Example: Colleges Pay for those who Play WELL

Today’s video find is personal. Really happy as several of our video recordings from son John’s high school career were stolen along with our camera during a vacation trip.

I like to use John as an example of one way to pay for college; combining systematic study with proficient musicianship and good grades.

In addition to playing in his high school’s wind ensemble, jazz band, and show choir backup band, John went to summer music camps in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. He participated in solo/ensemble festival every year and was principal trumpet in the Fort Wayne Youth Symphony.

About half way through high school, his trumpet teacher said he wanted to expand from 30 to 60 minute lessons. When I asked if there was a discount for the longer time, the teacher’s response was,

“You get me for twice the time at double the price.”

During one of those visits to teacher’s house, as we sat in the driveway while I wrote out the check for that day’s lesson, I said to my son,

“I’m paying for your college education one week at a time. By the time you graduate you should be good enough that someone will pay you to come to their school.”

It worked….because John worked.

As a result of his music and high academic success, for most of his semesters at college, THEY gave HIM a check.

So that I can justify this as an educational post:

  1. What type of trumpet is he playing? Not the brand, the type?
  2. Why does he adjust tuning when inserting/removing the mute?


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Is it ever ok for a teacher to LOVE students?

Commissioned sculpture on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania

Commissioned sculpture on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania

By John Gardner

Following is an updated re-post of, “Love, Admire and Respect” as I ask and answer the question,

“Is it ever ok for a teacher to LOVE students?”


There is more to school life than what happens during the academic day. Some academic teachers are also coaches or extracurricular sponsors. Coaches develop strong bonds with their athletes. Music and theater arts teachers spend considerable extracurricular time with students – evenings, weekends, summers. These teacher/student relationships are significant and life long impacting.

In a reunion with some of the students from my first teaching job, as they were sharing memories, one person put it this way:

“Come back to teach the students of the students you taught.”

I expected to hear some of the heart-warming stories and did, but one comment caught me off guard a little. As one was listing attributes he appreciated, he included…..

“…and your smile.”

What teachers do you remember most 10-20-30 years out, and for what do you remember them?

Band is the ultimate team.

Unlike a basketball team with its starting five, there is no bench in band. Everybody is in. Everybody is a starter. Few other types of groups will involve people from such varied backgrounds. There are children of doctors and lawyers performing with children of single-parents working multiple jobs or utilizing government help. There are the students who have their own cars and those who need rides, those with the iPhones and the free phones or no phone. You will find students in most bands from every church in the community and others who have never been inside a church.

High school provides a memorable time for teens and parents to be on the same team before graduation and the empty nest.

If only it were like that for all teens.

At this most critical time in their decision-making years, if teens can’t find love, acceptance, encouragement and support from parents, teachers and mentors, they will search for it elsewhere, often with disastrous results leaving them with consequences that change lives and crush dreams.

But even more than TEAM, band is FAMILY…

Most high school athletic teams are together for a “season” — maybe six weeks with a few more for preparation. Band meets in the summer, including band camp which can be 8+hours a day. Then there is every day at school with additional rehearsals in the evenings, plus the Friday football/basketball game and the Saturday competition.

…and more functional than some.

As I stood outside Door 34, she jumped out of the passenger side of the car and ran past me, teary-eyed, crying,

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

As she went by I saw the papa, for the first time, approaching me and angrily waving a piece of paper.

“How much of this schedule is mandatory?”

I paused, if only for a moment as I thought through his reaction to my answer…

“All of it.”

After grumbling something that I probably couldn’t report, he returned to the car and didn’t quite lay rubber in his exit. The daughter was waiting in my office, still crying and apologetic. I hugged her. How does such a sweet daughter have a parent like that?

There are loving parents who are working 2-3 jobs each, going to school and dealing with the challenges of large families – and it is somewhere between difficult and impossible for them to spend a lot of time at football games, parades and competitions. I get that. But what do you say to this parent?

“We need to pull [Benjamin] out of band because he won’t clean his room and he needs to learn respect. He loves band and so this is the only valuable thing we can take away to make our point.”

Or this one?

“Why should I pay money for her to spend time spinning a flag. There are no colleges that will offer scholarships and besides, what job is that going to prepare her for?”

Or to these students?

“Can you please give me something to do. I’ll straighten the library….anything….just don’t make me go home.”

“I have a job so I can earn the money for my band fee, and I keep hiding it, but my mother keeps finding it and taking it.”

“I have to quit music lessons. My dad found out I was using some of my job money for music lessons and says that if I am going to waste my money on that – I can start paying rent.”

“Please don’t try to introduce yourself to my dad. Please don’t. Please, please, please don’t. He is not a nice man.”

I want to share the LOVE they may be missing.

