- Peer Teaching
- One of the first things I noticed when I walked in the room was that there was a student on the podium running the rehearsal. And doing a fine job of it too. Throughout the afternoon, there was an enormous emphasis on the students instructing each other. Small groups would break off to practice their parts- duos would form to work on memorization and technical specifics. It was beautiful. There were 30 students in the room. But there were also 30 teachers.
- There was a culture of discipline you could feel throughout the school. Students were uniformed and knew the rules. In the band room, students were trusted to practice on their own, and did so dutifully. High expectations were set musically and the girls worked steadily to achieve them. It should be noted that marching in a marching band is strenuous work- hard physical labor even. A 5 mile marching route can sometimes take as long as 3 1/2 hours to complete. So the girls have physical conditioning as part of band- running laps around the school and doing suicide drills. This lines up with the need to prep pre-k and kindergarten students physically before they start playing a real violin- playing strengthening games so that they build up stamina when they begin to play and practice.
- More Time, More Often
- On average, the girls get at least 2.5 hours a day, 5 days a week with an instrument in their hands. That's an astounding 450 hours per standard school year. That kind of intensive time, not only with the instrument, but in a unified community is what builds the cycle of musical excellence, individual growth, musical excellence, social growth ad infinitum.
- These young ladies perform a lot- they have 5 performances/parades this month! That also means they'll be adding a 6th day onto their weekly schedule and coming in to school on Saturdays to rehearse.
- Not just for the thrill of the music, but the joy of being together. After running through a piece, the drum line continued to play grooves and rhythms and the whole band began to dance- soon there was a spirited dance-off. Everyone began the next piece with renewed enthusiasm and vigor. The students not only voluntarily participate in this ensemble, but they spend all their spare time in the band room. They are motivated by the 'pull' of joy, belonging, and accomplishment. They are there because they want to be.
- There was a fantastic example of a culture of contribution that I got to witness while visiting. There was an alumna who had returned from Tulane to play with the trumpet section. Apparently, alumni often return to play with the band when they can, teaching and leading their section. This also plays into the generation to generation foundation built by XUP's slogan: "And the tradition continues..."
- Transformative Family Involvement
- This was one of my favorite things about visiting this program. XUP is sure to include not just the students in the culture and community of the school, but also their families. In order to nurture transformation in a child's life, it is not enough for a program to transport them to rehearsal for a few hours. Inviting whole families to participate in a child's growth and discovery is an amazingly powerful thing. At XUP there is a group of parents supporting the band- 'Band Boosters'. There is also a Dad's Club, a Mom's Club, and soon there will be a Grandparent's Club. I had a conversation with a small group of parents outside the band hall after their open house performance, and they raved about the positive effects, outside of music, playing in band was having on their daughters. It was invigorating. I love it. It should be noted that the girls affectionately referred to their band director as "Momma"- these young ladies had become sisters through music.
- Being in band at Xavier prep requires of each of its participants a deep understanding of community. Through playing, they will begin to understand themselves as a member of a whole, contributing to the community of the band. Playing in the band fosters a sense of understand the part the band plays within the community of the entire school. Playing in the band means you represent your school to the entire community of New Orleans. You are your school, for all intents and purposes- the school is a small part of a much larger community of schools, and the band is the primary delegate to the city of New Orleans. And these girls do a great job at fulfilling all of these roles.
My time at Xavier Prep was great, and helped give me some insight into the marching band culture omnipresent here in New Orleans. I really enjoyed getting to know the director, the ensemble, and the school as a whole. I'm excited to see them march in a parade one day- I'll cheer loud as they march by.
I am a Proud Prepper wannabe.
Questions of the day:
What are the values/challenges inherent when playing with an ensemble within a pre-established community (a school, a church, a camp)?
What do you gain from beginning to play in an ensemble when you're 6 that is different from what you gain beginning to play at 11? at 14?