education Music Uncategorized

Learning is taking place.

I’m sure by now, you’ve heard all about the Annandale High School Marching Atoms kerfuffle. In case you haven’t, you can get up to speed with the original article on their school newspaper or their Facebook event page here.

The crux of the whole deal is that the football coach shook the podium of the drum major and had other coaches, players, and fans/parents yelling at the band to get off the field in the middle of their halftime show. The disrespectful behavior from this very visible school leader and teacher, not to mention physical and verbal harassment, is completely unacceptable. There are many other facts about this story, but that’s the real clincher that pushed this from an interscholastic squabble to a social media shitstorm.

Musicians, especially band geeks (yes, I’m one!), are passionate about music, teamwork, the human spirit, and underdogs! You want high school marching bands on your side! This is a unique group of people who willingly spend vast amounts of time, energy, and their own money to be in marching bands that go play for football teams and entertain audiences no matter if the team is winning or losing! They are cheerleaders! They are event makers! They are spirit builders! Yes, there are lots of exclamation points because that’s just how band is! Yeah, band!

This event touched a nerve with me, so I penned the following letter to the school principal and copied it to the band director.

Dear Principal Randazzo,

Congratulations on the outstanding accomplishments of your band program under the direction of Mr. Hilkert. It is no small feat to reach that outstanding level of skill and cooperation without a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. The Herculean effort it requires to teach, train, fund raise, rehearse, plan, and travel with a marching band is commendable. Kudos to Mr. Hilkert.

As a music professional (Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees,) and now as a band booster with a child in a high school marching band, I’m flabbergasted at the behavior of your football coach towards the band, collectively and personally. Under what circumstance is it acceptable to shake a podium with a student on it? Or yelling at the students to leave the field?

I feel for the coach and his frustration at having a terrible season. I get it. I live in Tampa and the Buccaneers just won their first game of the whole season this past Monday. It’s painful to be attached to a losing team. Our high school team won 3 games this year, and took a beating most of the time. It wasn’t pretty, but we cheered and played the fight song. I imagine your coach is feeling pretty frustrated. In spite of that, learning is taking place. All the time. Everyone present at your Senior Night learned the ugly truth about your coach. The students saw it, and learned from it.

It’s your turn to teach your school, the community, and far beyond, thanks to the internet. Learning is taking place. The kids and their parents are watching. If you don’t stand up for the band and outwardly acknowledge their contribution to the whole football game experience, you are giving your stamp of approval to that coach and bullies everywhere that it’s okay to make others feel “less than.”

I wish you all the best as you take this opportunity to lead by example.


Ann Adair (who found validation and self worth while participating in high school band)

High school marching band memories!
High school marching band memories!


This snapshot was a pleasant, although character-building, memory of marching in a community parade. It was hot (South Florida!) and long. Parades always seemed very long with lots of starting and stopping, and repeating the same music over and over, especially at Christmas. Potholes are dangerous, along with occasional horse poop that might have been missed.

One unpleasant memory stands out for me, though, and it happened at a football game. It was my sophomore year, first year in marching band, and we were marching out of the stadium after the game. I don’t remember the score or who won, but it was crowded and a bit rowdy. Out of nowhere, I was hit in the side of my head with an egg. It hurt. It was humiliating. I had raw egg in my hair, on my face, on my uniform, and I stood at attention and concentrated on marching out of there as if nothing happened. The tears began to build, and I probably silently cried in the dark on the bus on the way back to the school. I don’t remember. I do remember a band chaperone helping me get cleaned up. I think I was in shock.

I’m trying to imagine what was going through the mind of the drum major from Annandale’s band on Senior Night as he’s conducting in the middle of the halftime show to have his own team’s coach yelling at them to stop and get off the field, then shaking the podium while he was on it. He’s a kid. A student leader doing the best he can with an undisputed prize-winning band following the direction of his band director. Why didn’t the coach talk to the band director? What was he thinking? That moment of the podium shaking is probably burned into the soul of that kid. Good job, coach. Learning is taking place. Learning about how even trusted coaches, leaders, and teachers can lose control. Those people who should be building up young people and are paid to do that can turn on a dime and lash out. Good job, coach. Thanks for teaching how it’s okay to push around students at your own school, in front of their peers and parents, on an important night in the life of a high school student. Senior Night is a time to celebrate your accomplishments with your friends, your family, your classmates, and your teachers/coaches/administration. Learning is taking place.

A friend posted a quotation from Lily Tomlin today that emboldened me about this story.

“I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that, then I realized I was somebody.”

I was that high school band student thirty years ago. Now, I’m a band booster with a daughter in high school marching band. I’m one of the parents that will be there to pick up the pieces when that trusted adult has shaken the podium or anonymous kid has thrown an egg at a student.

After all this, what I know is that marching bands march. They march through rain, heat, snow, sunshine, horse crap, potholes, muddy football fields, hot asphault, dirt roads, and will march right over jerks who might shake their foundations without blinking an eye.

March on, Annandale Marching Atoms!