Stuck in the Middle: And the Band Played On
Each year the highlight of our band program is the trip to the Whistler Music Festival. Our grade 8 band works very hard to prepare for this event. They have additional rehearsals at school and all the students put in extra practice time at home to be ready. During their three years together our band becomes a team and this is their Stanley Cup Playoffs.
I was very fortunate that our band director, Ms. Sousa, asked me to be the male chaperone on this year’s trip. The festival was such a great musical experience for our students and it provided them with some wonderful opportunities. In addition to playing in front of and being assessed by three professional adjudicators, students were given two lessons from acclaimed Music and Band Directors from New York and Florida. They also participated in a mass band performance and concert with over 1,500 other students, and were treated to a concert featuring a variety of professional musicians.
Students also had the opportunity to visit Whistler, one of the most beautiful places in the world, hang out with their friends and even miss a day of regular class instruction.
Now the role of the chaperone on the trip is to make sure that the kids are on time for concerts, as well as being safe and being respectful throughout the trip. I was prepared to take this role seriously! This meant bed checks at the hotel every night. I knew that we had a great group of young people with us, but I am cautious by nature. I know my presence in the hotel hallways keeps the chances of the kids making bad choices down, but once in awhile even good kids make mistakes.
The first night at 9:30 PM the chaperones started wandering the halls. Our students’ rooms were eerily quiet. This made me nervous, so Ms. Sousa and I continued to move from room to room listening for any signs of trouble.
Then I heard it coming out of one of our rooms. It was loud and potentially embarrassing for the school, so I knew I had to react fast. I rushed down the hall to the room with the noise blasting out its door. Ms. Sousa was coming just as quickly from the opposite direction and we met at the door. We then gave each other that teacher look and I knew somebody was about to get in trouble.
How dare they practice their trumpets in their hotel rooms at night!
I banged on the door and then I looked at Ms. Sousa. I realized that I needed to let her be the one to lay the law. This was her band and her trip and I was just there to support her, so I backed off and got ready for her to deliver the bottom line message.
One of our young musicians opened the door holding his trumpet. Ms. Sousa had her hands on her hips and that mad teacher look on her face. Boy, was he going to get it.
Then in her most serious and intimidating voice, she scolded him, “Your A is really flat! You need to fix that before tomorrow.”
“Thanks, Ms. Sousa,” he replied with a smile, followed by a, “good night. I will see you in the morning.”
Just as he was about to shut the door I calmly suggested, “Maybe we shouldn’t practice after 9:30 PM in the hotel.”
“Ok, Mr. Russell. Good Night!”
At North Saanich Middle School, joining the band is a wonderful opportunity for students. Learning to play an instrument is great for brain development in adolescents, it is a great place for a middle school student to make some great friends and truly develop an appreciation and lifelong love of music. And if you practice your instrument in the hotel at night on your grade 8 trip to Whistler, you’d better hit the note or else you will face the consequences of Ms. Sousa!