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Last Night, At The Band Concert

I was a dismal failure as a spectator at Finn’s Holiday Band Concert last night, earning at best a D in my latest rite of passage into teen parenthood.

Up until the concert began, the information I’d received from the band had been sparse: mandatory attendance at concert rehearsal on Thursday (check), strongly encouraged “donation” to band account (check written), and reporting to auditorium for concert in black pants and solid shirt, with instrument, at 6:40 for 7 pm concert.

I was under the impression that the concert was going to be sixth-graders only, and this seemed to be  confirmed by the casual dress code.  Finn assured me that collars weren’t required.  We focused on the “Band” portion of the Holiday Band Concert, and he chose a long-sleeved black T-shirt that whispered, “CBGB may be defunct, but this ass will see plenty of other smoky bars before my drumming career is over.”

CBGB apparently wasn’t factored in the fashion choices of any other band members, all of whom concentrated on the “Holiday” aspect of the event, and sported bright green or red shirts (mostly collared) or the traditional band (and waiter) costume of black pants and white shirt.  Finn looked cool but suspicious.

The concert took place at the high school auditorium, which is a beautiful facility except for the omission of a center aisle running from bottom to top, a problem I didn’t discover until Porter and I had walked across the seats and stood looking at a row of four seats together with no way to reach them, other than to mountaineer over, which is what I did.

My seat climbing skills are somewhat rusty, and I garnered a fair bit of attention, but soon Porter and I were settled in primo seats.  I saw that many audience members were obviously much older than I.  I deduced that they were present to hear their high-school children perform, teens whose antics have caused their parents to gray and wrinkle, and it was all extremely distressing to behold.

My neighbor confirmed that the elementary schools would perform, followed by the junior high and then the high school, and the entire concert could last two hours.  Knowledgeable parents of elementary students sit on the aisles for easy escape after their offspring’s final note.

It was too late for me.  The aisle were filled, the center was empty, and the lights were dimming.  Bill and Drew walked in just in time to jump into the seats I’d wasted so much energy claiming.

The band director kicked the show off with a tepid welcoming speech, then added, “I’ve
noticed a disturbing trend of parents leaving after their pupil has performed, and we discourage that.  We ask that you enjoy this lovely auditorium and hear all the players perform.”

That was fine for him to say, but had he left a hastily purchased Stouffer’s Lasagna cooking in his oven at home?  It is one thing to sit through a concert played by strangers when you plan on doing it, but another thing entirely to land in the middle of a two-hour concert
unprepared.  If the director needed me for two hours, he should have told me that much sooner, so plans could be made.

My stomach was grumbly, unsoothed by gin.  My temperament was, too.
I weighed the embarrassment of getting up from the middle of the auditorium during
the concert, despite the conductor’s plaintive directions, against the humiliation of burning my house down with frozen food, and it wasn’t even close.

But when the music began, I perked up.  The sixth-graders played their first song, and Finn’s bells rang out truer and sweeter than the rest.  He switched to drums for the second tune, and his beat was steady and firm.  At the end everyone clapped and I yelled, “Go drums!” and Bill elbowed me.  No one else was shouting,”Horns Rule” or “Toot that flute, baby!” but doesn’t everyone appreciate positive feedback?

The duo and I snuck out after Finn’s part was over (“Excuse me, pardon me, we’re new at this”) and made it home to enjoy a succulent Stouffer’s chicken, noodle and chemical combination and head for bed.

As I drifted to sleep, the thumping drum beat of The Hannukah Song rang pleasantly in my ears.

Drums Rule!


This next post got lots of attention when I first published it on iVillage– apparently y’all are better at laundry than I am.

Two Years Ago in My Tiny Kingdom: What I Haven’t Been Doing


  • Karin

    Hurrah! I was there last night too to hear my high-schooler perform. The Jr. high and high school bands would have blown you away, they were (and are) that good!!!