Educationally, the L-word is dangerous. Administrations encourage admiration and respect, but love is conspicuously absent. Understandable. Inappropriate teacher student relationships make national news and destroy lives. Elementary teachers can hug students, but by middle school it is to be a touchless relationship. I disagree.

Sometimes an appropriate touch, handshake, high five, tap on the shoulder or even a hug – can be powerfully effective in mentoring, consoling or encouraging. It doesn’t have to be physical. It can be listening and responding when others won’t.

C.S. Lewis in his book, The Four Loves, divides the Greek vocabulary for “love” into four categories:  Storge (στοργή storgē) -affection, Philia (Philia (φιλία philía) – friendship, Éros (ἔρως érōs– romantic love, and Agápe (ἀγάπη agápē) – charity.

None of those match completely what I’m trying to define. Storge (affection) can include the physical. Philia (i.e. Philadelphia – brotherly love) comes close but can include the sexual. Éros is obviously not appropriate, and Agápe, often interpreted as the love between Christians is also close, but gets into spiritual and that is not quite it either.

I “L” my students with a parental type. I see their potential and their youthful enthusiasm and I love that. I love their willingness to share with me things that they can’t comfortably share anywhere else.

“You are always the one to trust with issues like this because you treat us like people and not just another bunch of “teenagers”.”

ADMIRE students who…

  • pay band fees out of a paycheck
  • pay for private instruction lessons out-of-pocket
  • seem completely self-supporting (clothes, obligations)
  • apologize for the way their parent(s) behaved
  • juggle the extra rehearsals and activities with job and homework — and go for the best grades without parental encouragement or expectation
  • keep a positive attitude when others have parents involved and but they don’t

Nobody said life is fair. Those who endure hardships can be the better for it later. Trust me on that. As the oldest of five children raised in a single parent family by a polio surviving mother (and if you have no idea what that means, thank God), I understand poverty, but also how to work through it, with it, around it, and above it …. so cut me some slack when I don’t expect less from the less fortunate.

Students often impress me with friend choices and for the way they support and encourage each other. It is moving to see how friends and band members surround one who is hurting, physically or emotionally. With proper relationships established, teachers can be included in, or involved separately in similar support and encouragement – even of some personal issues.

RESPECT students …

  • who work through moderate pain or discomfort without complaint
  • who have the musical ability to thrive, but can’t get the new instrument, or the private lessons, or go to the summer camps….or even stay in band, because of a parent who doesn’t see the value of band or color guard
  • expect more of themselves than their parents do
  • endure custody battles and try not to allow it to interfere with band

I hope these students appreciate how hard I try to make their situations work out.

And we have students whose parents are their biggest cheerleaders and amazing supporters…..

  • helping them earn the highest of Boy or Girl Scout honors
  • supporting their garage band
  • encouraging out of country mission trips
  • inspiring them to pursue the same vocation as the parent
  • or spending countless hours volunteering for band (committees, sewing, cooking, feeding, chaperoning, driving, etc)

We have CARING students who….

  • stand outside Wal-mart when it is below freezing to ring bells and play Salvation Army brass ensemble music
  • volunteer in nursing homes and with church youth groups in a host of different types of volunteerism
  • help raise money for those sick and injured

I am a high school teacher who appropriately loves students and hopes it is ok. If I ever lose my job for loving teens the way I do, I’ll be ok.

Teacher Student Love


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14+ Ways to Volunteer for a Marching Band to Appreciate and Applaud What is Good About Teenage America

by John Gardner

volunteer_image-517x453In a quick search on variations of “teen school behavior”, “teen behavior” and such, I found links to a several behavior modification schools, advertisements for parental survival guides, places that want to segregate teens to ranches or boarding school type setups, medical and mental solutions….. wow. If you watch much TV, you hear about how current teens are falling behind academically or lacking dedication and commitment.

I hear from people who ask how I can be in a room with so many teens or why I would want to spend all that time with them. They inspire me with their youthful enthusiasm, but why rely on second-hand information? Volunteer with a local marching band organization and travel with the group to a marching band competition. There’s a lot of good stuff happening, academic, artsy and otherwise. Here are over 14 ways to volunteer for a marching band to appreciate and applaud what is good about teenage America.

Volunteerism Opportunities

Nearly all bands have a Band Parent Organization, but in some cities, or with smaller bands, finding enough help is a challenge. Most of the adults volunteering with a marching band have students in the band, but very few organizations would limit help to ONLY parents. Jump in. You’ll be accepted, appreciated, respected and even loved.

UNIFORMS. Are you good at measuring and sizing? All band students get sized for uniforms every year. That normally involves finding a coat, trousers and hat that fit. Someone has to keep track of who has what number of which piece of the uniform. Then there is distributing and collecting accessories like gauntlets, plumes, gloves, braids, sashes and other uniform add-ons. Marching Band uniforms can easily cost $400ea, so it would cost $40,000 to uniform a 100-piece band.

