My big kid starts middle school this fall. So far I’m feeling pretty calm about this, but it’s still early. I’m doing my best to savor the one year in my life where both of my children attend the same school. It’s so nice!
Plano ISD requires all 6th graders to take choir, band or orchestra. They have this class every day. In January my son went with all the other 5th graders from four elementary schools to Renner Middle School for a Fine Arts program. They learned more about their music class options. Then the parents went to an Open House a couple of weeks later, where we learned a lot about the school and took a tour.
My son decided he wanted to be in the band, so we attended the instrument selection day a couple of weekends ago, and it was quite an experience! I played the flute and piccolo through 12th grade. I think we started in 6th. It was totally optional, we picked whatever instrument we wanted (with no guidance) and a lot of kids signed up and quit quickly. His experience will be very different.
We spent two hours at Renner. He sat down with seven instructors and got a brief lesson on how to play each instrument: french horn, trombone, tuba/euphonium, trumpet, bassoon/oboe, flute and clarinet. Each instructor took their time and did their best to show him how to play. Several of them had a great sense of humor and made us both laugh. When he wasn’t successful, they mentioned reasons why this particular instrument might not be a good fit for him, and suggested other instruments they felt he might have more success with playing. For example, the french horn instructor said he was struggling with the small size of the mouthpiece, and suggested he try the lower brass – he did and loved it! The flute instructor said his upper lips came to a point, which split the wind and would make playing the flute challenging (something she also had and worked around). She didn’t say he could not or should not play the flute, just that he would have to overcome that. No one discouraged him.
There are two band instruments that are so popular they students audition – saxophone and percussion. My son has played drums at School of Rock (in Memphis and now in Frisco) for over two years, so we did the percussion audition. I’m not sure if he’ll get a spot as he didn’t get all the rhythms right, but that’s okay because he really liked the Euphonium as well. Phew! They will let us know in 3-4 weeks.
Overall it was a great experience (thank goodness I brought him a snack as it took longer than we expected) and I’m really curious to see how he likes 6th grade band.
UPDATE: We’ve halfway through 6th grade and he *loves* band. He’s in percussion and is really enjoying it. They had their first concert in December and it was great. Really a well done program.