I Have a Gripe

November 15, 2013

The True Sleeping Dragon – The Band Geek

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
~Isoroku Yamamoto

While this quote from Yamamoto is referring to the United States after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, today it is referring to the collective community that is the “band geek.”

Yesterday I posted about a shameful event that took place at the final football game of the season at Annandale, Virginia, where a football coach threw a temper tantrum that included shaking the podium of an assistant drum major and yelling at the director to “get the band off the field.” An editorial appeared on the school’s news site about the event and in one resounding voice, proud marching band members, former band members, music educators, and the like have said ENOUGH.

For a long time, those involved in the music department have been disrespected while those who play sports are seen as the school heroes. This terrible event has rallied those of us who have valued their time involved in their music departments to take a stand. I have read comments on this event all over the Internet from Texas to Minnesota to Jersey (including me) aligning themselves with the marching Atoms to show support. I hope the musicians of Annandale know they have the support of music students (and former students) from all over the country.

Additionally, the story has been picked up by The Washington Post, NBC, The Huffington Post, Patch, CBS, and other local Virginia websites.

I say good. Enough is enough!

Today, the principal issued a letter to the parents and an apology to the band for the actions of the football coach and according to reports, an apology from the coach himself to the band and the director is forthcoming.

The principal and the coach owe much more than that.

This was the last game of the season. Senior Night. A special moment in high school to celebrate all they have accomplished. Now, that memory is forever tarnished. They didn’t get to finish their final performance properly.

Now I will say I did read a few comments actually “sort of” defending the situation. My personal favorite comment mentioned how band members should “learn their place” because the band exists “for the entertainment during the foot ball game.”

Um, what?

The music department does not exist simply to be a court jester for school athletes. Playing an instrument AND marching takes skill, practice, and discipline.

Now, let’s look at the other side of this coin. This coach shook the podium of the assistant drum major. Now, I know nothing of law in Virginia, but I would think in New Jersey he could potentially be charged with assault and endangering the welfare of a child. And if that student fell, I’m sure a lawsuit would follow and rightfully so.

An apology? Well, that’s a good place to start, but the band and the director are owed much more.

Oh, and don’t think marching band members (and former members) will forget about this until we hear of a final resolution.


November 14, 2013

NEVER Mess With the Marching Band!

‘Cause the players tried to take the field, The marching band refused to yield.
~Don McLean

Multiple times on this blog I have defended the importance of music education in public schools. All too often music departments do not receive the respect or the funding they need and deserve.

music education

The magnet on the back of my car.

I often say my years in marching band in high school were some of the best times of my life. I was in just about every music-related activity offered in my high school. I took private lessons for piano and bass. I helped teach pit at my high school after graduation. And the ultimate – I married a band director. I grew into the adult I am in large part because of my experiences in music. I learned about responsibility, teamwork, leadership, the value of hard work, and built confidence, to name just a few key life skills.

I knew I didn’t have what it took to be a professional musician, but it was still great. Many of the individuals I met through the music department became professional musicians and music teachers. My husband and I were absolutely beaming when we learned that not one, but two of my husband’s kids were my niece’s band directors.

Fast forward to today…

Like everyone I know on Facebook, links to articles get passed around regularly. Today I saw one that had my blood absolutely boiling. All too often, high school football teams, their parents, and game attendees think the marching band is there simply to entertain at halftime and give the players a break. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Well, a football coach in Annandale, Virginia  displayed the ultimate in bad behavior when he flipped out trying to get the band off the field during halftime so his team could warm up. He went so far as to yell at the kids and the band director as well as shake the podium of the assistant drum major.

To say I was furious when I read about this event is putting it mildly.

I fired off the following letter to the coach, the school principal, and the director of student services.

To All,
I just read an article online about how disrespectfully your high school’s marching band was treated at a recent football game. I am absolutely incensed by the rude behavior of the football parents, coaches and administration. You should all be ashamed.

From what I have read online Mr. Scott, your poor behavior has been a constant during the entire football season by bringing your team on the field before you should. And you are very lucky indeed that the Assistant Drum Major did not fall off the podium when you began to shake it.

Believe it or not Mr. Scott, the marching band is not there simply to entertain at halftime. Marching band is quite competitive and requires absolute marching precision while simultaneously playing an instrument. Something that is not easy.

How do I know this? I am a PROUD former marching band member from Belleville, New Jersey and a former Drum Major. I am also married to a Band Director. I also went to a high school where the football team (which most of the time had a losing record) was treated with far more respect than the marching band – as well as the music department as a whole. Trust me when I tell you, the band usually had a better record than the football team. It sounds like you have a similar poor record. Meanwhile, your school’s marching band has won both the Virginia State Champions and a National award for “III-Open” class.

Have you ever been to a marching band practice or a competition Mr. Scott? I doubt it. You should. Maybe you would understand what is really involved and how hard these kids work.

I have also read that it was “suggested” that the band do their show after the football game to avoid any issues. That is completely unacceptable in my book. In my many years experience (four years as a student and 25 years of following my husband as he traveled with his band), opposing teams and coaches are always understanding of special events, such as senior night, thus any potential penalties are waived. Do you really think it would’ve been acceptable to do their show as people exited the stadium? I think not.

My Band Directors, as well as my husband, always taught their kids to conduct themselves in the most professional manner. Over my high school years and my adult life, I have always been proud of both my fellow band mates and my husband’s kids and have conducted themselves, even in the face of stupidity. It doesn’t sound like you have set the same example Mr. Scott. You could probably learn something from the band members.