There is a need to manage and maintain those uniforms to increase the life expectancy and reduce the frequency of buying new sets. Older uniforms require dry cleaning, which is no small undertaking. Organizing them for pick up or delivery, removing the items that don’t go to the cleaner, then re-assembling and reorganizing upon their return. Some newer uniforms are machine washable – but also no easy task. Do you have a large front loaded washer you would be willing to use for your local band? That also helps with the savings from the dry cleaning bills of before.

COSTUME DESIGN/SEWING. The Color Guards (Flag Corps) generally have a separate, custom-designed outfit to go with the show theme and colors for that year. Drum Major(s) sometimes use a theme-oriented, custom uniform as well. Volunteers can save the band significant money by sewing, rather than purchasing flags and/or uniforms.

CONSTRUCTION / PROPS. You’ve seen the sets on a theater stage. The football field is the marching band’s stage. Bands want props to shrink the size of the stage or to enhance the theme of the show. Props can be decorative or functional (ramps, storage for equipment/uniform/costume changes). Maybe it is building and putting wheels on carts to haul all the extra percussion equipment (marimba, xylophone, timpani, gong, bass drum, keyboard, sound system, etc) in such a way that it can be moved easily.

Local props have included an analog clock painted on a full size trampoline, 10 foot hour glass, a ship complete with flag pole mast and sails that go up and down, tarps, tepees and more. If you’re not the construction type, share your design and creativity talents.

PIT / FIELD CREW. All that sideline ensemble equipment and any props must be put into place and then removed after the performance. Getting the band on and off the field is an operation that some competitions recognize with a “Best Pit Crew” trophy. The good news is that those on the pit crew generally get into the competition for free and get to hang out with the band students around the buses before and after a show. What a deal.

FOOD. Like to cook/fix foods for big events? Like to see smiles on teen faces? Want to serve? When bands travel to competitions and events, there are often times when it is necessary to feed them. The local band students get excited when they hear about “what’s for dinner”, especially things like potato or soup or taco bars, walking tacos, burgers, pizza and the like. Most of the meals served locally cost the band parent organization about $2 per person (does include both donated and purchased items). After a performance there is often a snack table with sweets, fruits and water. If you’re a food service professional, your skills could be especially helpful in planning, coordinating and calculating. Not only do you get into competitions for free and get to hang out with enthusiastic teens, but you also get to enjoy meals with them.

On her post, “Zen and the Art of Drum Corps Shopping”, Emily Tannert describes that most Drum Corps get most of their food from a food service company, but lists the following as a “daily shopping list”:

30 loaves each white and wheat
50 packages hot dog buns
8 gallons milk — 4 x 2 percent, 2 x 1 percent, 2 x skim
1 gallon barbecue sauce
10-plus lbs. peanut butter
250 slices American cheese
40 tomatoes
18 heads lettuce
20 lbs. baby carrots
6 watermelons
Generic Dayquil

Read more of that article.

CHAPERONES. Unlike the general population of the school, band students understand the behavior expectations and how they are held to a higher standard. They understand that travel is a privilege that can be lost. Band students are the cream of the crop, the best of the best, and riding the bus with them, helping them get all their uniform parts together and such…. is really a fun job. Many chaperons are “Mama [insert name]” to the students. They understand chaperons are a reality and they do not make it a hard job. And yes, you get in free…..it is the least we can do.

DRIVERS.The bus drivers are school corporation employees, but most bands have trailers of various sizes, or even a semi to pull. Are you a professional truck driver? Have your own rig? One year our band borrowed a trailer from a local warehouse company that had their advertising on it — and used a truck donated by a local delivery company. A parent volunteer drove and the band parent organization paid for the fuel.

FUNDRAISING. In most high school music programs, both instrumental and vocal, the financial requirements involved in funding a competitive ensemble (show choir / marching band) can be staggering. A new uniform drive needs $40,000 the same year the band is going to Disney ($80,000). Throw in a new set of drumline percussion instruments ($10,000), another $10,000 for a sound system, $25,000 for five new tubas, $3,000 for drill design, $1500 for music, $5,000 for flags and guard uniforms, food for road trips, transportation costs, etc.,  and you can see that fundraising is a major part of a successful marching program.

Are you good at organizing events, making calls, creating publicity, motivating people? Your skills would be invaluable.

CONTEST/EVENT ORGANIZER. A marching band competition can involve over a dozen marching bands bringing a couple thousand teens, 50 school buses plus vans, trucks, trailers. The group is flying in judges from all over the country, housing and feeding them — as well as providing hospitality for directors and drivers, concessions, advertising, announcing, timers, people to help each group through their event schedule, score tabulators and so much more. Competitions are large fundraisers, but also massive undertakings. Can you help with parking, crowd control, first aid — or as a runner to take care of all the highly stressed and sometimes demanding band directors? Whatever you like to do, there is probably a job for you at a marching band, winter guard or indoor percussion competition.

