Summer Band is one of my favorite seasons with my Band kids. Those who are able to, join us during the day Mondays-Thursdays in June. We meet, rehearse, make music and have fun with games, dance breaks, pizza and ice cream. We set our own schedule (no dismissal bells!) and alternate between full rehearsal and sectionals, to prepare for a concert at the end of the month. In addition to our programmed music, we read through potential Pep Band music, lay the groundwork for our Veteran’s Day program for fall, and screen music for the upcoming year.
Summer Band is open to all Band members at JFHMS and BHS, and the best part for me is getting to watch how it all plays out as Band members grades 7–12 work together. New friends are made, as some students focus on their primary instruments while others add a secondary horn. As older students work with younger students, the younger students gain skill and confidence. As older students step into new leadership roles, they gain finesse and confidence in their own abilities. Kids of all ages explore new instruments, read new music and figure out all the new notes, rhythms, and musical terms. Students select the final concert program from music we read through, and sometimes we even have a student conductor or two step up and take the podium for the concert. I love watching Band kids explore and grow, and Summer Band is like a summer growth spurt for my Band! Special thanks to the parents, who were the ever-supportive chauffeurs for this year’s Summer Band program participants.
As anyone who knows me might guess, I listen to a lot of music. My taste in music was pretty narrow at first, but my playlist expanded as I grew older. Music is a constant for me, and has been a major part of my life since I was about 10 or maybe even younger. As a kid I spent a lot of time at Town and Campus Records on Water Street, and in Musicland and Record Corner at the mall. My cassette collection evolved into a CD collection during high school, which grew as exponentially as my part time jobs allowed. My playlist is really random at this point in my life, and I am open to listening to (or at least trying to listen to) almost any genre. My Band kids keep me somewhat current, though I am continually drawn to certain tunes that always take me back to the point in my life when those favorites were on repeat. There are so many memories tied to the music I listened to with my Band family on bus trips, at Skatetown, on workshifts at Horizon Gifts and the Mark-It, where I worked as a teen. I can almost hear Kasey Kasem or Rick Dees doing the intro, as the next song cues up.
As the DJ for our school dances, I try to fill my playlist with up to date, popular and fun music selected by the kids– but always screened by me. I have pretty high standards about what music I am willing to play at a school dance, avoiding extreme language and violent subject matter, anything demeaning directed towards individuals, songs that promote gang violence or inflame emotions regarding our current state of affairs. To build our dance playlist, I simply ask the kids to share their favorite songs and performers, and then screen the lyrics carefully, if I am not familiar with their suggestions.
My interactions with students as we built the playlist for this year’s 8th grade dance brought up an interesting and (to me) really sad point. I was stunned at how many 13-14-year-old students answered, “I don’t listen to music”, “I don’t really have a playlist”, or “I don’t know, I don’t have any favorite songs or performers”. Many other students did make valid suggestions, but the songs they wanted me to play were wither wildly inappropriate, or were classics–those are the kids who listen to their parent’s music. Don’t get me wrong, I have NO PROBLEM playing “Sweet Home Alabama”, “Never Gonna Give You Up”, “Livin’ On A Prayer”, “Material Girl”, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Don’t Stop Believing” among other favorites that were suggested for the dance this year, but hearing these titles from my own past, requested alongside the “I don’t really listen to music” comments, it really made me wonder if today’s generation even has their own music that they identify with as their own. I certainly hope so, I can not imagine living my own life without a personal soundtrack.
According to https://blog.landr.com/everything-musicians-need-know-digital-music-distribution, the way we consume music has changed dramatically in the 21st century. Brick and mortar music distributors used to be the only way for record labels and independent artists to get their records into the hands of listeners. Digital music distribution has taken the center stage, and digital music outsold physical mediums for the first time starting in 2015. Kids do still watch music videos today, but they are limited to a minute or less on Snapchat and TikTok, two of the more popular apps. They don’t get the full stories that we got from videos on MTV, they just get snippets. Dare I say the quality of music has changed too–with auto tune, drum machines, and electronic music, the true musician who can actually read music, compose music, and perform music with some skill is almost a radio superhero these days. It is interesting to me to see how many current artists are true musicians, and not just marketed performers. As evidenced by those classic titles that the kids picked for the 8th grade dance, the performers who are “real”, seem to be around a lot longer.