Friday, May 9, 2014

A Word About Tradition

Well, we have made it through two parades so far this Tulip Time, each bringing its own challenges - from wind and somewhat cool to blistering heat and humidity - so here's hoping that the Saturday parade tomorrow is as cool and wonderful as they are predicting!

I'm sure by now you've either heard about or seen that for the first time in many years the band is not doing the "Zeeland Corner" for the spring parades.  This has been a tradition carried on for literally decades, dating back well before my tenure in ZPS; as near as I can tell, it may have begun as long as 60 years ago when Lee Brower first became the director.  (For those of you unfamiliar with the term, the "Zeeland Corner" is a nearly-patented method of turning a marching band in square, straight lines and avoiding alignment issues with the typical "gate turn," in which everyone just follows a curvilinear path around the corner.)

I wanted to take some time, as I did with the bands, and let you know how and why I came to this decision.  Most importantly, I want everyone to understand that I did not take this decision lightly.

Over the years the bands have changed, grown, and are otherwise different, and along with those changes have come others: the AP curriculum, dozens of athletic offerings, and other demands on students' time both during and after school.  In short, there are very few days in the spring in which every band member is in class and/or at a performance for one reason or another.  This makes it difficult to be consistent not only with teaching, but also with precisely where everyone will be placed in the parade lineup.

I also like to consider the phrase "getting the most bang for your buck."  This particular move takes some serious time to teach.  We can easily spend 30-40 minutes out of a 60- minute class period demonstrating, attempting, and finally (hopefully) mastering the move.  Until the next day, when the six kids who were absent the day before need to be put in the block, there are five other kids absent, this kid had a spot yesterday and now he doesn't, and this kid was a "two" yesterday and now she has to be a "one."  

I look back fondly on the days when my high school band director would actually write out on paper where each of us would be marching in the block; I tried that for a few years before giving up all hope!  As an example, yesterday was the OK Conference track meet in Mona Shores.  Due to the start time of the meet, there was no possibility of the track team members making it to both events, so I gave them up and had them go run Track.  I did this willingly, understanding that in the scope of life the Kinderparade really just isn't the same as running in the Conference meet.  There are also AP tests this week.  And Tennis, Baseball, Softball, etc.  (Though not everyone is automatically excused for their athletic events, it poses a problem of logistics as I plan nonetheless.)

In short, I decided to put my expectations of how well the tradition needed be upheld (the quality of the end product) against the idea of how many different students would be missing each parade and the amount of instructional time it takes to make it happen (the "bang for the buck" idea), and decided that maybe this was the year it had to end.  

The kids don't miss it, really.  It's fun, it's cool-looking, and it's different than anyone else, but it's kind of a pain to do.  Tulip Time really doesn't like it, because it does hold things up as we turn.  And I can easily live without it, as I have laid out in the above paragraphs.

Or at least I thought it would be easy.  Until I turned the corner Wednesday for the first time in 22 years and knew that things just weren't the same and that six decades of tradition were set aside.

Thanks for reading.  I ask you to share this post with friends/alumni if they ask (Memorial Day is coming up, and I know there will be comments), and I hope you've enjoyed watching your kids the last couple of days.  It's a great group, and they look and sound terrific.  If we could only figure out what to do to make those corners look better...

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