I never had any intention of being a marching band mom. And I certainly had no idea what it would entail once I became one. Unbelievably long days at competitions, freezing nights at football games, and nearly non-stop fundraising efforts are the norm. And it’s worth it.
My son is a senior in high school, and he has lived and breathed all things band since his first day of band camp before his freshman year started. Marching band, jazz band, symphonic band, and wind ensemble have filled his days, evenings, and weekends for four years. (Minus the pandemic hiatus.)
I could write endlessly about how vital performing arts are to our schools and students. Band, choir, dance, and theater programs allow kids to build their confidence, find like-minded friends, and develop impressive collaboration skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.
But the true magic, at least to this band mom, is what goes on behind the scenes for the kids. Here are my three favorite non-performance-related benefits of performing arts education in schools.
1. An Instant Friend Group
High school has never been for the faint of heart, and it’s still true today. It can feel isolating and lonely if kids have a hard time making friends. But students who join a performing arts group have an immediate sense of community and belonging with a built-in friend group.
As my son was preparing for high school, there were a lot of nerves for both of us. He was leaving a very small and protected school to go to a much bigger environment where he wouldn’t know anyone except his brother.
Marching band camp started a few weeks before school, and the kids spent ten hours a day together. Jack got to meet 50 other students before the first day of school and had time to get the lay of the land in the building, too. There is no way to overestimate how crucial those two weeks of band camp were to his success.
Choir and theater usually don’t start before the school year, but connecting with those groups right away meets the same need. Your child receives a ready-made community of like-minded kids.
2. A Safe Space
Although it’s so sad to acknowledge, the stark reality is that many high school kids do not feel safe at home. They may live with food insecurity, abusive situations, or conflict surrounding their identities. No matter the reason, many children feel unsafe or unwanted at home.
School-based performing arts communities tend to be highly accepting groups of kids, and I had the privilege of witnessing this during one of the most wonderful things I’ve seen in my son’s four years of high school.
At the final marching band competition of the year, the seniors all had a chance to reflect and talk about their high school band career. Without fail, the 14 graduating kids shared how important band was to their sense of belonging:
You accepted me and let me be myself.
You got me through high school.
You gave me space when I was overwhelmed, but you always checked on me.
You let me be the way I am without making me feel weird.
You guys became my true family.
Who doesn’t want that for their child? I was an absolute blubbering mess listening to student after student express some version of these statements. Everyone deserves to feel like they belong, and for these kids, the band gave them that.
3. Extra Eyes Paying Attention
Performing arts educators work incredibly hard for their students, but they can’t do it alone. I can’t speak to the other programs at my son’s high school, but for band, there were often up to 15 adults on site for competitions and performances.
That’s a lot of eyes paying attention to the students, getting to know them and being mindful of who might need extra encouragement or support. As a mom, I’m all for having a village of kind adults surrounding my child, cheering them on to succeed. (And truth be told, the other parents became a village of sorts for me, too. Some of my besties are fellow band moms!)
There are countless reasons we should be supporting and funding performing arts in our schools. Building up creative, imaginative students is a benefit to the whole community. But the social and emotional benefits to the kids are even more crucial, and I’m so incredibly thankful my son had this opportunity. I wish it for every student in our schools.