Yesterday was the first night of Winds Across the Bay’s summer band program. Summer Band is only 8 weeks long; no auditions are necessary, and we often get quite a few kids who have not yet been involved with WAB.

I stress a bit before each session begins. It’s tough to choose material for a group of strangers who I haven’t met, whose levels and abilities I don’t yet know. I don’t want it to be too simple, for our better players; but I don’t want it to be too hard, for our less experienced players.

For our Minors band, we had 15 show, 3 from this year’s band and 12 new faces! There were a few kids having a tough time. I asked the group how many of them only had one year of band, which was almost all of them. Then I asked the kids I didn’t know how often they had band: the answer was once a week, for a half hour. My Hilltop kids got an hour 15, twice a week!

So I tried to explain that we can’t judged ourselves by where we are compared to the people who are sitting beside us. They may have had a very different experience (in this case, about 5 times the playing time!) Also, we have to be where we are to get where we are going!

Our Majors group had 14, including 6 new kids and one who has moved up from Minors! One newbie was having some difficulty; she told me the music was too hard for her. I knew she had played for 3 years already, but then I found out she hadn’t ever been in band class.

Being in a band, whether school band or an extracurricular group, is an essential part of learning to be a good musician. Music is a collaborative effort, something we do with other people. Yes, it can be done alone, but I find it so much more fun and satisfying to create sounds with other people. One can talk to oneself, but a conversation is so much more interesting!

When we’re home practicing, alone, we don’t develop our sense of momentum, of the necessity to keep up. We make mistakes and then we stop and fix them. But music isn’t like that. It keeps going. It exists over time. It is a river of a certain speed; if we don’t match that speed, it will leave us behind.

We moved on to a second piece, a march in two, and the young lady who was having difficulty did much better. But she may choose to come back and play with the Minors. And that’s okay too!

After rehearsal, as we were packing up one of our Majors mentioned that he learned more in his first 2 weeks at WAB last year than he had in all his years of school band. That little comment made me smile down to my soul.

WAB is a place for kids to get good, a safe but challenging place to work things out, to play some fun music, to learn a bit, and to meet other young players. Some people can get what they need in their own school band, and this is great; some people need something more.

I’m grateful to be a part of WAB, and to provide whatever inspiration I can to young players. Music has given me more joy and happiness in my own life than anything else has, and sharing that joy is a great thing for me.

Should be a great summer!

~ Jam