10+ Gump-ism-style Advice Lines for Bands, Students and Parents

forrestgumpIn the spirit of Forrest Gump who put out Gump-isms like, “Life is like a box of chocolates…..You never know what you’re gonna get”, I offer the following sayings that sometime happen in band rehearsals and private studio lessons.

“Good Grades Do Pay.”

We all hear about college paying for good athletes, but they will also pay for good intellectuals. Pick up a brochure from just about any college and you’ll find a place in there where they list things like 1) Average SAT/ACT score or 2) National Merit Scholars.

If your SAT/ACT score is higher than the college’s average, then they WANT YOU because you will raise their average. To many schools, both the average SAT/ACT scores and the number of National Merit Scholars they have represent “bragging rights”. But instead of accidentally stumbling into success, strategically plan for it, and then systematically execute your plan.

The first major test is one often ignored, the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test). Sophomores and Juniors can take the PSAT, which gives colleges some early information they can use to recruit. The PSAT is also the NMSQT (National Merit Scholar Qualifying test). Colleges will pay for National Merit Scholars. They brag about how may NM Scholars they have in their community. This is a test worth practicing and preparing for. Treat your preparation as a part-time job.

How much money can you make at minimum wage?

The other test(s) worth studying and preparing for are the SAT, the ACT and the SAT II’s (specific subject tests required by some schools).

“Colleges Pay for those who Play – WELL!”

Don’t ignore the ARTS corner of the Triangle-A (Athletics, Academics, Arts). I remember a conversation I had with son #1 as we sat in the driveway of his trumpet teacher’s house and I was writing that check for an hour-long lesson:

“I am paying for your college education one week at a time.
By the time you get to college,
you need to be good enough
that colleges will pay for you.”

I did not pay for MY college education. As one of five children raised in a single parent household by a polio survivor mother, I knew there was no way my family could send me to college. I knew that the only way I would get to college was for a college to pay for me to come. I wasn’t going to qualify academically and was completely non-Athletic. But by 8th grade, I realized I could play the clarinet pretty well – and set off on a track to make that my way in to college. Some of the things I did related to that:

* When my friends were out cruising, I was practicing.
(Not much choice as I didn’t have a car.)

* When my friends were going to the movies, I was practicing.
(Not much choice as I didn’t have spending money.)

* I took clarinet lessons all through high school.

* I participated in Summer Music Camps. I spent three 4-week sessions at the Stephen Foster Music Camp at Eastern Kentucky University and two summers at the 2-week Summer Camp at Morehead State University. Colleges offer camps and clinics to recruit: to get to know prospects and to give them an opportunity to fall in love with the college. In those cases, I got to study for short times with the clarinet professors at both universities. When it came time to select a college, both of those were recruiting me because they already knew me. And, of course, having intense rehearsals and master classes all day for the summer makes one a much better musician.

* I auditioned for specialty and clinic bands. Northern Kentucky had a “Select Band” which rehearsed for 1-2 days and gave a concert. I also participated all 4 years in the Kentucky All-State Band. There was the Morehead State University Band Clinic.
* I participated in several ensembles and played a solo every year at Solo/Ensemble Festival. I received 1-II, 14-I’s and 1-I+. Both my sons surpassed that, with Son #2 achieving over 42 Gold Medal ratings in District and State in instrumental and vocal.

Son #1 did not pay for his college education. Do you notice anything similar about our paths and strategies?

Trumpet Lessons starting in 7th grade.
Honor Band
* Solo/Ensemble Festival
 – three trips to State
* Music Camp – (KY) twice
Music Camp – (IN)
Jazz Camp – (TN)
* Youth Symphony
* All-State Band
Summer Substitute with the Philharmonic Orchestra
* Everything Band
 in high school, including Marching (2yrs), Concert, Jazz, Varsity Brass (Show Choir Backup), Musicals.

In fact, there were some semesters when he would register for classes that the school would give HIM a check. That was because each year:

– $2500 each year from the Presidential Scholarship (National Merit Finalist)
– $2000 each year from the University to completely cover in-state-tuition
– $5000 from the Honors Program (ACT score, National Honor Society) to completely cover out of state tuition
– $3500 from the Music Department to completely cover housing
– $1000 from the Trumpet Studio
======
$14,000 … at a time when the total cost at TTU (Tennessee Tech) was about $10,500/yr.

He also received local scholarships. I recall that for one of those scholarships he called the person in charge because he missed the “postmark date” and wanted to see if he could drive it to her home (local). Her response was, “Please do, honey ….. your application will be the only one we have.” See scholarship -ism below.

Son #2 went to a Top Tier school for a state school price. That university’s current tuition is over $61,000/yr. He had the grades but not the money. An Admissions counselor made me a promise (which they kept),

“If we decide we want him,
we will get him here.”

