Well, Evan has successfully graduated and has his diploma in hand so I guess he’s well and truly out of marching band and thank heavens for that.

I’ve mentioned Evan’s participation in the marching band many times. It is the most extreme high school marching band I’ve ever encountered. It’s common for high schools in Oklahoma and Texas to have an unhealthy fixation on the football programs but in Broken Arrow, it seems that the marching band carries that distinction. They are extremely good and impressive to watch to be sure but the price that we all pay for it is questionable to me.

Back in 2005, a documentary was produced about the program and it actually made it into theaters around here. That’s an indication of how popular the band is:  a movie was made about it.  I haven’t seen it but I imagine it doesn’t cover much about what the kids have to go through or what their families have to pay.

The short answer is about 20 hours a week and about 2000 dollars. The long answer is more interesting though.

Evan started in his sophomore year and we were only told that the year previous had required all students to pony up about 900 dollars. I was shocked at that dollar amount but it kept growing. In the end, for us it was closer to $1200. They had many opportunities for the kids to do fundraisers and Evan took advantage of a few but he had to do his homework first. The weird thing is that there are fund raising opportunities for us parents too. We could sign up for this or that thing which was an actual job making minimum wage and we’d sign a form that instructed the employer to simply make the check out to the Pride.

Stadium cleanup was probably the worst. We didn’t actually have to pick up trash – we directed the kids to do it. With a handful of band members, they could do it in half an hour and we were always guaranteed a minimum of 1 hours pay. All the kids got paid too which they signed over to The Pride. It was a high responsibility position though since we were the last to leave the stadium. There was an elaborate ritual for locking all the gates, turning off the stadium lights, setting alarms, dropping documentation in the proper slot, etc. It would be midnight before we got home and if the TV crews were there it could go later as the video crews coiled up their cables. They never seemed to get in a hurry where cable-coiling was concerned. I suspect they were getting paid by the hour. I guess this is more or less a win-win situation from one perspective:  the students get to work off their debt to the Pride and the school gets its stadium cleaned up cheaply.

Mel and I also worked at the Expo center. This is a gigantic (and ancient) facility at the fairgrounds where the conventions are held. It is better known as the site of the Golden Driller statue. There is always something going on in there and there is a constant need for concessions and, of course, someone to work at the concession stands. This wasn’t bad work as it went since it was indoors but the woman in charge was the worst sort of witch who persisted in talking to us as if we were delinquents. More than once, I was tempted to tell her what I thought of her attitude. I would put her name here if I could remember it. She ruthlessly badgered her assistant (a regular employee instead of us transients). The moment she thought that the customers were getting fewer in number, she would fire us all in groups which I found a relief but which also made us waste time since we had usually blocked out an entire shift and also shorted us the money we were planning on. I got tired of that and decided that I would just find out how much we owed on Evan’s obligations and just write a check. WitchyPoo saw the last of me a long time ago except as a customer.

Other fundraisers were more typical but no less annoying. When the students spend so much time in the Pride, they have that much less time to spend with other people who they might potentially sell fund raising stuff to. I guess the carwashes were the lesser of the evils; no sales were necessary and they lasted only one day.

Late in the summers before school started, the Pride would begin to practice. They practiced for most of the day and into the evening and so the kids had to quit whatever jobs they had thus making it even harder on them and their parents to come up with the money to participate. Evan got a great tan from marching around in the sun all day every August.

The time commitment is huge. The students go to all home games, certain away games, and about five contests.  Two of these contests are out of state and involve an entire weekend.  They typically get home between 10:00 pm and midnight on the Sunday night before a school day.  Each of these competitions lasts all day Saturday and sometimes into Sunday.  Any parent attending these competitions is charged for two separate events:  the first round and for the finals although the tickets for both together are discounted. There are many that attend the entire thing which lasts from about 9:00 am until nearly midnight. The merch available to students and families is every bit as varied as the merch at any athletic event.  The stadium owners must love it since they can keep the concession stands open that entire time. I guess in terms of dollars spent per hour of entertainment it’s a good investment – if you like watching marching bands that is.  Evidently a lot of people do; the stadiums were always filled to the brim.

For all this effort, the student gets one elective credit (and grade) on their transcript.  It just doesn’t seem worth it to me.  I am obviously in the minority though; the kids love it for the most part.  They get tired of all the practice and getting yelled at by the perfectionist band directors but they all do it by their own choice.  When they won the national championship a couple of years ago, two TV stations, several fire trucks with lights flashing, and most of the town was there to greet the buses when they got home so it’s obvious that a large number of others in town enjoy it too. The stadiums were always full so the parents must feel something too – at least those groups of them that had matching T-shirts made up.

I guess I’m just griping about having to spend the money.  This coming school year they will be marching in the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day.  I’m so glad Evan will not have to be there because that will obviously add considerably to each kid’s total bill.  They’re already raising funds for that. I still think that it’s a huge investment in time and money for what they get out of it but I could say that about most sports programs too.

I don’t know.  I obviously never felt the thrill that most of the other parents did. I could never figure out what they were so excited about.  We had to drive two hours to sit on bleachers all day in the 95 degree heat in Putnam City, Oklahoma.  Yeah that was fun.

If any of the band parents ever read this (which is highly unlikely) I’ll probably get skewered.  Speaking ill of ThePride is like speaking ill of the Pope around here.

I’m just glad it’s over.