Strike Up The Band

I think I qualify as a “Band Nerd”.

In addition to being a nerd (see this post), I’m also a huge band geek. Did you know that taking music lessons and playing in bands can increase your IQ? A recent study showed that the longer students take lessons, the higher their IQ score becomes. Band isn’t just helpful in making smarter people, though; band has also contributed to my success outside the classroom as well. I’ve benefited from playing music since I was in elementary school until now, where I play in LMU’s Concert, Pep, and Jazz Ensembles.

What's a post without some punny humor?

Dedicated to my punny dad.

I’m very fortunate to come from a musical family. My parents aren’t career musicians, but growing up they played at church and some other functions just for fun. My dad is especially talented; even though he learned trombone as his main instrument, he can pick up just about any instrument and play it; he also enjoys arranging music for a “basement band” of friends that enjoy jazz. My mom grew up playing saxophone, and while she doesn’t play often now, I’ve gotten to inherit her old tenor sax for LMU’s Jazz Ensemble. My brother takes after my dad, playing trumpet and jazz guitar. When my whole family is together, we have some pretty interesting conversations about different types of jazz and some of the theory behind what the players are doing. I love that we all have something in common that we can talk about, even though our backgrounds in music may be different.

I began playing flute when I was in 2nd grade. We happened to have a flute sitting around the house, and I figured out that I could make a noise on it; thus began a journey that influenced me more that I ever realized. I took lessons from elementary school throughout  high school, which really allowed me to become a stronger player than if I had just participated in band. The flute studio I was with not only put on solo recitals, but group recitals at Christmas as well. Learning how to play with an ensemble taught me that I have to listen to those around me, something that has helped me immensely in life. When I started middle school, I already had a few years of experience on my instrument, while everyone else was just beginning to learn theirs. I still had to go through all the same motions during class, but in my lessons I got to work on harder material, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It wasn’t until I got to high school that I truly loved being in band.

Basically the truth-piccolos are hard to tune!

The Dobyns-Bennett High School (DBHS) Band is one of the most well-known bands in the nation for concert and marching bands. During my four years in band, I got to travel so many different places for competitions and parades. If you’re not a band geek, but you’ve heard the “This one time in band camp…” stories, let me tell you, most of them were probably true! Band camp was the two most grueling weeks of the whole year, but also the most productive and satisfying. Because DB Band was so large at almost 400 members, we actually had two bands: football band and competition band. I played flute in competition band and piccolo in marching band. Everyone participated in football band, and those that had the necessary marching and instrumental technique made it into competition band. The competition band got to travel to competitions around Tennessee and the United States, which I really enjoyed.

Two friends and I after a DBHS football game.

Two friends and me after a DBHS football game.

My favorite competition was the Bands of America (BOA) Grand Nationals, which is held in the Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. We went to Grand Nationals twice: my sophomore year and my senior year of high school. There are no words to describe the adrenaline rush that I got when I marched out onto the Colts’ field to compete against ninety other bands. Lucas Oil Stadium is absolutely huge, and the sheer vastness was awe-inspiring. Everything about the experience made everyone want to perform to their absolute best. We competed against the most elite bands in the nation, and both times made the semifinals cut and placed Top Twenty in the semifinals. While I was disappointed not to make finals, I was proud that my band and I had left everything out on the field and I knew that we had no regrets about our performances. Band taught me about the value of hard work and the importance of working as a team.

I still miss my high school bandmates and the experiences we shared throughout our time together every so often; fortunately, I have a lot of pictures and videos to go back and relive those moments. I also get to participate in LMU’s music ensembles, which is gratifying. I found out about LMU’s music programs after my acceptance, and when I came for Railsplitter for a Day (a wonderful experience!) I auditioned in front of the concert band and pep band directors. After a few scales and a prepared etude, they offered me a spot in both bands and a scholarship. I began at LMU in Fall 2011, but rehearsals didn’t start for a few weeks because renovations to the band room were being completed. Once we finally were able to come together to play, I realized that this wasn’t quite what I was used to; in the DB wind ensemble, we had around 70 people, which were just the best players from each section. The whole LMU band was under 30 musicians-a very different sound! Even though band was different from what I was used to, I quickly grew close to my fellow musicians, especially during basketball games.

We have a lot of fun at men's and women's basketball games!

We have a lot of fun at men’s and women’s basketball games!

My sophomore year brought a new concert band director, who took the ensemble to a whole new level. Now, we’re over 50 strong, with a balanced sound, and we can play more challenging music. For me, the challenging music is when band finally is fun because so many intricate pieces have to come together perfectly for the piece to succeed. I’ve gotten to take some Applied Woodwind classes, which is a fancy name for lessons. I’ve taken jazz flute and tenor sax, which has opened up a whole new realm of music for me to experiment with and enjoy. This semester I’ve finally been able to take part in jazz ensemble, where about twenty of us get together and have fun playing. Jazz band is much more relaxed than concert band due to the nature of the music; everyone gets a chance to improvise and play more freely than normal.

For me, music is a respite, a way to stretch my right brain. I spend so much time during the week working my left brain with all these science classes (that I love!) that I get tired; LMU’s music ensembles give me a place to forget about the biochemistry of alcohol metabolism and focus on making music with my friends. Jazz has taught me that it’s okay to have a plan, but it’s also good to have flexibility to work outside your plan. Performing music is incredibly relaxing and soothing, especially classical music. Without band, I would not be the person and the leader I am today. Participating in band goes way beyond just playing music; band has taught me to be a good leader, team player, and performer, which I value so highly. While I can’t go back and be in the DB Band again, I can make the most of my time in LMU’s ensembles until I graduate.

Do you play any instruments? Let me know in the comments! If you have any questions about being in LMU’s music ensembles, visit their website or email me!


Posted on January 28, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Nice job on the blog Julie…hope you keep doing it…proud of you.

  2. Spectacular post! I found myself cheering you on, all the way from New Hampshire. Your story is exactly the sort of thing I try to impress upon parents – participating in high-end musical pursuits makes your life better in countless ways. And, in any musical ensemble (especially in marching band!), the whole team plays for the whole time – no one sits on the bench. There’s no better way to learn how to be a responsible team member. Congrats on all of your experiences!

    • Thank you so much! Even though I’m a science major, band has had such an impact on my college career. My right brain doesn’t get exercised nearly enough!

  3. Hey it’s great that you feel this way about music. Music is one of the best things humans have created. I spent all of teenage school years in various concert bands. The one time at band camp stories. Our band camps were nothing like those depicted in American Pie.

    They were brilliant though, like you say they are utterly gruelling and strenuous but the most rewarding way to spend your holidays.

    I have just started a blog devoted to wind bands and their music and hope to make it a central hub of information.

    I’d be interested to hear your opinion, I’ve posted a couple of pieces by Philip Sparke and Johan de Meij so far and whilst I’ve played in wind bands for years I don’t know enough music for wind band so I’m keen to hear your story and the music you’ve played and enjoyed. I want to connect with as many people and bands as possible and spread the word about wind band music!

    Please check out my blog and let me know what you think!

    Love your blog, good luck with your studies and your music 🙂

    • Thanks for checking out my blog! I added you to my reading list. Band camp was one of those special experiences that non-band people don’t really understand. One of my favorite modern composers is John Mackey; he has some crazy awesome pieces for all ability levels! Check out

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