It is sad to see high school students who are pretty good in their local band go off to top-ranked music schools to face rejection because they settled for mediocrity in high school – because they could. Some of the students I teach at the university come in as music majors never having studied privately. It is really hard to make it at the college level without specialty instruction in high school. There is only so much that can be done in the large ensemble for which there is a “free” teacher. Assuming there is some talent/ability involved, you can almost look at the concept as a “Pay Now vs Pay Later”.

You can INVEST in your training and experiences throughout high school and go for the music scholarships in college, or PAY the sticker price.

“It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose — until you lose.”

I used to have a poster in front of my band room showing a rifle girl, her head down as she was dragging her rifle behind her…..featuring that quote.

“If the notes are on the paper, it is your job to play ALL of them.”

This was my response to a student who asked,  “How much of it do we have to play?” I often tell students that it is my job as a director to help mold and blend the sound, and to correct errors…… not to teach notes. Learning the notes is the student’s job.

“If you’re going to play it, you might as well play it right.”

Why hurt the ensemble and waste valuable rehearsal time when it doesn’t take that much more effort to do it right the first time?

“The view from 1st chair is much better.”

“Private Lessons can be like paying for college — one week at a time.”

“Be prepared: Make sure your parents are getting their money’s worth.”

I have had students come to clarinet/sax lessons without their music, ….. and one, without his instrument. One college music major lesson started (and ended) like this:

Student: I don’t know how to tell you this, but I just didn’t have time to practice this week.

Me: This is your 3rd week in a row with excuses. This is your major instrument. This is your major. This is just as important as that English, Math or Psychology assignment. This affects your grade too. I heard you sight-read this music last week when it was supposed to be practiced to performance-grade. I don’t need to hear you sight-read it again. You take this time and practice. I’ll see you next week.

When I was paying for lessons, I wanted my money’s worth. And I tell my students to give their parents their money’s worth, i.e. don’t waste my time or their money.

“Santa isn’t the only one who knows whether you’ve been bad (no practice) or good.”

If you engage in systematic study, your teacher/coach will get to know you well enough to know when you’ve practiced for your lesson.  Make sure your parents are getting their money’s worth.

“You can’t sight read in your lesson and get away with it. I’m better than that.”

“Like the ice skater who misses the quad, missing notes in public can hurt.”

Mistakes are going to happen. They just are. When you watch ice skating on TV, even at the world championship or Olympic level, there are mistakes. What I often explain in private lessons is that they probably hit that jump a high percentage of times in practice. Performance rarely goes better than practice. If you aren’t doing it in practice, what do you think will happen in performance?

“Anybody can be mediocre.  Not you. Not with me. Don’t even think about it.”

Mediocre means average. Anybody can be average. When talking about the lukewarm (mediocre) church, Jesus said he would prefer that it had been hot or cold, but because it was lukewarm, he would spit it out of His mouth. The Star Wars Jedi Knight Yoda says, “Do, or do not, there is no TRY”. 

“You can practice hard now and have fun at performance, or you can have fun now…”

High school life is so much about social life and relationships. The tendency is to bring that into the rehearsal. You can take it easy now, but then be disappointed with the results — or you can work hard, pay the price and enjoy the rewards and satisfaction of demonstrated excellence.

“Do you really want me to tell you it was good — if it wasn’t?”

Students usually know if it was good or bad. There is that balance between encouragement and improvement. When that balance is achieved, improvement happens. After a tough run of a marching band show, as we were ending the rehearsal, which we usually tried to do on a ‘high note’, after another staff member gave a critique, I asked the students; “Do you want the sugar-coated version, or do you want it straight?” They wanted it straight – which enabled us to end on a ‘good note’. 

===============================

How we did it chartMuch of this is included in an e-zine called, “How We Did It” in getting our two sons through college. In their case, we spent $32,000 for $200,000 worth of education and I share the strategies we used, the experiences we had and what we learned.

You can get it through Paypal for only $4.95. I would appreciate your support and your feedback.




How We Did It

15 yrs experience as a high school band director. 14 yrs as college adjunct faculty. 30+ yrs in the fundraising industry and 24 yrs as a small business owner. (Don't add all those up.). Experience in both the fundraising sales and education worlds give me a unique combination of perspectives in both. I love working with the youthful enthusiasm of today's teenage achievers and with those who work with them.Also 4yrs as proprietor of VirtualMusicOffice.com, which offers a wide variety of virtual services including web/blog design/hosting/managing, social media management (scheduling posts/tweets for maximum impact and brand enhancement) and small business consulting - specializing in school product fundraising.

Posted in College Prep, High Schools, How May I Serve YOU?, Music Performance, Teaching Music, Types of education

Please share your thoughts.