GRANT WRITING. There is money out there, but the competition for it is great. Are you an experienced grant writer? They could certainly use your help.

BUSINESS MENTORING. Do you run a small business? Have a business degree? Band Directors are trained educators, not necessarily heavily trained in the business skills involved in running the “business” of a travelling competitive program. And the band parent volunteers are always well-meaning parents who want to help, but don’t always have the organizational or motivational skills that could make them more effective and successful contributors to the program.

Especially in programs organizing “competitions” as fundraisers….the organization requirements are huge — and most would accept constructive help from a local business professional.

MEDICAL. Students with asthma have prescription inhalers. Someone severely alergic to bee stings may have emergency medication. There are those on behavioral modification medicines (including narcotics) or with medically prescribed ankle or knee braces. An intensive performance in uniform with the added stress of competition and heat, students need real help when they come off the field. It is not unusual for students to get a variety of injuries (twisted ankles), bumps from flag poles, sun burn, dehydration and more…. The local show choir was fortunate for a number of years to have a parent who was a chiropractor who would transport a portable table to competitions to help dancers with injuries and stresses. If you are a medical professional, your advice services could be put to good use.

LEGAL. Increasingly, band and choir parent organizations are incorporating — and part of that process involves legal services. Can you help? Bands make contractual commitments to drill designers, instructional and expert staff, choreographers, and more. Perhaps they are building sponsorship relationships with local business. You could help them saying the right words the right way.

FINANCIAL. Bands often have an individual participant financial requirement that can be met from everything from parental checks to profit from a multitude of fundraising projects. So, in addition to the general fund expenses, there are individual student accounts. On a major trip year, responsibilities are magnified as families make scheduled payments into an account, or where the band treasurer must coordinate with the travel company on all those individual accounts. If you can’t be the day-to-day person, perhaps you could help set up the spreadsheet or recommend the program to use — and offer financial or bookkeeping advice.


A marching band should be run like a business, but that is hard to do when most of those in the operation are untrained and unpaid. If you can help, please do.


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Band Camp Prank: Marching Band and Fire Truck

I posted the picture below and got feedback asking how we did that…. so below the pic are some steps and suggestion.

Are your rehearsals always serious? This band, during band camp week, was complaining about the heat and wanted a water break. Not sure this is what they expected. Fire Departments need to have training exercises. We were happy to help.

Are your rehearsals always serious? This band, during band camp week, was complaining about the heat and wanted a water break. Not sure this is what they expected. Fire Departments need to have training exercises. We were happy to help.

Additional pictures below.

My father was a 32-yr fire fighter and I spent much of my childhood around the firehouse. Some things you may not realize:

  • Firefighters are community minded people — many are coaches for summer league sports, but genuinely interested in helping students.
  • The 1000 gallons of water carried in a pumper truck needs to be flushed/recycled periodically.
  • Firefighting professionals need practice – training in controlling and directing high pressure water flow. What better target than a bunch of teenagers.
  • Most have a cool sense of humor.
  • There is a hierarchy of command and approval in a fire department.
  • You can’t just park or hide a heavy fire truck just anywhere.
  • Consideration has to be made as to where that 1000 gallons of water is going to go.
  • Instruments, electronics, wallets, some eyeglasses, etc…. won’t deal well with that much water.
  • Without a legitimate way of opting out, which can’t really be announced in advance, you are taking some risk with parents….
  • Consider the effect on thin, white t-shirts.
  • Solicit help from a couple highly-trusted parents. (towels, etc)
  • We’re talking about a huge amount of water and a significant amount of wet.
  • What happens next?
  • Don’t just call 9-1-1.


Plan it for the end of a day. You’re not going to get anything done afterward. But also, consider that your students are going to be incredibly wet….. and putting them immediately in their parents cars might not be the best idea either. Consider having some fun and games …. or snacks after.

Have a backup day — obviously you can’t do it on a rainy day.

Coordinate with the Fire Department. Ensure you’re talking to the right people. It will take at least the person in charge of a particular fire house to oversee the specific event and he may need to get approval from higher-ups. This is not a normal request they get. Allow time for some inter-departmental communication and approval. 

Where? My original intent was to hide the fire truck and have it shoot water over the corner of our high school onto a totally unsuspecting group of teens. That didn’t work. The FD informed me that the truck would tear up any grass and also that there would need to be consideration of where the water would go, aka a drain. Unfortunately for us, that meant parking the truck in the middle of the school parking lot with no way that the students wouldn’t at least see it before something happened. So how do you get 100 students to get close enough to a fire truck? Keep reading.

Get school approval. At least inform your principal what you are doing so that if he/she receives phone calls, there will at least be knowledge of the event.

Protect the electronics, wallets, etc.

