Living the Band Life

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Benton High School Band Teacher Evan McCormick conducts class. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

The successes and struggles of joining the high school band

Music education opens doors that help children pass from school into the world around them. A world of work, culture, and intellectual activity. 

Evan McCormick, band director at Benton High School, said there are many good reasons to join band classes — students learn to play an instrument and become more knowledgeable about music, but that’s just a small part of what being in band can offer. 

“What we see is that the students become more self-assured,” he said. “Band students are problem solvers. They understand a sense of community and working together. They get that sense of being a part of something.”

Students who participate in music classes make better grades, score higher on exams, and are more likely to stay in school and graduate from high school.

“We believe in educating the whole child. They are learning the higher order thinking,  being able to listen to things critically. So many things transfer over to other academics,” said McCormick.

The band teacher is very passionate about his work and his students’ work. And he strongly believes that with a continued positive atmosphere, it will show in his students’ playing. 

“I’m proud of my students. I want this to be the best band, but I also want everyone to leave feeling like they had a positive experience. With the new school and my new Assistant Band Director Chris Hand, everything has been really positive so far. That positive atmosphere is what we are really trying to push for,” said McCormick. 

Students often struggle to fit in during middle school and high school years, educators say, and band provides them with a base that offers social structure, a self-esteem boost, a way to learn about working with others, and a place to have a good time.

“We teach them so much more than just how to play an instrument. It’s not about learning a 9-minute show. It’s learning to work as a team, relying on everybody, overcoming adversity. This is a sport. The only difference is we don’t have a bench,” said McCormick. “Everybody plays, everybody performs, so everybody has to be involved. If somebody is sitting out, somebody else is suffering because of that. They have to rely on their neighbors.”

Students do not have to be musical savants to get into band. McCormick said band directors can find a place for students who want to participate and help guide them to reach their full potential.

“This year, we have the largest band ever here at Benton High, 106 to be exact. We also have kids all different levels, from freshman to senior,” he said. “So if there is a kid who is struggling, I can take a leader and say, ‘Hey go work with that person in the privacy of a practice room.’”

Kids who learn to play an instrument can learn a valuable lesson in discipline. They will have to set time aside to practice and rise to the challenge of learning with discipline to master playing their instrument.

“Each student spends roughly 13.5 hours a week practicing at school and roughly 45 additional minuets at home. So, each student dedicates at least 20 hours per week practicing,” he said. “That is not including the time the students participate in competitions, parades, games, and so on.”

McCormick would like to invite the public to come and see what his kids, and fellow Bossier Parish band directors, have invested so much time and energy into this season.

“The kids have put in a lot of hard work into the show. Any chance the community has to come out to a football game or even a contest, come. There are some really good programs in Bossier Parish. Parkway, Airline, and Haughton are all top notch,” he noted.