Honor Band Survey
Posted by Jarrett Lipman on 9/15/2021, 2:44 pm
Hi — I know all are in the trenches - and spirits may not be at their highest right now for everyone. Stress over COVID, worries over drill, anxieties about kids in and out of rehearsals, weather in Houston. There is a lot more pressing on everyone’s plate than Honor Band at this moment - at least from my perspective. |
That said - today, a survey came out from TMEA asking all to vote on the Honor Band process that will happen a few months down the road. I think it is a difficult time for some to respond about something like this when morale may be lower, and another high-stakes event seems to be the last thing the doctor ordered - and others may have total clarity, one way or another. We each walk a different path in life.
Before I add anything - I have personally wrestled each year with the cost vs. value of the Honor Band competition. There have been years we have not participated in the process - for one reason or another. And I do not think the honor band contest is by any means the holy grail of our profession or that a student’s musical experience should be measured by their participation (or lack of) in the event. I feel the same way about standardized testing - AP exams - or anything competitive. Self-worth isn’t determined by placement.
In an effort to champion music for all, I also think there can be the mistake of drawing connections that aren’t there. A student can have a great experience in band while they do honor band - just as much as if they do NOT. My kids have been excited about honor band - they have also been not excited about it. This is no different in years we do it - or do not. The musical experience does not suddenly become BETTER or WORSE on an honor band year - as much as it hinges on how I approach any given year with them. Our mindset as teachers is so critical.
That said — there are so many remarkable ensembles in Texas. Is it because of Honor Band? I don’t think it is fair to discount the value of what the process has contributed over the last 60 years any more than I think we can attribute the great groups to the contest. We have countless role models and fabulous recordings to listen to - the concerts at TMEA have been inspirational, and there is so much that comes from kids learning to work at something over a long period. Perfection isn’t everything, but it is beautiful to experience the pursuit of that goal JUST as it can be as beautiful as NOT pursuing perfection. My students have learned a tremendous about through the honor band preparation - it has been rewarding, and we have those recordings to treasure together all of our lives. They are the very best performances and products we have done together. Long after they graduate, I receive notes from students about how they enjoy going back and listening to our recordings. We keep them available in a dropbox on our alumni page - so they are easily accessible, and our current students love listening too! They are treasures for our program.
I worry in our efforts to reduce stress - diversify - and “re-invent” the profession, and be BETTER - that we don’t throw away anything that adds value in that process. Honor Band adds value. It provides a standard of excellence and a method for groups to showcase their very best. And it teaches the importance of discipline, teamwork, perseverance. I am not saying we cannot achieve those things WITHOUT honor band - but I also struggle with the idea that we eliminate a component that provides a tremendous resource for students and teachers.
The survey says nothing about 2024 and beyond - and it’s not a question to “eliminate” honor band, but suspend it again. It just seems like we are moving closer to it going away - as we were told it would happen for this year, and now it is back in flux. I wish there was an option to do both - or simply put, if you don’t want to compete in honor band, you don’t have to.
From a socioeconomic perspective - so many of the groups in the finals at honor band come from disadvantaged districts. I realize the concerns with money, props, design in marching band, but not entirely sure the honor band results prove the process is “elitist,” as I have heard it referred to in conversation. Again - there are flaws - in everything. An invited process invites (no pun intended) bias just as “anonymous” judging of honor band does as well. The point is - if you want to tear down either process, you can.
I’ll end with the posting on the TMEA Website about Honor Band and hope that we don’t eliminate something that I think has done a lot of good for so many in our profession:
What is Honor Band?
“Competition….Not to defeat an opponent or to win a prize,
but to pace one another on the road to excellence.”
Sir Walter Davies
The concept of the Honor Band originated during the term of Joe Frank, Sr., who served as Band Division Chair from 1958 to 1960. The purpose was twofold. Many educators believed that through the process of hearing and observing the results of quality teaching, directors could develop their own instructional skills to a higher level. In addition, selection of an honor band in each classification recognized communities and school systems that successfully supported music in education through their instrumental music programs.
Through the years, participation has been active and the recognition of exemplary programs through the Honor Band selection process has become a most sought after goal by many directors. As a result, the quality of honor groups has remained high and the original purpose of growth and development through observation of superior teaching and performance has been addressed annually and maintains its validity. Teachers throughout the state have definitely had the opportunity to learn from master teachers by attending honor band performances and clinics.