Q&A with Band Member Jonathan Steele

Steele plays the saxophone at a school band concert

Jazz Band and Marching Band member senior Jonathan Steele discusses his four years of being in the arts organization and provides insight into what being in band entails.

Q: What are some of the different musical groups in band and what are some pros of being a part in each?

A: “Depending on what band you become a part of, it allows you to work on not only your musical skills, but also a lot of aspects of yourself. Being in Marching Band has taught me about being social, being outgoing, being energetic, getting to know people and being able to talk to people better. It’s given me an opportunity more so than clubs and other activities to be a leader and develop that part of my personality. Then also just the technical side of becoming a musician through Advanced Jazz Band and Intermediate Jazz — those are both really good groups for that. There’s always a place where you can find people that fit your specialty. I know jazz music isn’t the most popular thing, but being part of that class, shows you that the people around you are people who have similar interests and people you’re gonna get along with. It’s more than just playing your instruments together — you meet friends there as well. Playing as part of Concert Band and Wind Ensemble is another totally different experience. You learn a lot about traditional music and contemporary music, sitting inside having a single conductor to play in unison and play in tune. Some people want that kind of control and consistency that you don’t get in Jazz Band.

Q: What else would you consider an important benefit of being in band?

A: “Making friendships beyond your own grade level is big. What separates people normally at school is how old you are, what grade you’re in, what classes you’re taking,the kind of people you’ll meet and organizations you’ll become a part of. But in band, it’s not your age that separates people — it’s the instrument that you play. Those experiences create friendships that never would have existed otherwise, which is something I’m really thankful for. There’s also getting to know the leadership team because they interact with everyone, not just with their instrument groups. In being able to meet older kids, you’re able to find role models and meet people that you respect, which can get you excited not just about music but about the other stuff they’ve been a part of.”

Q: Are there any aspects of band that you would consider shortcomings of being in the organization?

A: “Similar to any organization, there’s cliques and things like that, but I’d say we do a pretty good job with keeping people together on the same page. My main concern with being part of the program is that not everyone’s totally there for the same reason. Part of the goal of our marching band is for everyone to be able to join, and that means that people aren’t always going to be there for the same reason that you are. Maybe someone joined just to get their PE credit, which is fair. But as a person who’s really passionate about it, it’s difficult for me sometimes to try to work with people who aren’t as in it as I am. But that’s also taught me something: When you go through life, you’re not always going to be around people who have the same goals or the same aspirations. Learning to accept that and work with it is important.”

Q: Can you talk about the kind of time commitment that band requires from its members?

A: “I actually think it’s going to be a lot better, especially in the future, as this is the first year we went totally off the normal one through six schedule, so there’s no longer a Marching Band class at all. That gives people way more space. If you’re a student who’s working hard and has advanced coursework or doing an advanced pathway at school, this is a commitment that’s a few hours, two days a week. It’s very manageable. In a way, it’s kind of a step back from all the craziness of school and all the competitiveness among other things. You go there not to compete with the other band members or to get the highest grade in your class, you go there to work on one thing, the field show, and learn music together. I think that’s a really healthy thing and a good thing.”

Q: Why did you join band and what made you stay?

A: “It was a continuation from middle school music. I enjoyed playing [the saxophone] and I enjoyed listening to those types of music. I thought, ‘Why not do it and fulfill the PE requirement,’ which is probably the mindset of most kids coming into high school. The reason I stayed was really because of the people I met. I wouldn’t say that the marching and the playing was the part that kept me there; it was really the people. But after a year or two, it was the music and the Marching Band that kept me there. In the same way, being part of Jazz Band allows me to meet older kids who are really amazing players. I didn’t say, ‘I want to be a really amazing player,’ I said, ‘I want to be just like them.’ That’s what got me there now.”

Q: “Is there anything you want prospective band members to know before joining?”

A: “I would just say, ‘Go for it.’ Do it, continue playing your instrument, and see where it takes you. There’s so many different avenues you can go with the music program and band, and there’s a place for everyone. Everyone should give it a try. It’s cool to do Marching Band, you know; it’s not just some random nerdy thing. There’s an art to it, and it’s something you can learn something to get good at. It goes beyond the actual musical and the marching part. You make friends, you gain skills that you can use in real life. Talking to people, being in front of the group, interacting and building connections with people is something that I will definitely use and that I think everyone can use. If you’re not that loud, outgoing person, maybe you can become that, or maybe you’ll want to become someone like that when you experience Marching Band. But if you’re not, there’s so many other places to go.”

By Joy Wang, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Steele