Surely you’ve heard of the “Football Widow,” the wife of the football coach who lives a life not much dissimilar from a single parent. She is the primary caregiver, the chauffeur, the cheerleader, the nurse, the logistics director… a little bit of everything. This is due to the fact that the football coach is often gone, at practice, at games, at meetings.
Parallel that with the activities of the Band Director. Rehearsals start at 7 am. After-school meetings include the booster club, sectionals, and uniform and instrument checkout, and can last until 6 or 7 pm. Friday nights and Saturdays are filled with games, parades, competitions–and this list doesn’t stop just because football season is over. There is no end to Band Season. There are concert performances, music festivals, auditions – oh, and paperwork for grades, since this is a class and not just an activity.
And summer? What’s that? My husband starts his summer prepping for the next marching season, planning the show music and maneuvers. Frankly, I hear the music of the marching show about 1000 times, in four bar snippets throughout June, July, and August. I’ve had some pretty decent music ruined for me after these immersion periods. On top of this, my husband opens the band room once a week to his students for extra practice. He directs a summer community concert band on the side.
Unlike the wife of the football coach, I get the satisfaction of watching the performance get better and better with practice, and when I attend games and competitions I know what to expect: a strong performance from a large group of kids working with more teamwork than any football team. There are no “stars.” A band performance relies on each member of the ensemble to be in the right place at the right time according to prearranged guidelines, but each student has to adapt to the current situation to keep the formation. Each band member knows this and they strive at every rehearsal to get it as good as they possibly can. Even if they don’t win the competition, they have the satisfaction of knowing they worked together to do their best.
My husband gets one assistant for 180 kids. One. A football team has several assistant coaches for offense, defense, and special teams, and not nearly as many kids to keep track of. This is why student leaders and band parents are so important. Band Dads move equipment, build and repair equipment, and help set up the field for the show. Band Moms arrange fundraising, keep track of funds, sew uniforms and backdrops, and offer general moral support.
The Band Wife attends multiple performances throughout her marriage. After 13 years of marriage, plus 2 years of dating, I estimate I have been to approximately 200 different performances by my husband’s “band kids.” Being a Band Geek myself, I’m played in at least that many performances. In the early years, I helped out with sectionals and logistics, but with small children, I’m not just a spectator. My own children attend with me, exposed to music from womb to babe-in-arms to pre-teen. My oldest is taking up the trumpet this year in beginning band. He’s practicing Jingle Bells for the holidays.
Most recently, I attended the Heart of America Marching Festival, hosted at the University of Kansas, my alma mater. I arrived later in the day – it’s difficult to corral two kids for enough hours to watch every band – and saw the last six performances by the largest schools of the day. It was 47 degrees when I arrived, with a bitter windchill down to 42 at ground level. I climbed up to row 50, about 3 to 4 stories above the ground, two kids in tow. The best view is from the upper levels.
The band did a fantastic job. They played musically difficult pieces and made the movements and effects of the show really come together. This is the last competition, and the culmination of months of long hours and hard work.
The Band Wife is proud.
P.S. One thing I have learned throughout the years is the best time to leave. I love my bands, but I hate traffic.
P.S.S. Go Jayhawks!