I’m Glad My Marching Band Didn’t Make it to State

The 2016 marching band season was the best to date. Our scores were some of the highest we had ever achieved. Our show was the most difficult we had ever attempted. My students were the most committed they had ever been (with lots of room for improvement).

As my students attained higher and higher scores, we all thought for sure we would make it to state. When we competed at regionals and beat a few bands that normally beat us, we thought it was in the bag!

But we didn’t make it.

And we were disappointed.

And I’m glad.

When I told my students I was glad we didn’t make state, they looked at me like I was crazy. Some responses were…

“Don’t you care about us?”

“Why are you glad?”

“Don’t you have confidence in us?”

I DO care for my students. They are like my family.

I DO have confidence in them. They had achieved higher than they ever have.

But I was glad we didn’t make it.

We missed making it to state by one band. One band! You could say we almost made it to state. With being that close, the students were determined to work harder, smarter and achieve more next season. Their talk afterwards included “if we had done this a little better”, and “if we had been a little more focused at rehearsal we might have made it.” Their ideas for how to make the band better started to pour forth.

If we had made state…and if it had been barely, by only one band…you could have said we almost didn’t make state. The students may have gotten cocky,

“We made state, we made state, now we don’t have to work as hard next year.”

Oh, they wouldn’t have said this out loud, but it would have come across in their actions. 

I was proud of that group! The loss caused them to start the next season with more dedication and more commitment.

And if the increased commitment helped them make it to state, great… if not, they could take pride in having done their best. Ultimately that’s all any of us can do.

*** James no longer teaches marching band; he is currently at a middle school. He taught marching band for thirteen years and enjoyed the chance to instill team spirit and leadership into students. He did not enjoy the 20+ hours each week it took. James is the author of The Saxophone Diaries: Stories and tips from my 30+ years in music, as well as 4 other books. Invite James to speak to your students or teachers.
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