Keep Marching to the Beat, Don’t let Uncertainty Defeat, By Guest Blogger Jennifer Gilbertson

Posted on: Tue, 09/24/2019 - 13:06

As the FCPS redistricting process continues in Linganore, Oakdale and Urbana area schools, many parents share concerns about the opportunities or friendships their child may lose when moving to another school. After one of our public hearings last week, I had the good fortune of meeting Ms. Jennifer Gilbertson, a “band parent” at LHS. Inspired by her perspective on building new relationships at a new school, I invited her to be a guest blogger. I am so glad that she agreed!

photo of students in band classThere’s a lot of unease and uncertainty across a variety of communities in our county right now. Talk of redistricting is unsettling and has become a distraction in some of our educational processing as we begin this school year. I am the parent of a sophomore at Linganore High School and also have a 6th and 8th grader at Windsor Knolls Middle School. I attended the Board of Ed meeting held at Linganore High School on Thursday, September 19 and wasn’t prepared for how emotional some of presentations would be. Interestingly enough, our music programs were highlighted as being pivotal programs that parents and students were concerned about. Ironically, the LHS Marching Band was practicing out in the parking lot during this meeting and continued their rhythmic practice under the glowing lights in the parking lot about an hour and half after the sun had set.

It is clear that students being a part of their chorus and band programs gives them purpose and joy, but I want to share that these programs also bring purpose and joy to parents as well. Speaking from experience with volunteering for Mrs. Jessica Gearhart at Twin Ridge Elementary, Mr. Petr Skopek at Windsor Knolls Middle School and Mr. Kevin Lloyd at Linganore High School, I can appreciate more fully how the chorus and band programs housed in these schools in FCPS have helped my 15-year-old daughter Amber, my 13-year-old son Aiden and my 11-year-old daughter April be more focused and grounded in their studies. It is also abundantly evident that other parents of children enrolled in these programs take pride in how they are helping to shape their students’ standing both in and out of their home schools as performances often take place in locations outside of school.

For parents of children already enrolled in these programs, I want to commend you for your dedication to your children, their studies and their schools. Remember that these programs are teaching us all how to deepen our appreciation for music in general and reminding us that music knows no boundaries. Should our school boundaries change, let’s remember that music can bring us together again and ground us in comforting ways. I believe the answer is not to give up on these programs but to embrace them in new ways if necessary. Chorus and band ensembles present great opportunities for children to connect with their peers and gain a broader sense of connection to the communities around them. If you have concerns about losing access to your music programs, please address them with your school principal and also consider reaching out to the FCPS Board of Ed, if you have not done so already.

For parents of children not enrolled in these programs, please know that involvement in these programs can take many forms that aren’t always obvious. Chorus programs could always use students who are willing to experiment with smaller instruments as well as their voices. Band programs are always seeking to beef up their ensemble with students who are willing to try instruments out for the best fit for their skills sets while meeting program needs. Please consider joining these programs as a way to strengthen your and your student’s connections to your present or future school communities.

Having my daughter Amber enroll in the Linganore High School Marching Band as a 9th grader last school year presented both her and me with a variety of opportunities to build a network of social connections. Being a part of a 2-week band camp that took place about 3 weeks before school officially started allowed us to make acquaintances that turned into friendships which blossomed throughout the entire school year. I was most proud to see how encouraging some of the band members in the upper classes were toward Amber, and I was thrilled to see her begin to create broader goals for herself based on some of their examples of multi-tasking. I was initially skeptical about joining the crew of Roadies who help move the multitude of band instruments and accessories around for all of their performances, but I found I was warmly greeted and continually invited to help simply by “picking things up and putting them down;” doesn’t sound too hard, right? Well, trust me, moving this equipment around and getting them all to fit like perfect puzzle pieces in a truck that goes from the school  to wherever the band needs to perform is definitely an art and a science all of its own. But the point is that we are lucky to have a variety of parents who step up by putting in some time to see that it all gets sorted out. And the payoff goes beyond being treated to a variety of inspirational band performances from talented students in our area. The payoff is in knowing that the relationships that my daughter and I are building will become key in our memories of what made her high school career an engaging and enlightening experience for us.