‘Marching band isn’t important’ – or is it?

By Ashlyn Miller
Round Table reporter

Many Middletown High School students and parents enjoy the experience of a Knights’ football game. It’s part of the soundtrack of fall in Middletown — the sounds of hard hits on the field, cheers from the fans and the Marching Knights playing stand jams during the game and performing at halftime. Even though every individual in the crowd is different, there is one thing they have in common; aside from supporting the Knights, they all have to pay for admission.

This may seem like an obvious statement, but it hasn’t always been true. In previous years, parents of the MHS marching band members have upheld a tradition of walking into the stadium with the band.

“It’s always been a matter of convenience since we were already up at the school [with the band] to walk in with them, and it’s also that feeling of unity between the band and the parent volunteers,” said Beth Guyton, Ways and Means chair of the MHS Band Boosters.

By entering through the side entrance with the band, the parents were not directly asked to pay for admission. Guyton said that while some parents then went to the entry gate to pay admission, others took their seats believing that those entering with the band were already accounted for.

The issue of the side entry had never been raised before because many of those involved with the football team, including MHS varsity football head coach Kevin Lynott, were unaware of the tradition.

“I know that all games and contests have the same policy about parents. Parents must pay the parent price. As a spectator there is no specific policy to get in for free. This was the first time I had ever heard of that,” said Lynott.

Due to this, it is unclear who informed administration about the band’s policy for entry. After being notified, administration cooperated with the band to revise the entry policy for this season. An email was sent out to all band parents explaining the changes.

The email stated that those directly involved with volunteering for the game, such as the parents in charge of uniforms and those moving the pit equipment, would still receive free admission. All other parents would be required to pay the regular admission price of $5.

Band parents were cooperative with the change, understanding the importance of admission in funding the football program.

“Less than 5 percent of the funding for our football program is provided by the county, so paying at the game helps us fund the team,” said Lynott.

However, the question is if this incident is only symptom of a larger struggle between the marching band and other school organizations.

This question stems from a comment heard from an MHS student during preparations for this story, “Marching band isn’t important”.

So, is marching band important to MHS?

The admission issue is only one of the latest challenges the MHS marching band has had to face.

At football games, parent volunteers constantly have to patrol the section roped off for the band, watching for other students and adults not involved with the band trying to sit in the space. They are confronted with questions as to why the band has to have so much space.

“I know some band parents feel like they are being judged for getting reserved seats,” said Guyton.

More recently, during the marching band’s annual recruiting trip, the marching band was denied permission to perform at Middletown Elementary School. This is an opportunity the marching band has had every year in the past to perform for the Middletown-area elementary feeder schools to encourage elementary school students to participate in music education activities.

It is unclear as to the reason why the band was not allowed to perform there.

While these recent events may or may not be related, they all have the potential to have a negative effect on younger student’s future participation in music programs, specifically marching band activities.

However, it has been shown that music programs are an important and beneficial part of the educational experience. According to an elementary school study done by Dr. Christopher Johnson and Jenny Memmot in the Journal for Research in Music Education (June 2007), “Students in top-quality music programs scored 22 percent better in English and 20 percent better in mathematics than students in deficient music programs.”

Hopefully, all MHS organizations can work together to ensure open and honest communication, and recognize that music programs, including marching band, are an important part of the MHS community. The soundtrack of fall would be missing a distinct voice if those that uphold that “marching band isn’t important” prevail.