Cheering for Everyone

Band boosters use formal and informal etiquette policies to remind parents that every performer deserves respect and applause.

Parents in the Wellington (Florida) High School Wolverine Band Boosters arrive at field show competitions early to help fill up the stands. “We’re there for a purpose,” explains Amy Yeackley, booster president. “We go early to watch the other bands, many of which are from our area, and cheer them on. Many of the smaller bands don’t have as many fans cheering for them, and we want to show our support.”

This culture of support for other area bands is long-standing with the Wellington band program. “Our directors all know each other well and work hard to create an atmosphere of mutual support,” she says. “Our booster groups welcome other bands at football games, and we always cheer each other at competitions.”

Staying Positive

Showing support for other bands is also a priority with the band boosters at Vista Murrieta High School in Murrieta, California. “No matter how large or small a band program may be, all of those kids have worked just as hard and put in just as many hours as our kids have,” says Craig Lobnow, booster co-president. “Every performer on that field deserves a standing ovation for putting in the time and effort it takes to put together a field show.”

The Vista Murrieta High School Band and Guard developed a formal policy for competition and performance etiquette after a rocky start early in the band’s history. “A little over 10 years ago, a parent from a rival school called out our poor etiquette on a public message board—and that person was right,” Lobnow says. “Some of our parents acted poorly in the stands. After that incident, the director and I worked diligently with the students and the parents to create an atmosphere and a culture that are always positive.”

Vista Murrieta’s etiquette policy states, in part, “Out of respect for each band, if you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything.”

“You don’t know who is sitting in front of you, behind you, or two rows back,” Lobnow elaborates. “You also don’t know who is in the stall next to you in the bathroom or standing behind you in line for the concession stand. We emphasize this in many of our parent meetings: Only say positive things about each performance and every performer.”

Starting Early

A positive culture permeates the marching band program at Northview High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “It actually goes back to elementary school,” says director Greg Wells. “Parents begin learning what is expected at their children’s earliest performances, and that carries through all of our local schools’ music programs.”

By the time a student enters the Northview marching band program, the parents usually have several years of experience attending performances, “but we continually remind them,” Wells says. “We remind them of proper show etiquette at parent meetings at the beginning of the season, and we try to explain many of the judging criteria and competition rules ahead of time to tone down the competitiveness that parents may naturally feel.”

At Wellington High School, incoming freshmen and parents start learning about the marching band’s culture while still in middle school. “At the beginning of the football season, we invite the 8th grade students to perform with the band, playing pep songs and being part of the atmosphere,” Yeackley says. “We also invite the parents to sit with the boosters and get a taste of what performances and band are all about.”

Wearing a Banner

A marching band student represents his or her school at all times, on and off the field—and so does a parent, especially when wearing spirit wear. “It’s like wearing a banner,” Wells says. “We emphasize to the students and the parents that we take pride in our reputation, and we represent Northview wherever we go.”

Wells also emphasizes a philosophy of continual improvement with the students; this understanding then carries through to the parents. “Competition—winning awards—is not our focus,” he explains. “We focus on doing our best. Our students should leave the field thinking they have done the very best they can. If another group does better than us, we’re happy for them. We can’t control anything but ourselves.”

While many bands openly celebrate after receiving an award at a competition, the Vero Beach (Florida) High School Fighting Indians Band takes a more formal approach. “Our band has a more military style,” explains Jason Shaver, booster president. “Our students stand at attention during awards, and we celebrate after.”

The students and parents openly support other band programs, and though Vero Beach does not have a formal etiquette policy, treating all bands with respect is a strong part of the program’s culture. “Our students take their lead from our directors, who set a strong example of leadership,” Shaver says. “Our new parents learn a lot about our culture by observing the veteran parents, and our veterans are always happy to answer questions.”

When it comes to competition etiquette, it’s all about respect and enthusiasm. As Yeackley says, “We’re there to cheer for everyone.”

Photo courtesy of Kristin Fuller.

About author

Stacy N. Hackett

Stacy N. Hackett is an award-winning freelance writer and technical editor based in Southern California. She writes frequently about software, marching bands, and the pet industry. Stacy is the proud mom of a sousaphone player in the Oregon State University Marching Band, and she has experience on the field as a former bells player with the Los Alamitos (California) High School marching band.

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