There's no question learning to play music is beneficial to children. Hell, it's beneficial to pretty much anyone at any age. Kids who are in band, however, are the ones who have it best. The jokes that have been circulating for years about band camp (thanks, American Pie) have never really done justice to the epic experience that being in band can be.
Growing up, I was one of the lucky kids who lived in a city that had a thriving music programs in our public schools. In 4th grade, everyone had chosen or been assigned an instrument — either wind or strings — and was given that instrument to use, by the school, for the year. From there, taking band or strings was mandatory for all school kids until grade 9. That's right: All school kids had to take six years of music classes. (I told you I was lucky.)
Now, I may be a bit biased, given my previous career as a singer, but I happen to think that is pretty fantastic and important. And while I've written about how singing in a choir makes you a better person, a better parent, and generally better at life, I'll let you all in on a little secret now: I was actually a Band Girl long before I was a Choir Girl.
I played clarinet in the band between grades 5 and 10, at which point I changed to saxophone (both tenor and baritone) so that I could also play in the stage band. I played saxophone until I graduated high school, and I still miss it, years later. The truth is, you can take the girl out of the band, but you can't take the band out of the girl.
And now that this girl is a mom, I've already realized that you can't take the lessons and skills you gain from being in band out of you...ever. Here's how growing up being a proud band nerd in school makes you infinitely better prepared for being a mom nerd as an adult:
When you're in band, you're always having to stop and wait while another section rehearses a difficult passage. Patience is seriously the most valuable asset to a parent. That's just...a very true statement that I feel more than comfortable saying in a concrete way.
A band is very much the sum of its parts. When one instrument comes in late or is out of tune, the whole band is affected. *Insert parallel to family life here*
Being aware of who you are, in relation to those around you, is one of the amazing things that learning to tune your instrument can teach you.
Counting. So Much Counting.
Anyone who's ever been in a band knows the horror of seeing a bar that has a thick black line and the number "32" above it. That's 32 bars of rests. If you play the timpani, it's likely a number more like "88." For the uninitiated, that means you count to four (assuming you're in 4/4 time) 88 times.
Anyway, the point is, kids love counting, and when they start doing it, they'll want to do it a lot, and well, you're primed for that tedious task.
As mentioned above, there are always breaks in the playing for rests. You need to be able to concentrate to keep track and come back in at the right time. And, let's face it, kids need as much practice concentrating as they can get these days (looking at you, iPads).
Being Part Of Something Bigger Than Yourself
...Ah, I'm sorry, I got distracted by how this looks like the most insanely fun band to be a part of ever. Pretend I said something smart about being a great parent.
Everyone Needs A White Button Down Shirt
Every band I was ever in required a white button shirt. Let's face it: They are a wardrobe staple. I just think this is a very important detail that I'm happy I know so I can teach to my kids.
Learning to respect your instrument (and how taking care of it is a huge part of that), your bandmates, your conductor, and the music lay the groundwork for respect in all other areas of a kid's life.
Always Watch The Conductor
I talked about this in my article about singing in a choir, and it holds true in band as well: You need to keep one eye on the conductor for important cues, when you're in a band. Likewise, kids need to watch their parents for important cues about vital things like how to hail a cab, how to hold the rail and not fall down stairs, and how to cut and serve various kinds of fancy cheeses. You know, the essentials. Watch maestro, children.
The Ability To Juggle Many Balls At Once
Counting the rests? Check. Adjusting your instrument because it's slightly flat? Check. Paying attention to dynamics? Check. Getting your embouchure right, so your instrument sounds good? Check. Being a parent who also has to juggle a million balls at once? CHECK.
For some kids, taking band in school is the only exposure they'll get to making music. I know friends who still look back on their time in high school band with fondness. Making music is important, even if it's only for a few years of your life.