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Statement of Position

A Balanced Curriculum for Band
There are a number of band programs throughout the country which have been sacrificial lambs, the Accountability, Back-to-Basics and No Child Left Behind exponents are ample testimony that bands have not achieved curricular status in the minds of many school boards and superintendents' staffs. The cause for official board actions, which have resulted in the reduction of services or the complete elimination of a band program, is generally attributable to a lack of understanding of, and appreciation for, the educational processes, which are involved in the metamorphosis, which occurs between the first exposures to a new piece of music to the final performance. The decisions-makers, therefore, have not looked upon the band as a curricular subject, but as an activity, which has enhanced the public relations image for the school system, but is expendable in times of stress.

One of the great challenges which band directors, and their administrators, have had to face when they began to be scheduled as a class during the class day, has been that of establishing and maintaining a curriculum which would meet the needs of the student, the school, and the community it serves. Because the band, particularly at the high school level, functions well in all three of these desirable requirements, its problems are somewhat unique in the public school curricular hierarchy. One would assume that when a school board and the superintendent placed band in the school schedule and provided a specialized space for the instruction to take place that they would also provide the administrative and budgetary support necessary to achieve the goals and objectives of the program. This latter condition, however, has not been a universal characteristic of school systems because in too many instances, priorities had not been established which clearly outlined for the teacher, the administrator and the public where the greatest and the least importance would be placed for all classes and activities. Too many band directors have been content to allow this condition to prevail because they thought their field of endeavor was "special" and there would be no need to communicate in terms of a band curriculum.

With the exception of a minority of systems, bands have not received complete budgetary support for either the instructional program or their PR activities. The result has been the development of the band parent support groups, which have assisted the financial support of the system's music program. This, and other aspects of the total program have resulted in some pressures, which have caused some directors and administrators to over-emphasize the PR aspect of the band, with a resulting diminution of time and effort being exerted for the curricular aspects of the program. Primary responsibility for curriculum development and the communication of the program's aims and objectives is that of the trained music educator, the band director, who cannot ever assume that the decision maker(s) to whom he/she must relate have either an empathy for, or sufficient knowledge of, a band program to make decisions without his/her input.

It is the opinion of ASBDA that the concert band in the band program is the fundamental reason for being in the curriculum at all levels. In the beginning stages, band classes should be structured as primarily instructional. They should give the students a sound program of instruction in basic techniques, music fundamentals and musical concepts. At this level, performance should be minimal and limited to demonstration programs for fellow students and parents. As the program progresses to the Middle School/Jr. High Level, the instructional program should continue to be the primary objective of class activity. As organized bands become the typical class format, more provision is made for public performance. Small ensembles, which augment instruction in basic fundamentals for woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments, are encouraged. Larger ensembles such as the marching band, and jazz bands are spin-offs from the concert band. At the high school level the problem of maintaining a balance between instruction and PR activities becomes especially acute if the curricular priorities have not been established and agreed upon by all concerned. The high school band is unique, even within the school music department, because of its unusual ability and facility to provide special services to the school and community. Band directors should always keep their program in focus and remember that the concert band is the core for their curriculum. Other performing groups such as the marching band and the jazz band are essential in providing services and as an opportunity to expose high school performers to other media of performance. They should not, however, be allowed to assume a role of more importance to that of the concert band. If this occurs the band program loses its viability as an element in the system's curricula. The band director must be responsible for establishing and maintaining musical standards and for communicating his/her curriculum to the decision-maker of his/her school system, as well as to the students, the school and community, which he/she serves.