Monday, April 10, 2006

Band Trip



I just got back from chaperoning a five-day band trip to Florida with over 100 members of the school’s band, orchestra, chorus, and flag squad. We took three buses and stayed three nights at the All-Star Music Resort in Disneyworld. The competitions were part of the Festival Disney program Disney runs for music programs from across the country.

I’ve talked about the travails of being a band parent before. As I see it, a chaperone’s duties are to make sure nobody gets lost, drunk, or pregnant. That makes it sound a lot simpler than it is. Mostly it involves a lot of roll-calling. Fortunately, my wife, who was also a chaperone, is a professional teacher and has either had many of these kids as students or knows them from two years of band-parenting. That made roll call pretty easy. I put myself in charge of keeping the DVD player on the bus running until everyone had fallen asleep.

The bus ride to Orlando was billed as being sixteen hours. Having done that trip many times, I knew that time could only be met by fraternity boys with lead feet and strong bladders. Still, we made good time and it wasn’t our bus that had the AC conk out on the Georgia-Florida border. On the way back our bus threw a belt just north of Richmond and we had to crowd everybody on the remaining buses for the final leg. Still, the trip had to be considered a success.

The key to keeping teenagers out of trouble is to keep them busy. In addition to two full days of competitions, they spent evenings at EPCOT, Downtown Disney, and the Disney-MGM theme park. The final day was 8 hours of the Magic Kingdom before rolling them hot, sweaty, and tired back on the bus for the overnight ride home.

During the trip, wake-up was at 7 am and lights out was usually between 11 and midnight. Rotating shifts of parents wandered the halls at night to keep the partying down to dull roar and inside their individual rooms. We found out too late that some of rooms had interconnecting doors that kept the inter-room traffic going.

The hardest part is corralling the hormonally charged instincts of kids that age. On our bus we had two couples that need the firehoses turned on them a couple of times. Keeping boys and girls in TrueTeenLove® apart with anything less that a crowbar can be tough. Tricks of the trade include rooming guys and girls on separate floors, enforcing open door policies during freetime (which is kept to a minimum), and making sure all groups consist of three or more.

The same sex couples provide a greater challenge. The irony is that the level of physical contact that draws concern -- hand-holding, hair-stroking, deep, longing looks and the like -- is what we usually hope to keep the straight couples down to. One female couple in a long-term relationship did manage to pull off a room-swap on an unsuspecting room chaperone and spent at least one night together. At least that won’t result in a shot-gun wedding a few months from now like band trips back in my day tended to.

Overall, the kids I was in charge of were extremely well behaved. It makes me wonder if I’m a better chaperone than the clueless administrator’s we were constantly conning back in my Model United Nations days or if I am now the dupe. But they all made it home alive and sober, so I think I did my job.

16 comments:

Josh said...

... and making sure all groups consist of three or more.

Hubba hubba!

jf

trusty getto said...

Ditto what Josh said ;) Tee, hee.

Sounds like quite the trip. So what is the best instrument to introduce to my girlies to ensure future spots on future band trips, then?

used*to*be*me* said...

Bravo on arriving save and sober!

And I wanna know the same as TG for my girls?

yellojkt said...

Clarinet is kind of the stereotypical girl marching band instrument. I made my kid take up sax because that's the only band instrument you can play rock with.

The percussionists usually know how to party. I don't know whether that is good or bad.

Impetua said...

I dunno, my sig. o. was a french horn player in the band way back in the day. She could party pretty hearty too...

French horn is one of those instruments they have a hard time finding kids to play, everybody wants trumpet, flute, violin and clarinet, so I'd suggest an instrument off the beaten path, especially if they have any musical talent whatsoever. It could mean a scholarship if they take to it well enough...

Harmonica Man said...

...and then one time at band camp?

Like impetua said, my son took up the baritone, which was great for me (expense-wise) because the school had two of them they couldn't give away. He did switch to sax last year though and went on a wonderful trip playing in Wash DC on the 4th of July!

Unfortunately I couldn't get the time off to chaperone - but I woulda if I coulda!

Suburban Turmoil said...

God, that is so weird thinking of chaperoning same sex couples... It seems almost impossible. Glad you all made it back in one piece!

Mooselet said...

My son's school had them audition for different instruments, and then if they showed an aptitude were offered a place in the band on a certain instrument. So I didn't get a say in the process. He ended up with trumpet, which is okay as there are few pieces for him to loose.

The eldest played flute and keyboards, but has given both up in favour of dance.

You must be a decent chaperone if they got away with so little. We used to get away with sooooo much on our drill team trips it makes me scared to send my teen on any.

yellojkt said...

That's my fear. I don't know what they did get away with that I don't know about. We did foil one room that set there alarm for 3 am to sneak out, but saw the chaperone in the hall and ditched the plan.

Claude said...

Shoot...I can do Tampa in sixteen hours. Well, Clearwater, anyway.

It may sound kind of dumb, but I think the key is really to let some of the smaller transgressions happen, but make them aware of your knowledge. For instance: some kids are just naturally going to stay up later; great. Hang out with them. This way they're "breaking the rules" but they're still supervised. And you come off no worse than being the Socially Inept Guy who thinks he can hang with the kids. This will go two ways: either they'll decide that your presence is no fun at all and go to bed in a more timely fashion, or you can have No Sympathy Whatsoever when they have to get up at 7:00. (Of course, you'll have to be looking Fresh As A Daisy when you come bounding up with a bright & cheerful "GOOD MORNING, KIDDIES!")

yellojkt said...

We did find one beer bottle top as we cleaned the bus, so some drinking must have happened. If it was in the room and nobody else was bothered, it falls into "tree falling in the woods" territory as far as I'm concerned.

We made it in 17 hours going down which included two meal stops. The return trip took 18 hours in part because of the bus breakdown. Not bad time, but not the 16 hours anticipated. Last year they thought we could go from Boston to Liberty Park in NJ in 2.5 hours. That was dreaming.

Bob said...

As far as what instrument to choose, music instructors usually take a quick look at the kids' mouths to determine which instrument would be best. Lip size, teeth formation, possibility of braces in the future -- all these things have an impact. My band director had me pegged as a sax player right from the get-go.

As mentioned earlier, some of the more oddball instruments provide an easier pathway to District Band honors and the like. We used to have a very pedestrian bassoon player, but there were so few of those that he was ALWAYS selected for districts. Oboe, english horn, bass clarinet, baritone horn are others in that category. (Some don't get to be in marching band, though -- particularly the double-reed instruments like bassoon, oboe or english horn. Those are also out if you want to be in stage or jazz bands.)

Sax is a nice versatile instrument -- welcome everywhere. (Well, some orchestras exclude them, but most high school orchestras will take a sax or two just to fill out the sound. Alto saxes usually double the french horn parts, and tenors double the trombone parts.)

yellojkt said...

Great comments, Bob. I still can't keep the saxes straight. My son plays alto in the marching and concert band and plays baritone in the jazz band.

Big Ben said...

Heh, this is quite timely, considering I leave for a 3 day choir tour of Chicago next Friday. The only difference is I go to an all male, fiercely Roman Catholic, Jesuit high school. In other words, BRING ON THE PARTY, BABY!

yellojkt said...

All male Catholic schools party the hardest. Good luck.

Melvyn said...

Pretty effective data, thanks for the article.
custom packaging boxes | quinceanera photography in miami | kidney stones