by Adam Hopper
I am very fortunate to work in a school that provides me with adequate facilities. That being said, I am longing for the perfect band room. A mighty fortress it shall be. The perfect band room will be three stories tall, with the penthouse being my office, complete with walk-in humidor, driving range, and home theater. Every day, when the bell rings, my podium shall lower from the ceiling while smoke and lasers fill the middle floor. “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns-n-Roses shall blast from speakers upon my descent, and the children will cower before my awesomeness. Upon touchdown, the children will launch into the a series of scales, long tones, and chorales. If one of the children should misbehave, or play consistently wrong notes, I will tap a button on my stand that corresponds to their seat, and they will be dropped into the basement. The basement, (or dungeon if you will), will be a dark and terrible place, where they offending child must battle the Rancor before he or she is allowed to return to the ensemble. Yes, I feel that the perfect band room would greatly help my program. On second thought, maybe that’s not the perfect band room. I mean honestly, where am I going to find a Rancor? The only place you can find one is a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. No, perhaps the perfect band room would be a little different from that all together. A true perfect band room would look like this:
It would provide enough space for students, their instruments, and their instruction. Gone would be the days of cramped quarters where too many kids are crammed into one locale. There is nothing like watching students with instruments as big as they are, trying to maneuver in a small place without the room turning into a game of band-dork-dominos. Gone would be the days of having to divide bands into multiple classes, because their are too many students to fit into the one room. Ample size for a growing band would be imperative.
I have been into one too many band rooms where the practice rooms are treated as miscellaneous storage facilities, simply because there is not enough storage space for all the equipment the band has. Students must be able to properly assemble, store, and maintain their instruments. It’s non-negotiable.
As I said above, practice rooms are for practicing, they are not a dumping ground for last year’s marching band props, uniforms, fundraising paraphernalia, or discarded instruments. They should be large enough to fit a small chamber ensemble comfortably and be somewhat soundproof. From my practice rooms, I can hear the cafeteria ladies outside on their break. As much as I and my kids love the lunch lady gossip, let’s throw some acoustical padding in there, what do you say?
Since we have our hardhats on, let’s go ahead and wire this thing top to bottom. Let’s place some high quality recording microphones at various points in the room so band directors can listen to recordings of rehearsals later. Football and basketball coaches break down film; why can’t we break down audio recordings? Furthermore, why can’t the kids go and break down audio recordings? Wouldn’t it be nice to say, “Ok kids, the audio from today’s rehearsal is in the dropbox file, everyone listen to it tonight and we are going to discuss problem points tomorrow?’ Or, wouldn’t it be nice to send recordings of rehearsals to outside consultants for their thoughts and opinions? Having the ability to create and edit quality recordings on an as needed basis would be a great part of the new perfect band room.
A COPY ROOM
I make somewhere between 10 and a Million copies a day. I hate waiting in line behind the hand out queen teacher that is riding it out until retirement. Copiers in the band room people. It’s 2014, let’s make this happen.
I’m getting awfully tired of seeing 100 pound kids trying to move 400 pound marimbas across the universe. Throw a loading dock on the side of the band room students can easily get into and out of the room with equipment safely.
Thats right………..SEATING. Your band room should be able to facilitate small concerts and performances. If the percussion ensemble wants to hold a concert, then they shouldn’t have to go through the hassle, (and believe me it is a hassle) of booking the auditorium or gym. If we want to bring a clinician in to speak to the kids, they should be able to view that clinician or speaker comfortably, and be in a position to learn. I’ve seen this set up in several schools, and every band director I’ve ever known to have it loves it.
I am a big believer in the “other room ” concept. Is the band working on a piece without any percussion parts? Go to the other room and do a percussion ensemble piece. Clarinets sound like a dying calf in a hail storm? Take them to the other room and teach them how to not sound awful. This could also double as a percussion suite, chamber ensemble rehearsal room, or various other functions.
I realize that all of this stuff costs money. And that, in most situations, the fact that the school allows you to have a rehearsal space at all is a luxury that we should all be grateful to have. However, I know a lot of band kids that spend more time in the band room than they do in their own homes. I also know a lot of band kids that would rather spend time in the band room than in their own homes. Shouldn’t we provide those students with the best facilities possible? All I am suggesting, is that instead doing the bare minimum for our music education facilities, we go the extra mile and give the students and the directors the tools to create a strong and lasting program. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go check craigslist for Rancor puppies.