  1. You must convince students to remove cell phones, iPods, mp3 players, etc from their pockets. Also wallets and anything else that a lot of water could damage. How do you do that without telling them why? Keep reading.
  2. You must keep all that stuff safe. Have a way to guard it.

The Prank

The day before.

Some of you are starting to get red (burned) out here….including through some really thin t-shirts. It is supposed to be hot and sunny tomorrow and I’d like to ask that you consider wearing something other than a thin, white t-shirt.

Call a couple trusted band parents and ask if they can bring a collection of old towels. In case they are going to borrow from someone, ensure them that nothing will happen to damage the towels. If you must, and you can, tell them what is going on.

The day of.

Make sure everything is okay with the FD.

If you happen to be outside, be sure to have a reason to come inside for a few minutes prior to the arrival of the fire department.

  1. The music isn’t going well and you want an impromptu inside rehearsal or sectional.
  2. The marching isn’t going well and you are going to take them inside and give them the what for.
  3. You’ve noticed a problem with electronics and want to deal with it.

Find a place to line the band up in a parade-block type setting where they cannot see the truck. We planned behind a corner of the building.

Put on your mean face…..and throw a temper tantrum that goes something like this:

Ok band, it is time for some fundamental marching. Set you instruments down in the grass over there. And while you’re at it, put all cell phones, watches and electronics with your instrument. I want none of that on the field. Don’t worry, these parents will watch your stuff until you have marched this block all the way around the building. How many times around depends on YOU!

There will be a lot of questioning and maybe even some complaining. Remember, you must get all the electronics out of their clothing.

Now line up. Shrink the interval to 2-steps. Two steps across, two steps front to back. You’re going to be so tight that a mis-step is going to be problematic….so you need to focus, listen to commands and get everything else out of your mind, GOT IT?

As you march around the corner, they will see the truck, but if you are sufficiently convincing, they will be concentrating more on calming you down with absolute compliance. Consider starting and stopping them a couple times.

As they get in range…. STOP and correct alignment or something. And then…

(click any image to enlarge)

Afterwards, allow them to go back to get their stuff…..have the parents who were guarding it hand out some towels. Consider a few minutes of activity in the sunlight to also help dry out the clothes a little. You may hear comments like:

I don’t get this wet when I jump into a swimming pool.

Thanks for reading.

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My first employee quit a secure job to work straight commission

i-quitBefore I left my first sales job, I had worked five years for a national manufacturing company. The company spent a lot of time making the case that, even though ours was a “draw-against-commission” job (straight commission with a regular check, in other words), we had the security of management and big business backing us up and that life on the outside competing as a “trunk-slammer” who represented a variety of manufacturers and importers was an extremely high-risk proposition.

Bob, the manager who hired me left the company during my fourth year to go work for an importer that competed with my manufacturing company employer. A few months into his new job he called me…

John, you gotta get outta there. There are too many stupid people out here making too much money trying to do what you have already been trained to do. Make the jump, you’ll be fine.

He sent me information and I started researching the contract I was under. This process went on for several months. I started making plans and connections. Then I got another call from Bob,

John, have you left yet?

No, but I have one foot out the door.

Well, never mind. Don’t go. I’m back!

He had been hired back as upper-level management. I did resign and was one of the very few who did so to start working independently in the same business, who did NOT get challenged on the contract — and my theory as to why — is that Bob, did not want to have to answer in court that he was, in fact, the one who told me to leave and advised me to do exactly what I did. I’m glad they hired him back.

My wife and I ate beans and cornbread for a few months, but we got our business up and running and never looked back.

As I made the rounds to some of my former customers to tell them that I was still in business, but would be operating under another name, George, an Assistant Middle School Principal and Athletic Director started asking me a lot of questions and expressed an interest in coming to work for me in my new business.

But George, you have tenure, a Masters Degree and a Principal’s License. I can’t pay you anything until you sell something. Take a couple weeks to think about it.

A few weeks later I called George,

Just checking in to answer questions and see what I can do to help reduce your stress as you consider your options.

I’m not under stress anymore. I just resigned.

I know it took him a couple years to match the income he walked away from, but I underestimated the thrill of helping get an operation off the ground. George was a faithful and successful sales rep for me for twenty years until his retirement a few years ago.

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10 Reasons Teachers and Coaches Make Good Fundraisers

By John Gardner

Make Money - Ask Us HowAt my first teaching position, I replaced the band director who went into fundraising. My fundraising rep was a former band director. Four years later I left to start a fundraising career. Of the fifteen reps in our ‘District’ — over half were band directors. The company owners were band directors who had broken off from another company run by band directors.

Why so many band directors in fundraising? Because bands are some of the most aggressive fundraising operations, and fundraising companies like those experienced with fundraising to sell fundraising. There were two recruiting pitches that got my attention.

