We joined a highschool marching band, and this is what happened.

The Music and Arts Program is alive and well in Virginia; but, it is not without its limits. Rolling towards the end of the school year, less than a month away, I thought to reflect and share our first time experience with joining the school marching band. Marching band requires a community to make happen and be successful. I did not know what to expect at the time; but, I have learned quite a bit from our first year joining.

I have to be honest and say outright that it was the most demanding school club my child has joined to date. And while the brunt of the work was on the student, a lot was required from the parents too beyond the financial responsibilities, especially since, my kid couldn’t drive yet. As it stands, my child has decided to take a break from marching band this coming school year.

By now, the school’s band director may have already contacted you or your child regarding your interest in joining the marching band this summer. Practice started August, for us. My niece started last week of July.

Here is some information to consider or prepare you before joining the high school marching band next year:

1.) First off, the marching band is an after-school club. All the work required to make it successful is dependent on the members and parents volunteering their time. Not only that, the expenses rely on the members and parents to cover as well, either by out-of-pocket and/or fundraising.

For us, we had to pay $550 to cover the competition fees, transportation, required show t-shirt, band warm-up uniform, band show uniform, gloves, and shoes. This fee is divided into a four-month installment to lessen the burn on the wallet.

Everything mentioned above is to own, except the show uniform, which went back to the school after the season was over. The show band uniform never left the school except during competition. The fabric was thick, which was pretty hot to wear in the August and September months.

Each uniform was customized to conform to each individual student, length, size, etc, and labeled to avoid confusion, especially during transportation to events. The kids did not travel with their show uniforms on already.

2.) In addition to, we were required to pay or earn an extra $150 by out-of-pocket and/or thru fundraising, payable and due in full by the end of the marching band season.

Luckily, we were able to raise the $150 thru fundraising. I really didn’t want to pay an extra $150 after just paying $550. The way the fundraising worked, for us at least, was that we sell items online or by catalog and a percentage of the total sale is applied towards the $150 owed.

Our family was very supportive and we were able to sell a total of $600+ on our first fundraiser, which covered the $150 with some overage. That is all the fundraising we did. I don’t really like to sell and/or solicit; but, it was a bit hard on the pocket just right after the $550 expense.

Remember, this is the beginning of the school year when there are other expenses like school supplies (think $120 Graphic Calculator), clothes, school pictures, yearbooks (think $77), etc. The expenses just doubles with each kid in addition to the first.

Whatever overages after $150 will be used towards future expenses, like Spring Trip to Florida. Or it can be carried over for next year’s band expenses.

3.) Another way to earn money towards the required $150 was by volunteering time at the concession stand during football home games. The going rate was 1 hour of volunteer time equals $1.

I am not sure if other parents had as many questions as I did at the startup of this marching band, but once I found out that my husband and I were not going to earn $150 by volunteering alone, I gave the volunteering opportunity for others to take advantage of and focused our efforts on the fundraising instead.

I did, however, still volunteered at the concession twice just to experience it. It was a good experience. I got the chance to meet other parents who were in the same boat as us. Plus, our Band PTA was on top of things. We had Chick-fil-A, Domino’s Pizza, Tropical Smoothie Cafe, and Kettle Corn as part of our concession food. Needless to say, the food concession was very busy.  We didn’t have cash registers, so we had to calculate each sale total in our heads.

4.) We had to furnish our own instruments, either by renting or buying. I believe the school has some instruments available to borrow, but not enough for every member, especially since we were a big group. Fortunately, we rented a student grade from previous years and now own it.

Since practice is under the sun almost all day and will likely damage the instrument, a professional grade is not recommended for marching band, unless of course, you can afford to. We can’t and so we use the student grade for marching band. Good grade instrument is not cheap! Nor is instrument repair!

Repair is another expense I didn’t take into consideration. I have taken my daughter’s instrument for repair twice since the start of marching band and paid $70 out of pocket for repair just for those two times.

