I Have a Gripe

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.

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