You should all be made to publicly apologize to Mr. Hilkert and the entire marching band, as it sounds like the administration just sat idly by and let this man’s rant continue. I also think Mr. Scott should be reprimanded by your Board of Eduction.

Shame on all of you,
Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten
Belleville High School Marching Band 1984-1988
Drum Major 1986-1988
Belleville, New Jersey

The band director, Adam Hilkert, is an incredibly accomplished musician, and he has decided to spend his life educating children through the vehicle of music. In addition to his position as band director at Annandale High School, he serves as Doctoral Conducting Associate at George Mason University, where he studies instrumental conducting. He is the Music Director of the Vienna Community Band and Graduate Conductor of the Mason Wind Symphony and Assistant Principal Double Bass with the American Festival Pops Orchestra.

The manner in which this “coach” (and I use that term very loosely) treated Mr. Hilkert and his marching band is simply deplorable.

I am encouraging all my readers to email or call the Annandale High school and let them know that he should be, at minimum, reprimanded and forced to apologize. Personally, I would rather see him fired. He doesn’t deserve the important position of fostering the youth of this community.

November 10, 2013

Just Say No to Shopping on Thanksgiving

Filed under: Economy,General Annoyances — alvb1227 @ 4:08 pm
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I am not ashamed to say I love a good deal. I clip coupons. I comparison shop. Most importantly, I hate paying full price for anything. However, I do draw a line – Thanksgiving weekend shopping.

I absolutely hate the idea of “Black Friday.” People waking up before the crack of dawn and fight the crowds in an attempt to get a good deal. Now, retail has taken it one step further and many have decided to open on Thanksgiving itself. It is often the ultimate display of bad behavior.

Many stores opened at midnight last year. Well, now many more are opening on Thanksgiving. I was at Kohl’s this week and while chatting with an employee I was told they are opening at 8:00 p.m. and managers need to be on site two hours earlier. I find this completely offensive. When do these employees get to spend time with their families?

Thanksgiving is a completely American holiday that has been all about family time for generations. Watching football, playing board games, and of course, a wonderful meal. People donate to food pantries and think about those who are less fortunate. This push for more and more retail activity during this time of year says two things to me.

First, it says we are moving for and more to a gift-based society instead of remembering what this season is all about. Christmas and Hanukkah are supposed to be celebrations of faith and family. Now it is about beating someone else out for the hot toy.

Second, it tells me that the economy is still very weak. I started seeing commercials, store displays, and “pre-Black Friday” sales at the end of August. Pretty soon we are going to start to see promotions year round!

It is just ridiculous.

I call on everyone to let these retailers know that this is not acceptable and stay home on Thanksgiving and enjoy your family.

November 3, 2013

Conservation Area Fishing

Filed under: New Jersey,Outdoors — alvb1227 @ 9:24 pm
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Those of you who known me know I am a long-time fly angler and advocate of catch-and-release fishing. In New Jersey, less than five miles of the approximately 8,600 miles of streams and rivers are catch-and-release. I find that appalling and have long advocated for more conservation areas.

Well, New Jersey is finally listening.

New Jersey’s Fish and Game Council, and the DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife is proposing amendments to the 2014 – 2015 Fish Code. The proposed amendments include changes to conservation areas. The Big Flat Brook section to Roy Bridge currently has a liberal harvest limit of six trout with a minimum size of nine inches (yes, nine) from Opening Day to May 31 and four trout all other times.

Electrofishing surveys conducted during the summer of 2007, 2012 and 2013 indicate very few trout remaining by mid-summer. The low number of trout may be a result of one or more factors, including significant harvest by anglers and/or a variety of ecological conditions.

To determine the role harvest plays in limited trout availability, the Council proposes year round catch and release regulations for the 4.2 mile stretch, from the Route 206 stretch downstream to the Roy bridge. The regulations should result in an increase in trout abundance, improve catch rates, and ultimately enhanced angler satisfaction. As hooking mortality is higher with live bait than with artificial lures and flies, the possession or use of bait is proposed to be prohibited at all times. For similar reasons, artificially enhanced substances are also proposed to be prohibited. A 2012 Trout Angler Survey indicate that 11% of anglers who fish the first nine days of the season in the fly stretch use bait. The current gear restriction for fly fishing is also proposed to be amended to allow spin fishing and artificial lures and flies for the entire 4.2 mile stretch, including the Blewett Tract. The Division will continue to monitor the fisheries population in response to any regulatory change.

I just sent the follow comment to the state regarding the proposed change:

As a long-time angler of the Big Flatbook Roy Bridge region, I encourage the state to change the regulation to a year-round conservation area. I avoid the initial opening season time period as I find it quite crowded, but I have seen the number and size of fish anglers keep in that area and I am often appalled at how many and the size of fish are immediately taken from the region. As a result, there are very few fish left by the time I get to fish the area.

I have long advocated for more conservation areas in the state and always practice catch-and-release. There are very few conservation areas in the state as compared to the total number of miles of water available for fishing. As a result,I feel this change in regulation would not negatively impact those who practice catch-and-keep fishing. Additionally, I would like to see the state consider raising the minimum fish harvesting size to a minimum of 12 inches as opposed to the current nine. A nine inch fish provides very little meat. I see no reason why this shouldn’t be changed.

While I am a member of the East Jersey Chapter of Trout Unlimited, my opinion in no way has anything to do with my association. I have long advocated these positions far prior to my membership with TU.

I hope you will take my comments into consideration prior to making your final decision.

Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten
Fly Angler and Catch-and-Release Angler

If you are an angler in New Jersey and would like to see more conservation areas, I encourage you to submit your comments to: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/news/2013/fishcode_proposal.htm by November 15th.




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