It’s not that it’s wrong . . .

. . . it’s just out of balance.

Here is a quote out of a recent Instrumentalist magazine — from an interview with a successful, well-reputed high school band director in Arizona.

We will sometimes record video of students from the symphonic band demonstrating marching techniques and put it on YouTube for me to show to the concert band in the next class period.

I had to read that twice to make sure I got it right — beyond the ostensible intent to tell how the director uses technology,

To elucidate, for the majority of my readers who do not work in academic music vocations . . . what the quotation shows is that a highly touted high school band director is in the habit of using indoor band rehearsal time for outdoor marching band.  I have also found this phenomenon in Texas:  in the fall, jazz band class time is for marching band; concert band class time is for marching band, and even mariachi band class time (it exists!) is probably used sometimes for outdoor marching band activities, too.  This practice appears to be common, to the point that no one even feels the need to make excuses for it.  For these marching band-heavy schools, it’s about “pride” — but more, about preparation for marching band competitions.

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When I was learning about how things are done around here, I had the feeling that people were almost feeling sorry for me in my ignorance of the needs of the marching band machine.

The problem is not that marching band exists.  The problem is that it’s out of balance.  A two-week band camp plus three after-school rehearsals a week plus weekends ought to be plenty.  But the competition aspect puts heavy demands on schools, bands, and directors, and it gets out of balance.  The cart drives the horse.  (Or, in one case I knew about years ago, the lug nuts on the wheels drove the cart and the horse:  percussion staff drove the marching percussion which drove the marching band which drove the instrumental music program.)

Other situations may have elements out of balance, too.  Take church assemblies, for instance.  Typically, there might be three to six songs, a token prayer or two, and a 25- to 35-minute sermon.  A few churches add communion and maybe a brief, excerpted scripture reading.  Most have some announcements.  I suggest that some of this is out of balance.

Like the outdoor band that commandeers indoor band time for its supposedly more pressing needs, preachers have for centuries been in the habit of taking too much corporate time for the supposedly more important needs of the sermon.  Moreover, I would suggest that even prayer has overshadowed other vehicles of communion with God.  Specifically, I assert that these should be allowed more time in most church assemblies:

  1. Worship in song — that is, when the singing truly is marked by words of worship
  2. The reading and hearing of extended sections of scripture

Marching band is important, but it is best when it is manifested in proper balance.  Sermons and prayers and announcements are important — and obviously are not wrong — but they, too, are best when experienced in proper balance.

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