As we embark on a new school year, there is growing excitement that we will be able to do things with a greater sense of normal. However, we need not forget the things that helped us survive professionally in one of the most challenging years of our careers.
Keep the main thing the main thing: The students have and should always be our primary focus. During the pandemic, it was our goal to give the students the best experience possible under the circumstances. There were very few pictures of students celebrating trophies or traveling on their annual spring trip. It was an accomplishment to even have band and keep everyone healthy and safe. As we move forward, it should be our goal to make every decision one that makes our students’ band experience memorable and life-changing.
One of the most eye-opening experiences for me was watching the social media posts when we lost one of our legends and one of my mentors, Jim Duren. None of the posts focused on the amazing performances and accolades that his ensembles received. It was all about the incredible human being that he was and how much he invested in their lives. The pandemic taught me to never take anything for granted and to live in the moment. We never know how much a high five or a smile can impact a student’s life. Our students need us now more than ever.
Collaborate: We are in this together. There is no doubt that collaboration among colleagues improved dramatically during the pandemic. Directors across the state were racking their brains trying to figure how to manage their way through the pandemic. There was very little concern for who had the best ideas. People were sharing and helping in any way that they could without seeking reward or recognition. Who knew that a puppy pad or a surgical bootie would be an essential part of a band rehearsal? Directors went from competing with their colleagues to sharing ideas willingly with one another. This allowed our profession to succeed in difficult times.
Advocate: The importance of band and music education became obvious when it wasn’t feasible to have it in its normal form. Our students lost their creative outlet and the place where they felt a part of a group. Many football game halftimes and parades happened without the normal pageantry that a band brings to those environments. What we found, through the pandemic, is that students and our communities need band. Due to the decreased presence of our band programs, loss of numbers, and the need for instructional remediation, many programs face great uncertainty. Consequently, we must advocate for our students and each other as often as possible.
Persevere: This past year has proven that music educators are some of the most dedicated professionals in the world. We didn’t allow obstacles to keep our kids from getting a quality band experience. I saw evidence of this every day in your classrooms. Some of the things we once toiled over have become minor bumps in the road. Imagine what a first-year teacher can do if they survived their first year in the midst of this pandemic. I believe that pushing through this adversity together has made our profession stronger for years to come.
It’s Just Band: We all love band. We all love our profession. We all love our students. However, we can only control what we control. The pandemic has taught us many lessons including the need for balance in our lives and the lives of our students. This past year, I saw evidence of colleagues finding ways to destress and stay healthy. We can only give our students our best if we feel like being there. Continue to find outlets that take you away from the activity so that you can be your best when you are there. Band is important. However, it should be a part of our life…..not our life.
I am humbled at the opportunity to serve as President of the Alabama Bandmasters Association. I look forward to the coming years as we work together to make the bands in Alabama the best we can for the students we serve.
Updates from the Summer Conference:
The ABA board voted to move both our state-level All-State chair auditions and the preliminary Solo Festival auditions permanently to a virtual platform using Heartout.
The 4-year data is being restarted in 2021 to help guide future policy. The goal is to collect data for four years and allow it to guide future policy decisions. Proposal 2020-6 considering redistricting was withdrawn.
The new online home for ABA will be www.alaband.org. We hope that the new website will go live in early August. Every director will need to register and create a profile for future correspondence.