On the street
Playing music, rock and reggae in a band.
They might not use the line “I’m with the band” to sneak into football games, but parents of Lawrence marching band members could be considered the ultimate groupies.
“Our band parents are the best support team an organization can have,” says Mike Jones, band director at Lawrence High School. “We wouldn’t be nearly as good without them. When the parents help out, it frees up the staff to concentrate on teaching.”
Free State band director Randy Filmore is in perfect harmony with his cross-town colleague’s sentiments.
“Their tremendous fan support is so much a part of what they do for us,” Filmore says. “They take care of purchasing the scrubs we wear over our uniforms to protect the white pants from getting soiled before halftime. After the game, the parents take those and wash them. Sometimes, we have a game on Friday night and a contest on Saturday. That’s two quick turnarounds.”
Parent groups at both schools support their programs through a hectic season of summer band camp, practices, football game halftime shows and marching competitions that take them out of town and, on alternate years, out of state.
“We have a water committee and a ‘food for the road’ committee because there are three competitions this year,” says Barb Heeb, treasurer of the Free State Band Boosters. “The pit crew committee has to help move all the equipment on and off the field, and parents help do that, too. We supervise the lock-in. And this is a trip year for Free State, so several parents will travel with the band to Florida, too.”
Parents who aren’t schlepping water, food or gear, or chaperoning events and trips, contribute in the cheering sections at the all-important festivals and contests. And the louder, the better.
“There is a judging category at contests called GE (General Effect),” Jones says. “It’s basically a category taking into account how well the musical and visual elements in the show are designed, and how well they are being executed. Usually, when something is designed and executed well, the crowd will react in a positive way. When judges hear a positive reaction to a band, it sure doesn’t hurt (the ratings).”
Heeb, who made beautiful music with her then-husband-to-be, Jon Heeb, while the two were LHS band students in the early ’80s, says parent participation has increased significantly since she was in school.
“I think in everything, like sports, parents are more involved now in supporting it,” she says. “Part of that’s due to funding. They need more outside support. So, I think it’s intensified some.”
Terry Jacobsen has a history and future as an LHS band parent and club officer.
“This is my seventh year in a row,” he says. “By the time I get done with the first four of my kids, I’ll have 12 years in. Then, I’ll get a break and have six more years with the last three of my kids. The band parents’ goal is to assist the band and the directors, in whatever way we can. We don’t drive the train, we just load the coal wagon.”
Jacobsen, who with his wife, Robin, has never missed a single marching competition, says he gets back from the organization, more than he gives.
“We have met some of the most wonderful people,” he says. “They are so dedicated to the band, and the kids, and supporting what goes on there. It’s been one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
The importance of dedicated parent “groupies” is not lost on student musicians, who have plenty to do learning the music and intricate choreographies for their six-minute halftime shows.
“The parents do a lot of things,” says Rachel Heeb, Marching Firebirds drum major.
“There are countless band booster clubs that help with transportation and making sure the kids feel comfortable if they’re new to band and know their schedules. If you are a parent of a child in marching band, you have to, at least, in some way, be involved — if just by taking them to rehearsals and making sure they have everything they need.”
Katie Jacobsen, LHS sophomore and a clarinet player for the Marching Lions, chimes in.
“The moms will carry around bandages and leg warmers and whatever else kids might need,” Katie Jacobsen says. “Whenever the band needs something, they’re willing to whip out their wallets to pay for it. It would be a lot harder and different if the band parents weren’t helping.”
“I know it sounds kind of nerdy to say, but I love having my parents there to support me and everything,” she says.