Bands deliver more than musical knowledge

Bands deliver more than musical knowledge

Atreyo Ghosh

Math teacher Kevin Taylor led a not-so-secret double life. By day, he was an innocuous math teacher, teaching students how to simplify trigonometric expressions, but when night fell, he donned his bass and prepared his chords of vocality. Taylor became the antithesis to a teacher: the bass-playing, metal-scream-screaming member of a band.
That was last year. When the lead guitarist/songwriter moves to Turkey, it makes matters just a tad bit difficult. Taylor’s experience with being in a band, however, helps him to connect to his students.
“I’m not familiar with too many [students in bands] this year, but I had in the past,” Taylor said, “I know at least Grant Peters… he and I have been talking music ever since I had him in eighth grade.”
Taylor was able to connect with Peters because of their collective interest about music. Both the teacher and student play a musical instrument and have been in bands. For musicians who play a ‘traditional’ rock band instrument, such as electric guitar, drums, or bass, being in a rock band is an ideal situation.
Junior Chris Kalogeris, a drummer, has been in his own band, the Phags, for two years. He devotes much of his time to the drums. He is able to do so by taking four classes at RBHS and not wasting his off-time.
“[Making music] is the only thing I’m good at,” Kalogeris said. “I’d rather do that than watch TV for four hours a day.”
However, it is fairly unlikely to find students who are in garage bands. At school, the concept of band conjures a vision of the school’s instrumental music program. Students in this self-dubbed ‘Emerald Regiment’ do not only take part in a band as a class, but also before school and on Saturdays during the competition season. As a result, these budding musicians have less time to devote to their academics. Although junior Jordyn Kendall is not only in the instrumental music program, but also cheerleading and cross country, she manages the workload from her classes, which include AP United States History and AP Language and Composition.
“You have to know that both schoolwork and the commitment you have to band are important, so you have to be able to think, ‘Okay, well, I can’t put off this homework assignment because I have a game or competition this weekend,’” Kendall said. “You can’t put anything off, and if you have a scheduled appointment with a teacher, you’re just going to have to be able to go in during lunch or after school.”
Time commitments have also bogged down junior Joel Pruitt’s band, Lot 56. According to Pruitt, the band is unique in that they don’t sit in a basement and ‘dink’ around on their instruments. The band members are still industrious and musical, but their time is allocated towards work, marching band, and show choir.  They have real lives and obligations, and with school work, it can be difficult to find time to practice. However, when they do play, their varied backgrounds and styles come together to form what Pruitt hopes will be a genre to call their own.
“Our lead guitarist, who we formed the band around, he is really into classic rock and roll… he fuses it with modern progressions and modern riffs… our lead singer, Ian Meyer, has more of a folk acoustic guitar background,” Pruitt said. “I don’t even know what I have, I just kind of have a menagerie of all different sorts of genres, and our bassist (Ben Morgan) leans more towards the pop, hip hop sort of scene.”
This distinctive sound may end up propelling the band into a larger spotlight. Taylor, who has been in a band for five years, believes the distinct sound is what helps bands take off. Local fame does not make garage bands go into the mainstream, they have to have an ‘it factor,’ an attribute that nobody else locally has. That ‘it factor’, according to Taylor, is rare. His band, Eli the Iceman, will only ever be a hobby, in his opinion.
Even if Lot 56 follows the same path as Eli the Iceman, the band members have gained valuable skills. Both Taylor and assistant band director Bob Thalhuber agree the students learn how to work together as a team and, as Taylor said, build up camaraderie.
Opposed to school band, where a single director calls all the shots, a garage band can only play a song when all the members agree on it. In doing so, each band member learns how to compromise and work with a team. These abilities will not only help students grow as people, but also get jobs in the future, whether in the musical industry or outside it.
“With the way our economy’s going,” Thalhuber said, “having to work in groups and collaborate and create products and create ideas in the group setting’s going to be very important.”
This concept of incorporating band and music into a career, regardless of if it is directly or indirectly, is not a novel one.  In sixth grade, Kendall decided she wanted to be a music major in college and become a band director afterwards. Her band mate, junior Sam Brand intends to pursue a different path, but he does not know if music will be a part of it.
“I definitely want to keep playing my instrument, whether or not I actually do something musical with my life,” Brand said. “It’d be fun. I mean, I’m thinking about going into the sciences, but I don’t know, doing something with music would be fun.”
Pruitt, however, follows in the same vein as Kendall. He plans on becoming a music major and moving somewhere with plenty of opportunity for performing. Pruitt would love to end up being in a band that makes it big and making a career out of drumming.
To Pruitt, music comes naturally. Pruitt’s dad, when he was a travelling missionary, would play drums at churches they visited. When he performed, he would let a three-year-old Pruitt join him onstage to bang around on the drums. It being in Pruitt’s nature, it follows naturally that music is the best way for him to express his emotions. Drums has not only become a hobby for him, but a way of life.
“You can almost interpret emotions with music, it’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s what [the emotion] sounds like,’” Pruitt said. “It’s having that personal connection with music, like what kind of music you listen to personally, and getting to play music, getting to create something like that is almost a natural high.”
Taylor and Pruitt share that view. Taylor compares creating music to painting, as in both actions, you start with nothing and create something. There is a feeling of accomplishment, he said, to realize you created something that did not exist before you made it.
Being in a band has given students (and teachers) a form of expression, a lifelong hobby, a love of music and a close group of friends. They’ve learned to manage time and work together. To the students, there will always be a prospect of making a career out of what they love.
“Why would you go to a concert? You don’t go to sit there and critique and analyze,” Taylor said. “You’re going there to have a good time. If you’re the person providing that good time, then that’s pretty neat.”
By Atreyo Ghosh