“You know fundraising well from the customer side. Let us teach you the company/sales side — and you’ll be well equipped to talk to people who had the same needs, concerns and time constraints that you did.”


“Come to work for us and we’ll double your income.”

Read more ›

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Be CARE-ful

Be CAREfulBy John Gardner

During a service call, when the music store rep asked how things were going and I commented about “drama”, his response, as someone who is in most high school band rooms in this part of the state on a weekly basis…..

“YOU are NOT alone. I’m hearing about drama everywhere.”

Why does it have to come up at all?

How much less drama would we have if everyone was just CARE-ful?

Screen Shot 2013-09-22 at 3.43.52 PM

You’ve heard the nursery rhyme…

“Sticks and stones can break my bones
But words can never hurt me.”

That is so very not true. There are way too many statistics to share about students inflicting self-pain, or worse — because of what was said about them in person and online.

Words can empower, or they can hurt…or kill. Here’s an Amazon book addressing that topic.

Also addressing CARE-fulness:

Click the link if you don’t know this childhood song, “Oh be careful little (eyes, ears, hands, etc….)

The GOLDEN RULE mentions doing to others what you would want them doing to you. -Matthew 7:12

No Bully Zone 061Most high school students will confidently announce their opposition to bullying. Not too long ago, a girl who had attended our school committed suicide because of at least the perception that people were picking on her. An apology cannot un-do a suicide.

AND YET… in a high school setting, it is far too common to hear about:

  • girls being called “fat” or “ugly”
  • lies and exaggerations designed as attacks to destroy reputations and relationships
  • people inappropriately labeled with all those “words” we are not allowed to say or spell out
  • body parts and sex lives described via social media

I DON’T GET IT….. especially when you consider that music ensembles must work together, perform together and win or lose together.

“Teens need to figure it out, though, because once they get out of school and into the workforce, what was high school “drama” can become “sexual harassment” – and as an employer who has read some of the legal mumbo jumbo about that — once those words come up, people start losing their jobs.” -John Gardner, Pres. QDP Corporation

A staff member in a rehearsal, put it this way:

“Make it positive, make it constructive, or make it never be heard.”

Here’s that song again…

“O be careful little eyes what you see / ears what you hear / hands what you do / feet where you go / mouth what you say…”
Yeah, just ….. be CARE-ful!
Band is Family
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10+ Ways To Improve Volunteer Booster Meetings

Boring Presentation

From a small business or band director perspective, I WISH I had a meeting room with wall screens, a meeting table and high-backed chairs like in this picture.

By John Gardner

Everybody who likes going to business meetings – raise your hand! Exactly. In this “Band as a Business” series, I will share experiences from my small business experience running a fundraising distributorship and cross-compare similarities to running the “business” of a high school band.

As the owner/operator/manager at QDP Corporation, I had weekly staff meetings, but was always aware how much that 30 minute meeting cost me when I considered their combined wages. That was my main motivation to increase organization, efficiency, effectiveness – and brevity. Now, much of that could be done with email, blog notices or through collaborative documents. Googledocs, Word and Open Office all allow for team input. Officers and directors could collaborate before the general meeting to ensure good communication flow — and that the main decision-makers are on the same page.

I’ve been both a participant and an officer in Elementary PTOs, show choir and band parent organizations. I was both a VP and President of the Band Parent Organization I now serve as a director, giving me a unique set of perspectives from which to share.

Corporate meetings are often boring, but are generally organized by and participated in by people trying to impress a boss, get a raise and a promotion — or to just keep a job. People attend (mandatory) and participate as paid, evaluated employees. I didn’t see so much of that in my small business, but did when I worked in a national company.

Booster meetings. When it comes to church business, leagues, elementary school and high school extracurricular group meetings — participants and leaders are more prominently energetic, enthusiastic, absolutely necessary strong supporters volunteering their time and talents to give their children the best possible experience. Most are there for all the right reasons. Most of the challenges of thriving booster meetings are attributed to untrained volunteers.

PTO Today Magazine describes the youthful inexperience of many who are first-time leaders in running an organization, often at the elementary school level. By the time they become high school band/choir/sports boosters, many have served on a number of boards and in several groups. Even so, inexperience in organizational leadership can undo the best of intentions. Other than magazines like PTO Today, there aren’t a lot of “training” opportunities.

