“I always think there’s a band, kid.”
Many of you will recognize that quote from the classic musical and 1962 film, “The Music Man.” In it, a con man named Harold Hill sells band instruments and uniforms to families in a small Iowa town and promises to create a boys’ band. Since Hill isn’t a musician, however, he couldn’t even teach a single note. In the end, he must face the music as the mayor and other government officials find out about his lies.
This May, I watched this show for the first time in a semi-staged production put on by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. I admit that the conclusion of the performance brought happy tears to my eyes.
In the musical, just the idea of creating music draws people closer together. Four bickering school board members become an impromptu barbershop quartet. A lisping boy gains the courage to break out of his awkward shell. And a withdrawn librarian falls in love.
The possibility of performing also gives the characters a sense of pride. At the conclusion of the show, the boys try to save the day and defend Hill by entering the town square, clad in their uniforms and with instruments in hand. Despite the cacophonous wails emerging from the instruments, the parents are filled with awe.
“The Music Man” has captured people’s hearts because community, self-confidence and pride is what music education is all about; it’s not necessarily just about the music itself.
On the other hand, unlike in the musical production, we can’t “think” our way into perfection in real life. Improvement of any skill requires consistent practice and devotion. Specifically, making music takes years of learning.
In today’s society, we may be cheating our communities by hollowing out school programs, waiting too long to begin formal instrumental education and decreasing the hours devoted to in-class instruction. In turn, school band and orchestra programs are getting smaller. Find out about this negative trend in our article, “No Band Left Behind?” and how you can help stop it.
After all, wouldn’t it be great if every band had “Seventy-Six Trombones”?
Christine Ngeo Katzman
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief