Friday, November 6, 2015

Eighth chair

A few years ago, my oldest son wanted to give band a try.  I was excited for several reasons.  Band kids usually become a tight-knit group.  I loved that he would become musical.  And, band usually has the highest average GPA of any student group!

He went to instrument tryouts and rated equally well for the trumpet and for percussion.  He couldn't decide which way to lean, so I asked the band director.  She had a great answer!  She said that trumpet players typically have a little more boisterous attitude while percussion players are oftentimes a bit more introverted.  My incredible kid was drummer!

We bought the instruments he needed ($1500) and he began his journey.  He practiced every day.  He logged his practice time and worked hard to do things well.  When it came time for his first chair test, he came home and sullenly told us that he was eighth chair.  Out of eight.

We encouraged him to continue and told him that many of his fellow percussionists played piano as well so they had a head start.  He was still trying to enjoy band.  The next week, still eighth chair.  

As the weeks went on, he was consistently last.  One week, he walked in the door and exclaimed, "Seventh chair!  I'm not last!"  Hurray!  His perseverance was paying off!  Then he told us that one kid didn't have his band supplies that day so he automatically got eighth chair.  

Enjoyment slowly drained from my kid's band experience.  I don't put all the blame on the chair test, but most assuredly, his consistent spot in last chair was a big factor.

I asked the band director about the whole chair test thing.  What was the purpose?  Were there any improved methods used in the middle school band community.  She replied, "Band has always done it that way.  It motivates kids to want to do better."

I told her that consistently coming in last place can certainly motivate someone.  Just not always to get better.  A lot of consistent last-placers are motivated to quit.  My son worked hard!  He tried!  He wanted to be a musician like his older cousin!

She didn't seem open to suggestion, but I made one anyways.  I asked her to consider having chair places #1 through #4.  Then everyone else is called 2nd row.  She scoffed at the idea.  

My kid quit band after 24 weeks.  He was motivated alright.