5.) Since our child does not drive yet, pick up and drop off was essential whenever there’s rehearsal. Some rehearsals are an all-day event. Some rehearsals went on every day of the week.

In August and September, my ac was on full blast and it added a lot of gas expense for us just driving to and from school. Our school was 20 minutes away, one way. I honestly did not factor this expense in, but it is worth mentioning because it got to be a big expense for us.

6.) Band practice started in August, and there was nearly a band practice every day. It was hard to do a long vacation and we planned our day around the rehearsals.

If the weather was good, the practice was done outside. Water and sunscreen was my child’s best friend that month. It was too hot to wear pants so the “band tan line” was prevalent, a shorts tan line and a socks/shoe tan line.

We also had to purchase a cooler to store her food and water.

My kid also came home sweaty and tired. It took a lot; but, I will say, it helped the kids get in shape, with all the warm-up running and marching they had to do. The kids had to run around the school prior to the start of rehearsal, every time, indoors or outdoors.  It helped build stamina.

7.) Once the school started, marching band practice started after school. Let me tell you, my kid was tired from sleeping late doing homework or studying for a test, then waking up at 5 am to ride the bus to school at 6 am. After being at school all day, the kids had to dedicate 4 more hours to marching band right after.

It got a little hard at times when there’s an exam or a more tedious homework due the next day when you hardly had time to study the night before because you get home past 8 pm. The schedule is demanding! I am not going to sugar coat that part! They have band practice 3-5 times a week, depending if there’s a football game and/or a Saturday competition.

8.) Every other Friday night, the marching band performs at their high school home football game. Every time they do, my kid didn’t enter our front door until pass 10 pm, sometimes even later. That’s after leaving for the school bus at 6 am.

Right after school, band practice begins. They are fed dinner at school by generous donors and volunteers. Thank goodness for our great band PTA. (By the way, the band has it’s own PTA, separate from the school’s PTA.)

9.) When the competitions started, it went on every Saturday, regardless if there was a game the night before or not. Competition can be local or it can be out of the city. The ones that take place farther out are an all-day event. They leave Saturday morning and not come back until early Sunday morning the next day. The kids just sleep on the bus on the way back.

They ride a charter bus, thankfully, covered by the $550 and the $150 paid by each marching band member. One of the places they traveled to was Salem, Virginia, which is approximately 4 1/2 hours away from us.

Parent volunteers are also needed for each trip, some expenses may or may not be covered.  I know for the marching band spring trip, each parent that wanted to go and volunteer had to pay for the expense out-of-pocket.

10.) Because it is our first experience with marching band, we were on full support. We watched every football game and competition.  Watching every performance meant another expense we didn’t account for. Every football game is $3-5/person and every competition is $10-$15/person, plus food expenses at the game/competition.

We even booked a night stay when we attended the JMU Parade of Champions event.  However, we couldn’t afford to do another overnight stay for the Salem trip.  This was the one event we didn’t see our kid performed.

The need to support added to a big expense for us; but, we were willing for our child.  It was also pretty cool to see how other marching bands present their concept and performance. Each one so unique from the rest.

By the way, bleachers are not very comfortable. Seasoned band parents brought their own bleacher cushion. We did not but now know better.

11.) The set of songs they learn to play from the start will be the same songs they perform at each and every performance or competition. We saw how much they improved over time. I’m proud to say that we were a pretty decent marching band and have won our fair share of trophies this year. The work and dedication did pay off.

12.) Lastly, marching band ends in November, so there’s light at the end of the tunnel for school work and a social life, eventually.

Final words

So there you have it. Is marching band for you? Perhaps. We dove in head first, asked a lot of questions, stayed flexible, and now nearing the end of the school year, we are happy to say we have made it. It was a lot of work; but, it was an enjoyable type of hard work. Great experience overall; but, by far, the most expensive school expense, and the most trying school after-school program, we had to shoulder to date.

Until next time.


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