School bands important

They’re gathering on fields across central Pennsylvania and across America.

A whistle blows. Students absorbing instructions and getting into formation: reviewing play books, performing drills, working toward perfection. Specific movements are repeated many times over in a quest for precision and synergy.

It sounds like preseason sports camp, and certainly football teams and others are taking part in these kinds of activities in preparation for the 2018 season.

But in this case, the rhythms and harmonies are found at band camp, and theirs is a different kind of “score.”

Just as sports teams are gearing up to play in new school year, so are marching bands, and what would high school football be without them?

Friday night lights bring entire towns together for a weekly fall celebration of tradition and community. Siblings, parents, grandparents, friends and rivals gather around the gridiron for football. The soundtrack of that experience is provided by dedicated musicians who commit hundreds of hours of their summer learning music and marching formations for the entertainment and enjoyment of all.

From the fight songs that usher football teams onto the field, to the National Anthem and alma maters, to the many uniquely-themed halftime shows we’ll see throughout the season, the band is another team that practices and performs on Friday nights.

Their commitment is every bit as real as a sports team; as is the many benefits of their participation.

A 2000 US Senate resolution reported that “students who participate in school band or orchestra have the lowest levels of current and lifelong use of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs among any group in our society.”

And a survey among teachers by the Arts Education Partnership revealed that students involved in music exhibit “elevated attitudes” and “better behavior.”

Like athletics, band provides opportunities for inclusion, as well as the chance to work toward a common goal. The payoff is a stellar halftime show, but also music appreciation and friendships that last a lifetime.

Just as athletes share experiences that go beyond competition, band members share more than performances: bus rides, practice sessions, and many, many memories.

They are also often the most spirited and colorful fans at a football game: leading cheers, playing pick-me-up songs, and celebrating touchdowns. The cadence of the drumline revealing the mood of the moment: a dramatic halftime ballad or a lively fight song; the pensive Jeopardy Theme, the dramatic Darth Vader March, or the inspiring “Don’t Stop Believing.”

And their commitment is to more than the music. Bands, their parents and friends chip in to raise money for uniforms, travel and even instruments; you’ll often find their boosters flipping burgers in the concession stand to provide valuable, melodious opportunities to their kids.

This particular team of music-loving students and those who support them are busy getting ready for their own special role in the high school football experience. Thank you, and strike up the band!

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Her column appears on Tuesdays.