not buzz the trumpet mouth piece and had trouble playing the clarinet. Needless to day, he came home with the:


What I said? I do not remember approving that instrument (as lovely as it may be). One, they are extremely expensive to purchase, rent, etc. and secondly, can he even lift it? Thirdly, it is base clef and means a life of harmony and quarter notes-rest-quarter note-rest (just kidding) Why is my child not getting a instrument on his list while others are getting their first choice? I think this is a pretty good question to ask.

I contacted the music teacher questioning this decision and she said...Trip had trouble reaching the full range on the trombone and the baritone and trombone are virtually interchangeable--no they are not!! He can easily go from the baritone to the trombone and we will give you a baritone for home and one for school. Do you see an agenda here!! Excuse me, why did you not give my child a choice on the list. There is a shortage of baritones in the high school and they think they can trick my son and us into this choice.

I pressed this teacher a little and uncovered that my son had some of the shortest arms in the class and that made him the best candidate for this instrument. He was actually measured!

Secondly, she said that they are trying to encourage the kids to play these instruments (lots of cellos too) because they have too many flutes and trumpets in the high school, the bands would be unbalanced and the kids are disappointed if they could not be in the best band.

In other words, you are measuring my child's arm to determine his musical instrument future based on his size today. I talked to my brother (a trombonist) and he said that no one can reach the low notes when they start out and there are trigger trombones to help for the 5th and 6th position anyway. Going from the baritone to the trombone is like going from the flute to the violin--not easy at all.


So, in my lovely manner, I sent a really angry note comparing music selection to selecting young gymnast for the Chinese team based on physical size, etc. My son has a late birthday and is smaller today.


When did the arts stop being about the kids and started being about the teachers and their awards?

Our music teachers are trying to talk the kids into instruments the high school band needs. Many kids were pushed toward the cello (too many violins too I guess--too bad if you are poor and cannot afford violin lessons on your own, those spots are taken by those who can).

I did say, shame on you. 1) give the kids a choice on his list 2) do not try to manipulate the kids into picking an instrument they do not like or are interested remotely in playing--it is about them not what you need in the future. A 4 minute interview should not determine the instrument a child should play and they should not be discouraged in anyway. You are telling kids they can not something to make your job easier.

Finally, after my angry, rude email, the music teacher called me and said she would have an instrument ready on Monday. She said " I disagree with all your arguments and hope he is not frustrated when he cannot reach the low notes'. I said, the good news his, he will probably grow.


Preppy 101 said...

Clearly, you are dealing with an imbecile music teacher. And the nerve of her to say when he CANNOT reach the low notes. How about the attitude that we will teach him and help him to succeed in reaching the low notes???? Isn't that what teachers do? So sad that this is the way this experience starts. She best not punish your son because he is not playing the instrument SHE WANTS him to play. Glad you intervened here PPPG!! xoxo

Pink Martini said...

Just coming out of high school with two musicians and being past Prez of the boosters I can understand your thoughts and those of the teachers. We had a tenor sax player who learned the sousaphone for marching and a cellist who also took up the sousaphone. My son has played all the saxes except bari. It really is about filling gaps for the best sound. For jazz band they can only take a certain amount of select instruments and clarinets aren't even allowed so that narrows the field further for kids. In middle school if he is not already in it, he will probably get to play whatever he would like and continue his choice in HS. All of the kids who played baritone in the marching band played french horn in the symphony orch. and were in great demand. I really miss the music program. He'll have great opportunities if he sticks with it. I hope you and your son enjoy it too. :)

preppyinnewengland said...

WOW! How unfortunate that the nusic teacher behaved in that fashion. You might want to consider approaching the School District Music Dept. Chair person?
Although our music teacher tries to recommend instruments as well as limit the number of istruments in a section if there is just too many students. It is however, done in a respectable fashion.

preppyinnewengland said...

WOW! How unfortunate that the nusic teacher behaved in that fashion. You might want to consider approaching the School District Music Dept. Chair person?
Although our music teacher tries to recommend instruments as well as limit the number of istruments in a section if there is just too many students. It is however, done in a respectable fashion.

Allison said...

Wow... that's bizarre. I've never heard of kids not being able to choose their own instruments.

Gracie Beth said...

I have played viola for 10 years simply due to the way in which my fingers are spaced.

Natty said...

Wooow.. I can't believe the NERVE of that teacher. I'm glad your son has a strong minded and caring mother that will sand up for him, and even fight for him when needed. I hope that when I have children I can be as good of a mother to them as you are to yours :)

Princess Freckles said...

I remember 5th grade band so clearly! we made a list too, and I had flute as my top choice. We all got our top choices! I really hope this doesn't set him off on a bad note (haha)! Seriously though, I hope he finds an instument he loves and sticks with it!

Anonymous said...

I have a lot of pet peeves with school systems, but I will save that soapbox for another day. The teacher should always allow students to play what they want to play. The school should nurture and encourage students to engage in positive, healthy, life-enriching activities; regardless of whether or not they'll win a band award that year. It's not about having a GREAT band that entertains and wins awards, it's about making the students happy, allowing them to learn, and fostering a positive learning environment. I'm glad you intervened, it was necessary!!

AEOT said...

I was a flute player in high school, and while I practiced a ton and was good at it (1st or 2nd chair), there were WAY too many flutes in our band, and I often switched over to the oboe for songs b/c no one had ever picked up the instrument. I definitely agree that he should be given options, but there are so many kids who all play the same instrument, so maybe it's just a blessing in disguise. Can you discuss which other options the band teacher would suggest besides the baritone and the three you two picked out together? Maybe there is something else out there for him that neither of you have thought of yet. The trombone also sits on the bass line for most of it's band life, which, while not always the most exciting, definitely provides depth and richness to the band as a whole!

Maggie said...

I sympathize with your gripe, though the term communist is misplaced. Coaches on sports team practice this type of assignment all the time. A child won't get to play the position they want, but the position that the coach either thinks they play best or the position which needs to be filled. In terms of your specific issue, I'm not sure why music teacher was so insistent about baritone over trombone. They're both low brass (read in bass clef), and your child will indeed grow to have the proper reach. Good luck. Kids do best with the instruments they WANT to play.

Pink Preppy Party Girl said...

I agree that sports teams are run by dictators but most of the time when kids start out in soccer, the approach is more of a practicing vs. competition. Soon enough, the best players play in the roles that are needed for the team. I am a supporter of little competition in elementry school and then competition starts in middle and high school. Kids compete everyday and are dissapointed every day so lets keep the arts positive for now. It is amazing to me that the kids that were not very good in elementry school and loved soccer but were not good enought to play on competitive teams, are the one who are starting in high school. You should read the book Outliers--

Pink Maple said...

We could choose whatever we wanted in school growing up as we had to pay to rent or buy the instrument ourselves. Of course, that meant the orchestra had an extra high number of popular instruments (lots of flutes and violins), but we sounded all right in the end.

However, keep in mind that playing an "odd" instrument could be beneficial later if he gets more serious about playing - it looks great on college applications.

Tickled Pink And Green said...


Beth Dunn said...

My son is doing the trumpet--I think an alarm is going off every time he practices. xoxo


kristi said...

aww! I love the baritone!