Hopefully I am not describing YOUR group, but in my decades in elementary PTOs, swim teams, baseball leagues, children’s choirs, church meetings — and more recently as a high school choir and band parent (including VP and Pres positions), I would list the following as the more significant typical negatives many volunteer groups encounter:

  • Poor attendance. Two main reasons: 1) Many just don’t like meetings, but will probably help when asked,  and 2) some meetings go too long — so parents stay home and wait for someone to ask them to help. In the business world, you can at least make meetings mandatory….not so with volunteer groups. People are busy, time is valuable — and they need to know that you are not going to waste theirs.
  • Disorganized. Meetings are poorly promoted and people don’t know what will be happening or discussed because there is no agenda, or a sketchy agenda distributed at the beginning of the meeting — to late for collaborative refinement.  Officers are absent, reports are missing and communication is lacking. There is no excuse for a booster meeting with a handful of attenders.
  • Inefficient. Since there is no agenda or plan, the discussion regularly goes off topic, “chasing rabbits”.
  • Timeless. When will it start? More importantly, when will it end? You know your meeting is rambling when people start leaving.

We had a pair of booster presidents who operated on the “60 minutes no matter what” philosophy.

“Ok directors, you have six minutes – GO!”

In an article entitled “Make Meetings More Fun” for the August 2013 issue of PTO Today magazine, Liz O’Donnell lists several suggestions. PTO Today is a magazine that focuses on elementary school parent groups, but several of her ideas would work for high school groups. The quoted bullet-ed items are hers. The others, and the comments, are mine.

  • “Start with an icebreaker”. We do this at the beginning of a band camp to build teamwork. Do the parents in your meeting know each other?
  • “Invite a Guest Speaker.” About the only guests I’ve seen in meetings are the fundraising representatives giving a never-ending commercial for their company or products. [Note: That is the business I am in.]. For a band parent meeting, WHAT IF you had:
    • a college music professor talking about how to audition for scholarships
    • a guidance counselor talking about preparing for the SAT
    • a business owner talking about how to prepare for an interview (students and adults)
    • the music store rep talking about instrument maintenance, repair or why that instrument purchased in 6th grade is now hindering a proficient performer.
  • “Have an agenda and stick to it.” School boards always announce an agenda so that people can go to the meeting for a particular topic. There is usually a line item on the agenda for “public comments” – so people know they will have an opportunity to speak. In his article, “No Agenda, No Meeting, No Exceptions“, David Portillo says exactly that. If you don’t have a reason to meet, don’t.
  • Recognize Achievers. Did you have students make the honor roll, set a record on a sports team, receive a scholarship, get elected to student council? Can you recognize those who participate at solo contest, receive special rankings or state qualify? What about those in extracurricular ensembles and activities?Do you have Boy Scouts who have achieved “Eagle” or a Girl Scout earning the “Gold” award? If you announce on your agenda who/why you are recognizing, you 1) will get relatives and friends attending, 2) encourage others to do things so that they too can receive recognition.
  • “Give Stuff Away”. Door prizes, awards for sections or classes who have the higher involvement. What to give away: previous year show shirts, leftover fundraiser prizes (or products), coupons or gift vouchers from businesses who want to support what you are doing — and benefit from the publicity.
  • “Make It A Meal”. Snacks, desserts, coffee & pastry….or maybe the food committee wants to try out a new food idea for future use on a band/choir trip. Call that fundraiser who has been trying to get to your meeting and ask for cookie or cheesecake samples, or invite that local restaurant that wants to provide something for your next banquet or fundraising dinner.
  • Welcome, involve and inspire newbies. Are they comfortable asking what they fear may come across as a ‘stupid’ question? Do they feel like an outsider or do they perceive cliquishness in your group?
  • Follow A Format. Not everything needs discussion in the open meeting. Table new topics until you can get more information and assign an individual or committee for a report later. If people want to announce an idea, ask them to “get on the agenda” by notifying the president. Assign blocks of time to a topic and then reschedule continuance or otherwise remove from the general meeting. Long-winded topics usually result from lack of details in advance and can be solved by tabling until those details are available.
  • Show Respect. High school parents are busy. Their band student is probably also working a job and involved in another sport or two. Siblings are involved in elementary or middle school activities — and they are asked to participate in those parent meetings too. Chances are both parents work, and if it is a single parent, he/she is already frazzled with un-shared pressures and responsibilities.
  • Schedule, Announce, Promote. Send home a flyer or publish information on the group facebook, twitter or website page.

Additional suggestions

  • Get training. Perhaps one of your parents is a business or corporate owner/manager experienced in running meetings — and could meet with officers and director(s). NOTE: Write it all down so you can share it with your replacements next year.
  • Create job descriptions and notebooks. During my first year as VP of a band booster group, I was frustrated by the number of times I ran into variations of, “Oh, the VP takes care of that.” The next year, when I took the Pres position, one of the things I did was require all committee chairs and officers to create their own job description – base on what they had been doing, and to keep all notes, calendars, reminders, to-do lists, etc IN that notebook.
  • Have an officer’s meeting before the general meeting. Best would be earlier than “just before”, but even that short time together, especially if it follows some pre-meeting collaboration, can be very effective and increase efficiency.
  • Let the director run the meeting. Teachers are professionals; planners, organizers, communicators and teachers. They attend lots of education-related meetings and have had lots of opportunity to learn from those experiences.

