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Growing a band starts in elementary school

Staff writer

Marion’s school band program is being rebuilt, but the task is not simply in the hands of band director Steve Glover.

Growing a band requires not only a band director, but players who are dedicated to playing, school administration willing to provide class schedules that allow students to participate in band without sacrificing other classes they need to take, and a community that supports and has high expectations for band students, Glover said.

Band starts in fifth grade, where 32 students are still getting to know their instruments.

Sixth grade has 26 students, still in basic stages of playing.

The seventh and eighth grades have 38 in band together and were advanced enough to march in this year’s Old Settlers Day parade.

Only six are enrolled in band at Marion High, however.

Numbers of musicians have been consistently good through eighth grade, Glover said. Then in high school, there are fewer students.

“They can’t fit all the electives into one class, and they have to choose,” he said.

Glover has visited with the high school counselor and principal about making the schedule friendlier to students who want to participate.

Mike Connell, band director at Marion from 1982 to 2007, said students and parents are told students can participate in both athletics and band.

Connell said small schools differ from larger schools, where there is more of a talent pool. In a larger school, instructors can work with a core group that chooses the activity and sticks with it.

Students need to know the early years of band are just the beginning, Glover said. As they get more experienced, there are more opportunities and more rewards.

Band members also need good program finances and community support for the program.

Middle school band members are already looking forward to a May event in McPherson. The students will go to see some events they will be able to participate in during high school.

Learning to play an instrument is not easy because it’s learning several things at the same time, Connell said. Among other things, playing an instrument is like reading a foreign language and translating it into sound.

Connell said no one could have been happier than he was when Glover agreed to teach band at Marion.

“He was the only one I knew of who had expressed an interest in years,” he said.

Connell said the program was “at death’s door” when Glover came to teach.

“When I got here, there was still enough of a remnant that I could work with,” Connell said. “When Steve got here, there was not. Steve did not have that advantage.”

COVID-19 created its own interference with the band program, Glover said. During his first year, classes switched from in-person to remote. Then students came to school wearing face masks.

Glover’s sister-in-law designed and sewed special masks for band members that had flaps to open so their instruments could be played without completely removing the masks.

Although better than canceling class, it was still difficult to see whether the student was holding their mouth properly.

An important thing students missed, though, was having a live audience. An audience gives students feedback by their reactions.

Last modified Oct. 27, 2021

 

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