Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Golden Explosion Visits Atlanta

Research has shown that, regardless of socioeconomic background, students involved in music perform better on standardized tests than students not involved in music.*
  1. For math, music instruction helps develop spatial-temporal reasoning which is important to developing critical math skills.**
  2. Overall reading and writing skills improve with music education.***
  3. Students in the arts tend to be more cooperative with teachers and peers, more self-motivated, and have a better sense of self-esteem.****
As a band mom, I can attest to the benefits my child has received from music education. I can't tell you how music has benefited him academically, but I can tell you how it has given him a purpose, a social network and leadership skills. Plus, marching band is just plain fun!

The 2011 Lincoln University homecoming parade.

Every year, the University City High School "The Golden Explosion" participates in a number of parades throughout the region. The band even takes their show on the road. This year Indiana, Jefferson City and Atlanta were on the itinerary. The band holds a car wash in the fall to help pay for the trips. 100% of every ticket a student sells goes directly to their trip expenses. Some students pay for 100% of their costs selling car wash tickets.

Band director Daniel Shavers selects a different out-of-state university to visit each year. This strategy allows students to experience band programs at a variety of schools during their four years at UCHS.

Mr. Shavers leads the band in warm up exercises.
For many students, especially freshmen, this is their first big trip away from home. And for some, their first trip out of state.

Visiting Clark Atlanta University (CAU) this year had special meaning. Not only was the Disney movie "Drum Line," filmed at Clark Atlanta, a UCHS alum starred in the movie. On top of that, two of the bass drums used in the making of the movie are part of the UCHS drum line.

To make the long drive to Atlanta, band members arrived at UCHS at 4 a.m. on Friday morning. You read that right - 4 a.m. After loading up the bus with the uniforms, instruments and luggage, most everyone went back to sleep for a few hours.

Twelve hours later and we were in downtown Atlanta, took over a pizza buffet, and headed over to the CAU football field to watch the CAU band practice its homecoming halftime show. It was a little chilly, but the students were rewarded with an invitation into the CAU band room for a little bonding. Of all the high school bands participating in the parade the following day, only UCHS had the opportunity to be present at the CAU band practice.

Watching the the college band conduct business.
It was 10:30 p.m. by the time we made it back to the hotel and curfew was 11:30 p.m. (but that doesn't mean the kiddos went to sleep). Six a.m. came early for some folks (myself included after being an overnight hall monitor), and at 7:00 a.m. we were back on the bus headed for the parade route. By parade time the temps were in the low 60s, beautiful weather for marching.

With the campuses being in close proximity, the CAU homecoming parade is held jointly with Morehouse and Spelman Colleges. The parade route winds through all three campuses in addition to the campus of Morris-Brown.

It's always a treat to march with the UCHS band. You can't help but be proud of the tremendous reaction their performance receives from the people crowded along the street to watch the parade. People are cheering, dancing and so impressed the band came down from St. Louis.

After the parade it was a visit to the infamous Varsity Drive-In for a burger and orange whip then back to CAU for the homecoming football game.

Leaders of the band L to R: Nancy Burstein, UCHS staff and former
band parent; Phil Forrester, assistant band director; Jay Burstein;
Daniel Shavers, band director.
CAU lost the game, but that's when it got exciting for the band geeks. It was now the "fifth quarter" - time for CAU to face off with the visiting team's band. We were seated next to the CAU band and the UCHS students were loving every minute. The show kept going until the visiting team finally marched out of the stadium to their waiting buses. Once again, UCHS was the only band at the game allowing the band members to absorb the college band atmosphere.

Mr. Shavers always plans a surprise activity after the game. Back on the bus we headed to Stone Mountain for dinner and a laser light and fireworks show. By the time we arrived back at the hotel it was 10:30 p.m. again - a long day for the adults, but not so much for the band. Most of them stayed up in their rooms most of the night. Let's just say it made for a really quiet ride home the next day.

Next year will be my last as a band mom. I'm already sad as I've grown to love these trips with the band. Truth be told, my first year I had my reservations about traveling with a bunch of teenagers. I'd conjured up the image of rowdy, obnoxious teenagers and me enduring rap music for the duration of the trip. Truth be told, it was quite the opposite. Imagine my surprise when they popped in the first movie and the bus started singing along to "The Lion King."

Then there was the year we went roller skating in Little Rock. The local kids were having so much fun with the band they didn't want our kids to leave. And it goes without saving, the hotel staff always go out of their way to tell us how impressed they are with the band's behavior. As the band members are told before the bus rolls away from the high school, "remember you are representing your family and your school" - and every year the band represents U. City well.

*, **, ***, ****

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