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How to Balance Marching Band, School, and a Social Life

August 30th, 2018 by Alex Howley

School has started, you've got a week under your belt, and you're back with all your friends! Everything is peachy - after (or before) school band rehearsal is hot, but manageable, and your classes were a breeze this week while everyone got to know each other and got their syllabus.

That said, things are about to get crazy. Your teachers are relentless - they'll schedule 4 tests on the same day, you'll have two essays to finish the day after a band competition, and your friends will want to go see Iron Man 15 or whatever number they're on.

Fortunately, a lot of us have been through that craziness before, and I'm going to give you some ideas on how to get your priorities straight and help you have a successful school year!

Tip #1: Accept that you can't be perfect

Of everything in this whole list, this is probably the most important thing for you to come to terms with. It may sound negative, but it is so important (and liberating) to recognize, and accept, that you can't be perfect! You won't be able to make first chair All-State, ace your upper-level AP classes, and spend all your time on weekends out with friends (not to mention, have a job and make money to afford all that).

It's okay for you to not accomplish everything all at once - you have a lifetime to reach your goals! Breathe easy knowing that no one else is perfect either, and no one will expect you to be (except, if you're not careful, you).

Tip #2: Prioritize

As Steve Jobs would say, "Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do." You will, no matter what, choose your priorities - whether you do it or life does it for you. So you need to make a list!

Video games? Daily reading? Homework? Grades? All-Region auditions? Hitting all your dots? Passing off your show music? Spending time with friends? Family dinners? Hobbies? Exercise?

Whatever it may be, start by listing the things you need, and want, to do. Anything that is important to you. Then, plain and simple, decide the things that are most important by ranking all of what you wrote down.

As you do this, I suggest you try to really consider what you want, and what's going to make you happy. Remember that everyone involved with any part of your life is going to expect you to make that your priority: band directors want you to practice more, teachers want you to study more, parents want you to spend more time with them, friends want you to hang out with them. That said, you have every right to choose the things that you care about and make those the priority - with marching band and school going on, you just won't have the time to not prioritize!

Tip #3: Organize

Ugh. This buzzword makes everyone upset. Being organized feels great, but organizing is a nightmare (for some of us more than others). That said, it doesn't have to be a comprehensive planner or a detailed calendar.

Everyone who gives you organization advice will have an opinion on how it should be done. The truth is, the best way to organize is whatever works for you. The key, though, is that you are doing something!

The human brain is not capable of remembering the sheer number of tasks that are given to you as a high schooler who is in band. You should keep track of the things you need to do, and have a quick way to jot them down throughout the day.

Here's some organization options. These all work, but you can try different things out (or combine multiple) to figure out what works for you!

Remember that more organization will usually lead to you squeezing more out of your time, but you also don't want to put too much pressure on yourself by making an impossible schedule. Be realistic, be focused, and execute - planning is so important to keeping your head above water (especially during contest season).

Tip #4: Communicate

Refer back to #1: you can't be perfect. You're going to mess up, you're going to fall behind, you're going to make mistakes. These things are entirely okay. The way to make sure you come out on top (in band, school, or the rest of life) is to communicate!

Talk to your teachers if you're running behind on an essay that's stressing you out. Don't be afraid to ask for an extension - the worst they can say is no. If you are late to turning in a paper, or you miss a rehearsal, and your grade is going to suffer, be willing to accept the consequences! Realize what you could've done to finish sooner, or to make it to rehearsal, or to at least communicate with your teachers sooner. But if you're genuinely feeling anxious or overwhelmed, tell someone. You'd be shocked how much people are willing to help you get through all of this on top!

Tip #5: Play Time

You can't just be a machine. Rehearsals will take up around 8 hours a week, and that's after a full day of school. That's not including practice time, football games, competitions, learning your music, sectionals, fundraisers, or anything else that band throws at you without warning.

You'll also have homework every day, or at least almost every day, to get done. It can be so easy to get lost in all of the things you have to do. If you find yourself struggling to keep up, to the extent that you never have time to watch Hulu or play that new video game you've been eyeing, make the time. It's important. Again, it's about priorities - you should feel comfortable prioritizing your happiness, especially when you are completely overwhelmed. If you genuinely don't have enough hours in the day to do everything AND relax, refer to #4 - tell someone! Again, you'll be surprised how much they're willing to help.

Tip #6: Practice

There are so many reasons it's worth taking time to practice and develop as a musician. For one, band will be way more fun and way more rewarding if you are in the habit of practicing every day. On top of that, you still play for a reason - playing music is relaxing, rewarding, and you love to do it!

Take the time to practice - keep that in your "to-do" rotation. Stay on top of learning your music, especially early in the year before school gets too crazy, and keep your hands moving in between rehearsals when you can. It will feel good, I promise.

Have a great year!

Do you have any other ideas? What do you do to keep up with your crazy band schedule? Let us know in the comments below! Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as well.




Alex started working here in 2015. He's a drummer, a producer, a Boston Crusaders alumnus, and a writer. These days, he makes all kinds of different music as a percussionist and an audio engineer.





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