Thanks for reading. Need any help?

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10 Reasons To Hire Band Students

Hire MeBy John Gardner

Band  students make better employees and employers find the payback for working around rehearsal and performance schedules is a win-win for the business too.

By the time they are old enough to get a job, band students have learned the value of hard work. They have spent hours in the heat learning new skills under the watchful eyes of seniors, section leaders, staff and directors. They have been corrected, challenged — and have learned to pay the price. They have seen the benefits of dedication and are willing to commit to a job. Band students won’t quit the job because the manager gives them criticism because they understand that is what makes them better. And they learn that striving for excellence is a worthy goal.

Band students understand dedication, commitment
and that striving for excellence is a worthy goal.

At the age they are joining marching band, teens are battling with balancing the reality that they are not quite adults with the increasing desire for freedom, responsibility and individuality. Some rebel against parents, push back against teachers and are super-sensitive to peer-criticism. And yet, marching band requires they give up individual freedoms for the good of the cause, makes them earn responsibility and tells them they have to look, act and behave like everybody else – uniformity.

The first time they are thrust into a fast-paced, pressurized workplace environment, teens from the general school population will be more likely to throw a tantrum, quit — or get fired. Not band students.

Band students understand the value of,
and respect for chain of command

Students are together in lots of different classroom mixes, but only for fifty minutes on school days for a semester or two. Band students can be together for 10-15 hours Monday through Thursday, plus 3 hours for a Friday night football game and 14 hours for a Saturday rehearsal/competition. Couples break up, personalities don’t mesh, they come from different parts of town and with different family and economic situations — but they learn to work together, a skill many non-band teens and a lot of adults never develop.

As I talk to teens (and even many of their parents), one of the most common reasons to quit a job is because of relationships with co-workers. Band students will be even more frustrated with the mediocrity and lack of cooperation and weak work ethic they will find in the workplace, but they will commit to making it work.

Band students know how to cooperate
and collaborate with those from
different backgrounds and capabilities.

In a part-time work environment there will be competition for hours, raises, promotions and responsibilities. The tendency is to look out for self and to heck with the other guy. Students compete within a band but they want everyone to do well. They compete with other bands but will wish them good luck as they pass on the way to the competition field. They will applaud for other bands – even those that beat them. Band students are team players and they understand sportsmanship.

Band students learn good sportsmanship.

By the time they’re ready for that first job (students usually turn 16 during sophomore or junior year), band students have already learned patience as marching band staff is teaching or fixing drill; perseverance and endurance through extreme temperatures, long rehearsals and so much more we teacher types throw at them.

They understand, through the system of seniority in most bands, that they will need to prove themselves and demonstrate strong work ethic to earn leadership positions or, when they get a job,  a raise.

Band students learn patience,
perseverance and endurance.

There is often a penalty for arriving late to a band rehearsal. When I was in a marching band, it was a lap around the field per minute late. Some bands use push-ups — or job assignments. Arrive late today and you get to take the water to the field tomorrow. And because there are always new things happening in a rehearsal, missing is never an option. Some bands will make you an alternate for an unexcused absence. So when band students get a job with a schedule, they are there — and on time.

Band students learn the value
of attendance and punctuality.

Bands rehearse scores of hours per minute of marching band show. Stretches, running and endurance exercises, fundamentals (yes, they already know how to march, right?) and then sets of drill over, and over. Do they get tired? Absolutely, but they understand the price of success and that there are no shortcuts to achieving it.

Band students learn that there are
no shortcuts to success

Most years, prior to the final competition of the season, we allow seniors to talk to the band. They say a variety of things, but there are two predominant themes: 1) Band is family, and 2) band taught them responsibility with accountability.

Band students learn
responsibility and accountability

Where, outside of public education, is the focus on making the student (or employee) feel good about themselves at the expense of excellence? We read about schools eliminating valedictorians and class rank or even grades, so lower achievers don’t get a negative vibe.

When my child was in first grade, the education fad of the day was a program called “writing to read”, where the emphasis was on the child being able to read whatever they wrote. Spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc…. were not corrected. Teachers emphasized that a child reader would have a higher self-esteem.

Students who have gone through a feel-good system can hit a brick wall when they get to college or into the workforce. Good band directors instill in their students that a healthy self-esteem comes through achieving excellence. In that pursuit, however, the student learns to accept criticism from directors, staff, seniors and section leaders – and they are willing to pay the price to get the prize. Here is a post I wrote about Excellence and Self Esteem.

Band students learn that self-esteem
is raised by achieving excellence

Because of their extreme rehearsal schedules on top of homework and, especially with the responsibilities of a job, band students develop good time management skills.

Band students develop time management skills

You might also enjoy: Earning and Receiving Great References

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The Price of Freedom – Ronald Reagan

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