When it comes to "being the best", there's a fine line when it comes to dedication, commitment, and hard work.
My son decided to join his school's band and we discovered the major sacrifices of being a part of this particular band. Although any student could join the band, it was mandatory (warning sign #1) to attend several summer camps before school. The director didn't accept excuses (warning sign # 2).
It occurred to me that a version of mind controlling techniques were possibly being used to control the students and parents. Here are a few examples:
1. "Family comes Second Control Technique"
One student lost his grandmother. The funeral was scheduled the same day as a competition. The parents, and child, had difficulty deciding which one was more important. I also witnessed this when it came to family reunions, graduations, and weddings. One family contacted the band director before they made wedding plans for their older daughter. The whole wedding day revolved around the band schedule.
2. "Do as I Say, not as I do Control Technique"
During the summer, practices were usually 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Although it was not a written rule, students were expected to be at the school by 9:30 am. If they were not there, the director would have another student call. Although the students were expected to be at the school on time, the practices ALWAYS ended late. Students who had other commitments and left at 4 p.m. risked losing their position or lost a daily grade during the school year when some of the practices were suppose to end at 6 p.m. Not only was this an inconvenience because many of the parents had jobs, the director placed himself as being more important.
I believe he used indirect ways to influence the students and parents by setting inconvenient times and unwritten rules. In my opinion, the times could have coincided with work hours. It's not unusual to schedule a 2-3 day band camp (8-5pm).
3. "If You're Not with Us, You're against us Control Technique" Parents who consistently attended meetings, practices, and competitions were equally subjected to being controlled. Many parents took time off of work, provided gifts, food, and money to the program. Better band positions were given to their children.
Some may believe that this is a personal thing. However, my son was good, but he wasn't the best musician. Perhaps this action was "human nature" based on reciprocity. Unfortunately, I did find this particular situation questionable.
4. "The Divide and Conquer Control Technique" Although this is somewhat similar the other example, I was completely amazed to discover the band had "cliques" If one group excelled, the "other" group would be looked down upon. I found this to be somewhat ironic based on the "Band Geek" stereo type, which many wore as a badge of honor. (I'm not being cruel, Google "Band Geek")
5. "The Superiority and Self Entitlement Control Technique" I must admit that the band director and staff work hard and their work should be acknowledged. However, if someone provides you with a token of appreciation, they should be thanked. Gifts and services were expected. In a way, it sent a message of self entitlement and superiority.
LESSONS FROM MY OBSERVATION
Crucial decision making techniques were needed to circumvent being a part of a "cult" atmosphere.
1. Supportive parents volunteered but limited their time and involvement.
2. If the program became too time consuming, they withdrew their children from the band.
3. Parents fought and reported excessive practices (some students were at the school for 12 hours during the summer)
4. Parents assisted their children in utilizing crucial decision making skills by evaluating priorities (family, friends, other classes, required college courses, other extra curricular activities)
5. The parents emphasized the importance of humility, self respect, and independence. This lead to making better choices.
6. Communicating with other parents outside of band activities helped other parents make better decisions and identify some of the warning signs of being brain washed. Some parents regretted the whole experience because their children ended up majoring in music after graduating. Not only did this change their life, some discovered that they should have diversified their time, money, and energy. Others continued to support their child's musical talents by enrolling them in other music programs.
7. Directing a successful band, team, and organization is hard work. It takes time, dedication, discipline, punctuality, and lots of practice. The important thing to remember is understanding the importance of setting boundaries. Being a part of a group is important. However, when the group starts interfering with your beliefs, goals, and life, step back and objectively analyze the situation.
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