Tag Archives: Stefan Fatsis

American Band

I was never in marching band.

When I was a kid, I took the obligatory piano lessons from the scary neighbor lady. I wasn’t very inspired (or talented) and took every opportunity not to play the piano. My father played the piano, including a rollicking good Bumblebee Boogie, and we listened to all kinds of music when I was growing up. In fact, I have an uncommonly clear memory of coming home from school to see my oldest siblings and my parents listening to the just released “Tommy” album by The Who. But as I write that, I’m wondering if it only happened in fuzzy BeckyLand because my parents were never there when I came home from school. They had to work to provide allowances to be frittered away on rock opera albums. Come to think of it, I don’t really recall attending school. Or having siblings. Or allowances. Other than that, it is a crystal clear memory.

Imagine my surprise when all three of my kids picked up instruments and played most of them fairly well. (I can confirm this is a Real Memory because I live in the house where they practice.) Between them they play: piano, violin, clarinet, saxophone, tuba, upright bass, trumpet, guitar, recorder, kazoo, pan flute and that thing shaped like the horn of some extinct animal like in the Ricola commercials.

The one nearest and dearest to us is the tuba. Both boys march(ed) tuba in their high school band and because of their fantastic experiences, I became interested enough to use the marching band as the setting for my current young adult novel.

Even though I knew a LOT about the Wonderful World of Band as a Band Mom (much like a pit bull hockey mom, but without all the creepy lipstick), I still wanted to do some research to get other perspectives.

But guess what? There aren’t that many books about the high school band experience. I KNOW! But I found a really terrific one …. AMERICAN BAND – Music, Dreams, and Coming of Age in the Heartland by Kristen Laine.

It’s a non-fiction chronicle of the lives of a group of kids in an Indiana marching band. Stefan Fatsis says, “It’s much more than the story of a season in the life of the most fanatical practitioners of this uniquely American ritual. Kristen Laine has produced a captivating portrait of what it’s like to be a teenager in middle America in the first part of the twenty-first century.”

I found it riveting. I was sucked into the lives of these kids and I cried at the end. (I know, I know. I cried at the end of Shoot The Moon too. So sue me. At least this time I wasn’t a public spectacle.)

It provided excellent research, but it left me craving more. Laine listed some titles in the back of her book, most of which I can’t find. Do you know of any books about high school marching band? College marching band? Drum and bugle corps? Novels or non-fiction ”” I’d love to read more.