I find it fascinating to survey all the people who are involved in band at my school. There is a good, strong number of us, but the funny thing is, most of the kids are in multiple ensembles. And by multiple, I mean all or almost all of them.
And these kids are good. (At their instruments, that is.)
But only a handful of us are looking to make music our career. Surprisingly, a lot of the kids who are super-duper involved are into science and math. I know a handful of people who want to be engineers of some sort (mechanical or bio-medical or bio-chemical), and people who want to be the stereotypical scientist – in a lab doing experiments – and a bunch of people who are still unsure, but know they don’t want to do music.
Why do they do so much music if they aren’t even considering a career in it?
Well, I know why I do it, and I think that my answer might apply to the other kids, too.
I can’t answer this as if I weren’t considering music as a career, but I will answer this from a school-wise standpoint. As a student, this is what I wanted: I wanted to be involved, and I wanted to have friends. And I got that from band. Over half of my friends are in band, and I love them. (I also have a bunch of friends outside of band, and I love them too, if you’re wondering.) And I feel so proud that I play with these talented musicians at school, and can hang out in the band room if I have nowhere else to go, and that I can say “I’m a band kid.” I’m enthused that an hour and a half of my school day, every other day, I spend in the band room instead of an academic classroom. Yes, standing on my feet to play an instrument I’m not fantastic at may look grim to some, but I view it as a pause in my day. It’s a nice wind-down, since I have it before lunch, then go to AP Lang (possibly the most excellent class I’ve ever taken).
I won’t go into them, but doing this much music involves a lot of sacrifices – sleep, time off, room in one’s schedule to take AP classes and other electives, and probably the chance to meet with friends other than band friends. Why in the world do we do it?
Because it’s fun, mainly. It’s fun to many of us because we get something out of playing an instrument. Simple as that. There’s no real other way to describe it besides there is, in fact, a reward from playing an instrument. It’s like basic science: every action has an equal and opposite reaction – you get out what you put in. When you put a lot of time and effort into practice, your performances are generally really really stellar. And when you have a good performance, it’s just fantastic. It’s like the tension and release aspects of music – you never know how the performance will turn out (maybe you’re nervous or hopeful, but the uncertainty is always there) and when that last note is hit and the curtains close, the uncertainty is gone because you know you did it. And you can discuss the times you felt the band connected and nailed it (or maybe the times where you didn’t, but pulled it back together). Then, if in competition, you wait for the scores and the tension comes back.
It’s also fun because we are committing ourselves to something that we do with some of our best friends. We get to put all that hard work down on resumes and college applications, but when we’re not getting reprimanded, or when we don’t have a lot of homework that still needs to get done after practice, it doesn’t feel like work when you’re doing something you love AND surrounded by friends!
I am starting to realize this because I had to terminate my intention of joining the pit orchestra (for the musical) this year since I have so much else to do, and something on the same day as the rehearsals. It made me very sad since I had fun doing it last year, but I think I would have been even more sad when I had no time to play my actual instrument and do my homework…and sleep and eat. But my sadness is justified because I have multiple friends there and the musical is supposed to be interesting and somewhat jazzy. (I
t’s Broadway “jazz” so who knows?)
But it really got me thinking: why am I so heartbroken and indecisive about deciding whether to join the pit or not? (sidenote: isn’t it hilarious how many pits there are: marching band pit, indoor pit [which is just “indoor”], and pit orchestra?) From an aerial view, joining pit orchestra would just cause problems! It’s because band means everything I’ve said above – it means fun, friends, commitment, pride, and reward.
So there’s always next year to join pit orchestra. (That’s the one good thing about being a junior – there’s a “next year” that is your safety net.) And for right now, I can focus on the fun, friends, commitment, pride, and reward that comes from the other ensembles I’m in. And support my friends who are able to commit to the torturous/thrilling experience of being in a musical’s pit. (Torturous, because you start to internalize every line of every scene of the play. Every. Scene.) And in the end, anyway, I’ll be having a good time not being swamped and having time to write on here!