  • twinkie

    Too bad there is so little support for music in the schools that it has to be announced that parents should stay (the lack of support is even worse here in Florida with the FCAT). It is also too bad that you were uninformed of the length of the concert. Being a band directors wife I would assume that your child was informed and you were not (this is usually the case). Schools tend to inform the children once they hit Jr High and not the parents – they need the responsability. Overall, I’m glad the band concert went well and that Finn played his percussion instruments so well. It is nice to have a drummer that can keep a beat! Go Band!

  • jen

    Don’t worry about Finn having worn black…he’s a drummer (erm, percussionist) and can get away with it. ; ) I need to second what twinkie said about the kids being informed and you not. I was a middle school band director and my husband was a high school band director and there’s a definite breakdown in communication sometimes. Oh, and that announcement about staying for the whole concert? Unfortunately very common, especially in the really big (lots of bands) concerts. Hmmm…just realized I don’t so much miss those days. ; )
    GO BAND! 🙂

  • Jodi

    Generally, I learn how to do everything by doing it completely wrong the first time. Next year you’ll know to show up with the kids fed and you and your hubby pleasantly lit with a warm inner glow — generally found at the bottom of a glass of Tanq 10. Go Band! And don’t forget the Show Choir (I’m doing jazz hands right now)!

  • Shayna

    Haha…hilarious! The way I see it, if the elementary school parents would have just done their part and gotten up when expected to, all would be right with the world. And yes, I don’t think I could see Finn sporting a red or green shirt from your descriptions of him. He’s way too cool for such nonsense. 😀 (I myself was a plain white collared shirt girl with the long black skirt…the ladies had to wear skirts at my school!)

  • Starr

    I am a middle school band director, and I find the best way to keep everyone happy and informed is tell the students, but also email the parents! And giving more details ahead of time is so much nicer than giving the instrument-buying, band-fee-paying parents a guilt trip!

    Glad your child is getting the band experience!!!

  • Amy

    Our middle school concert was last Sunday. All six of us loaded up to attend along with two visiting german friends. The germans left after the first 2 hours) The concert started at 2:00 with the beginning band (and my 2nd chair french horn player). It ended after five (and we stayed to the bitter end) with the advanced symphonic band (and my clarinet player). My preschool girls danced throughout the concert beside the bleachers – resulting in endless trips to the water fountain and then the bathroom. My back was tired from the gym bleachers and though we enjoyed some fabulous music it was LONG. Dinner was eaten with a sleeping three year old in my lap and the night ended with strong encouragements and borderline threats to my beginning band student to make the advanced symphonic band by next year! From here on out we’ll tag team the concerts. I don’t think I can do another one that long!

  • Jessica

    My son’s concert is tonight. He is in the seventh grade and made the symphonic band but we have not been practicing our 210 minutes a week like we should. We were given a dress code at the beginning or middle of November. Did I go out and buy the black pants? NO. So I searched all over B’ham for black pants. Kohl’s, Target, and Belk sold out of 14 reg size. Found a 14 petite at Macy’s and tried to squeeze them on my child. I decided he needed air to play so I purchased the $50 pair of black pants. Our concert is just the middle schoolers with 4 different bands including the jazz band that will be complete in 1 hour and 20 minutes as noted. I like the time line and will have babysitter for my other 3 children.

  • Libby Jones

    I must say that this is a huge issue with my family in our elementary school. The holiday concert is next Wed and starts at 1 p.m. People start reserving seats as soon as the doors open at 11 a.m. They sit there the whole time and reserve whole sections for people coming at 1 p.m. The concert goes from 1 p.m. with Kindegardeners to 3 pm 5th graders and is terribly hot with hundreds of parents and whiny kids packed into a tiny gym. It is torture. I would love to see them have an intermission and split the concert in two. Or shorten the number of songs each class does – each class does not need to do 7-8 songs! Sorry, I think that even of my kids class. And I was in choir, band, swing choir, etc!