Do you smell that? ...*inhales deeply*...that smell of cork grease mixed with just a little bit of panic? That’s right! Once again we’ve come into BAND SEASON here in the Snohomish County and Bigfoot Music is ready to meet the back-to-school tidal waves with proverbial surfboard in hand and beer hat on head!
With the band rental rush just coming into full swing here at the shop, experience and wisdom tell us that being prepared in advance for the back-to-school-crazy can save you (and incidentally, us!) a whole of lot, “Oh crap, where’s my [shopping list/paperwork/soldering iron/invoice/pants/etc] panicking that tends to rear up more often this time of year. So whether you’re a long-time veteran band-parent or a first-timer who is feeling a little “which-way-is-up” about the whole band rental process, your friendly neighborhood Sasquatches are here to help make your school band prep process as smooth as possible…
You see, customer service is a lot like sandblasting...
My Kid Wants to Be in Band! What Instrument Should We Get??
We usually see two kinds of approaches for equipping beginning band students: students who are assigned an instrument before the beginning of the year by their teacher/band director/facilitator or students who are asked to choose which instrument they want to play by the teacher/facilitator. In the case of assigned instruments, your student(s) will be given recommended instrument options or are sometimes told straight-up “Yes, I see the flute is strong with you…” and the decision is off you and your 6th grader’s shoulders. Phew!
On the other hand, when given the choice of any instrument your student might like, a lot of parents ask us where they should even start. If you aren’t sure what horn or drum or stringed thing your student might like/need, it’s a good idea to ask their teacher’s opinion first. If the teacher then gives you a shrug and a “uh-UH-nuh…”, you can also feel free to stop into the shop and ask one of us what your student might like and benefit from. Just don’t ask me because my personal bias is that everyone should be a drummer all the time. YEAH! PERCUSSION!
Which brings me to the next thing…
Should I Buy or Should I Rent?
(if you read the above subtitle with the Clash guitar riff at the end, it’s funnier)
Ah, the age old question… When it comes to the choice of buying or renting your student’s first instrument, there are a few things to consider:
- “How long of a band commitment is the student signed up for?”
- “How can I best leverage my money?”
And probably the biggest factor of all:
- “How interested in band/this particular instrument are they, anyway?”
Now, I’m not the parent of a middle schooler, but I was a middle-schooler myself once (GO TENTH STREET!) and my parents were at one point burdened – I mean, gifted – with the prospect of two Jr High cherubs in the band program. And what I’ve come to recognize in most 11-15 year olds is their adorable way of constantly changing their minds.
Fact is, unless you’re in a particular school band situation in which you're looking at an extensive (say, a 2 to 3 year) band commitment, buying the shiny, new, fresh-out-of-the box, couple thousand dollar alto saxophone on your 6th grader’s first musical go-'round may not be the best way to leverage your financial and educational investment. Especially when, just two weeks into band class, said 6th grader suddenly decides saxophones are lame and she wants to play the trumpet. Or better yet, these bad boys:
That’s not to discourage purchasing a new or used instrument if you have the funds (and the certainty) to back you up! Trust us when we say that cracking out your brand new trombone for the first time is one of life’s most satisfying experiences.
"Don't take OUR word for it! Just ask sci-fi heart-throb Commander Riker..."
Instrument? Check! Everything else? Funny you should mention that…
Yeah, the shopping doesn’t usually stop at the instrument itself (as some parents unfortunately come to find out later than sooner). Lucky for you, Bigfoot Music is a one-stop shop for everything you could possibly need to outfit your band student right (save the fancy schmancy uniforms for you marchin’ guys). We’ve got everything from lyres to reeds to swabs to sticks to lubricants and greases in enough varieties to represent almost all four manifestations of physical matter!
There's nothing quite like a little plasma to grease up that tuning slide!
In addition to accessories, books, and swag, we also service instruments year-round.* For more details on the sorts of services and repair we provide for your student’s instruments, contact us directly and we’ll give you the 411 as rates and conditions are sometimes subject to change.
And Finally, a Personal Word of Encouragement from a Former Band Kid…
If I am grateful for one thing (not that there is only one thing I’m grateful for), it is for the fact that the grown-ups in my life made music and the opportunities to learn and play music as available to me as they could throughout my childhood/adolescence. They didn't pressure me to play and learn music, mind you: they just made that part of life highly accessible to me. And I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that I have benefited in many numerous ways from musical education, both formal and informal – benefits I may not have ever received from other things.
It’s true that, especially at the beginning of the “I-want-to-be-in-band-process”, all that paperwork and the cost of instruments and supplies and sometimes uniforms and trips and the busy schedule and the extra homework, musical education can seem like a real nuisance and time-suck for students and parents alike. But! as someone who can look back on her musical education throughout school, and look forward to her continuing musical education as a real-world grown-up herself, I just really want to encourage you parents out there who are signing your kids up for the first time for band. Music is a huge gift: there's nothing quite like it in that it can benefit and enrich your child’s education and personal life more so than you (or they) might realize now. Don’t be afraid to invest in that gift for them.
I don’t just mean financially (though that can be important), but investin them with your enthusiasm. With your encouraging words. Go to their silly, squawky, creepy sounding concerts. You’ll feel so proud in spite of the cacophony! You aren’t just endorsing a replacement for drugs, video games, longboards, selfies, Pokemon Go… hell, I don’t know what’s cool anymore…someone tell me! You’re endorsing a beautiful educational tradition that will teach your kids more than just scales and some Italian phrases. It’ll teach them about some of the best parts about being human and the awesome miracle that music actually is.
…And look on the bright-side: if your kid can’t ever grow up to appreciate the beauty of symphonic wind instruments or the majesty of a brass orchestra…they can always come back to Bigfoot as teenagers needing to impress other teenagers and buy a an 8-string guitar for their new metal band in your garage.
It just goes to show, with music there's hope for a bright, successful future for everyone!