This past weekend, our marching band competed at its last event of the year; the Michigan Competing Band Association's State Championship. It marks the end of a very long season, which technically began last May. 44 bands competed in 4 different sets of finals. Each flight is based on high school size so that similar schools are competing against each other.
For the 6th year in a row, our band took 1st place! Yay band! All 3 of my kids have played in this band during the past 6 years and have experienced the thrill of winning. However, my oldest was also in this band when they didn't win. Her freshman year, we took second place to our biggest rival by 5/100's of a point. It didn't kill her or anyone else in the band for that matter. It was a good life lesson, in fact.
Sitting in the stands at Ford Field in Detroit this past Saturday, I was once again reminded how petty and small-minded people can be. Bitter parents form non-winning schools are very vocal when it comes to their criticism of our band, simply because we have a history of winning a lot. "They have a lot of money for props and uniforms" was one of the things I heard mentioned a lot. (which is totally untrue!) "They should just make them stop competing, give our kids a chance to win" was another comment I heard. As a band parent who's been at both ends of the spectrum, I can identify with some of their complaints. Its not fair that there can't be 11 first place winners, but thats just the way life works. Every single student on the field works hard, and puts a lot of time into their practices. Every one of them. Our band director is always stressing that we aren't striving to win, but to give the best performance they can. If they do their best, that's all he can ask of them. I've known this man for most of my life, but in the capacity of a band director, I've known him for 7 years. Not once have I heard him say, "Let's go out there and win!" He has always encouraged the band members and band parents alike to be gracious in winning or losing.
99% of the parents in our organization are always very gracious to other bands and their parents, offering praise for jobs well done, giving compliments on their shows and music. But I've gotta tell you that isn't the case for most of the other bands in attendance. One band mom from another school was once so upset about our winning that she slugged one of our band moms while this mom was washing her hands in the bathroom. What kind of message is that sending to our kids? It makes me almost fearful of wearing my school sweatshirt in public. After the show Saturday, my family went to a restaurant (while I rode the bus with the kids) and they were treated poorly by parents from other bands. Dirty looks and all.
Its just band, people. And winning isn't everything. No where on any college application will any of this matter. What really matters it that kids learn the value of hard work, and that striving for something as a team creates a work ethic that will serve them well throughout their lives.