I'm very glad you're considering being in the band program here at Holly Shelter Middle School! If you've had another child in band, then you already know what to expect. If not, I know this can be a very confusing time for you and your child. Below are some frequently asked questions -- I hope they will help you gain an understanding of the band program here. If you have any questions, feel free to email me! You may also download an informational brochure!

Also, here's a quick little video to show your student - INFORMATIONAL VIDEO

Check out my "Be Part of the Music" website - you can see video demonstrations of each instrument and your child can complete the "Matching Tool" that can help them decide on an instrument to play! Parents can also fill out an interest form. Click the graphic below to go to the site!


What if my child doesn't know how to play an instrument or read music?
  • That's okay! We start from the very beginning, assuming that none of the students can read music or play an instrument.


How and when do we get an instrument?

  • Once we've decided what instrument your child will play, I will send home detailed information on the different ways to obtain an instrument. In short, you can purchase an instrument, participate in "rent-to-own" programs offered by local music stores, or get one from a neighbor or an older sibling. The school also has a limited number of instruments available to borrow for students with financial need. I have never had a student who had to quit band because they didn't have an instrument.
  • If you are thinking of purchasing an instrument, see below for recommended brands for different instruments. You can find instruments for low prices at local department stores and online, but remember -- you get what you pay for. An instrument with a low sticker price may have a low sticker price because of poor workmanship and subpar materials. The materials these instruments are made of are often so inferior that repair technicians won't or can't work on them. You also want to get an instrument for which repair or replacement parts are easily available. There are several brands which are high quality brands, but the parts can only be obtained from overseas, resulting in higher repair costs and longer time without an instrument. Also, unfortunately many companies are making instruments in "new and exciting colors" in the hopes that the customer will buy it because it's "flashy" and not because it's a quality instrument. The coloring is simply a plating which can (and usually does) chip off. These chips can become stuck in the instrument, and can also be inhaled by the student. When you buy a car or major appliance, you want a quality item that will last years. A quality instrument will last for many years and will have greater resale value. Check out this video about those"cheap" instruments!

  • If you are looking at an instrument online or in a local shop (like a pawn shop), feel free to contact me and I will give you any information I can to help you know if it's a quality instrument for a reasonable price.

Recommended Instrument Brands
These are not the only reputable brands, but have been found over the years to be durable, easy to repair, and of sound quality.


Is band a year-long class?

  • Yes. Learning to play an instrument is a process that works best when it happens on a continual basis. There are cognitive and physical aspects of being a musician that must be practiced all year!

What if my child didn't sign up for band, but now he/she wants to?

  • You can have your child's schedule changed. You can contact Ms. Kiker or ask about it at the Open House (check www.nhcs.net/hollyshelter for open house schedules). Also, if your child signed up for band but it is not on his/her schedule in the fall, let me know as soon as possible and I will make sure the student's schedule is corrected so that they DO have band! Sometimes, when a student has signed up for band, there is a mistake and it is not on their schedule. The students later tell me they just assumed the class was "full" and they didn't get in. Band is never "full". If your child signs up for band, they SHOULD get in. If it's not on their schedule, have them come to me and I will have their schedule corrected!

What activities will my child be required to attend outside of school?

  • In sixth grade, there are only two concerts outside the school day -- one in November and one in April. These concerts take place at Holly Shelter Middle School and usually last no longer than an hour. The concert counts as 25% of your child's grade for that nine weeks, so it is very important (and required) that your child attend. We rely on every member of the band. In the past, I have had situations where parents punished their children for not cleaning their rooms or not getting good grades by not letting them attend the concert. While the concerts can and should be very rewarding for the students, they should not be treated as rewards. To not let a student attend a band concert as a punishment would be like not letting them turn in their science project or take their end of grade test. It will affect their grade negatively - an unexcused absence means that the highest grade your child will receive that nine weeks is a 75 (D).

Does being in band cost anything?

  • There are certain costs associated with being in band. Just as you would have to buy certain supplies for your child to play a sport (cleats, glove, shin guards, etc), there are supplies needed for each instrument. For most of these, you'll buy it once and it will last all year. The only things your student may have to buy year round are reeds, and these range from $1.50-$3.00 each. How long the reed lasts depends on how well your child takes care of the instrument. Students must also buy a method book (it costs around $9.00 and they'll use it all year) and a band shirt (usually around $15.00, but they will wear it the entire time they're in middle school band). We do an annual fundraiser, and students may use any money they raise to pay for any costs! I've had several students each year who didn't have to pay for a single thing out of pocket!

Can anyone be in band?

  • Yes! While being able to play an instrument is fun, learing to play the instrument takes committment on the part of the student and the parents. A large majority of the student's grade is based on class participation and home practice. Students are required to practice an average of 30 minutes a night, five times a week. So, if you're highly motivated, this is the class for you! Parents, it is very important that you support your child and allow them to practice their instrument at home. As with any specialized skill, the students will not improve without practice outside of class.

What instruments can my child start on?

  • Flute, Clarinet, Trumpet, and Trombone. Per New Hanover County Schools Policy, no sixth graders are allowed to start on percussion (drums), even if they have drums at home or have played them at Church or the Boys Club. Students must start on one of the instruments listed, and then we'll have percussion auditions later in the school year. They can also switch to other instruments such as saxophone, oboe, bassoon, baritone, tuba, and french horn.
Is my child guaranteed to play the instrument of his/her choice?
  • A band must have balanced instrumentation to be successful. I will ask each student to tell me their first choice of instrument, and if the instrumentation is balanced, then everyone gets their first choice. Most years, though, I have a large number of students who want to play a particular instrument.

If we have too many people who want to play the same instrument, I may ask those students to volunteer to start on a different instrument. Band is the same as most sports - a band that has 30 trumpets and only 5 clarinets will be about as successful as a baseball team with 2 pitchers and no catcher. If you already have an instrument (from an older sibling, band camp, etc), then your child will be guaranteed to play that instrument.

How will band benefit my child?
  • I'm glad you asked! Below are several facts that have come from research on music and the human brain. It is well known that being in a band class helps to raise test scores, but this is just one of the many benefits to being a musician!
    • Most subjects offered in middle school only develop the cognitive part of the brain. Music and the arts are the ONLY subjects available to middle school students that ALSO develop the part of the brain that governs emotions and emotional response.
    • Students can earn county, district, and state honors. Band classes help to raise students' self-esteem.Band classes promote teamwork. Band classes promote problem-solving and higher-order thinking skills.Students who continue band through high school can be offered music scholarships to college, even if they aren't majoring in music!At the New Hanover County All-County Concert of 2007, a professor from Duke University said that the FIRST thing their admissions department looks for on college applications is whether or not the student was in band.
    • If your child stays in band through high school and becomes an advanced player, he/she can make money playing their instrument!

What else should I know?

  • Please understand - band is a class that counts in the student's GPA. In the past I have had parents use band as a punishement for grades or behavior, not letting students practice or attend concerts. This severely impacts the student's grade. Not letting them practice would be like not letting them do their math or science homework. Not letting them attend a concert would be like not letting them take their math or reading EOG.

What's this Brain Research you spoke of?
  • The part of the brain responsible for planning, foresight, and coordination is substantially larger for instrumental musicians than for the general public. (from "Music on the Mind", Newsweek Magazine).
  • Taking a music elective course is a better indicator that a student will stay in college than high SAT scores or a high GPA. (Dr. Denise Gardner, Georgia Tech).
  • Researchers at the University of California and the Niigata Brain Research Institute in Japan ahve found an area of the brain that is activated only when reading music. (from NeuroReport, 1998)
  • Practicing musicians demonstrate 25% more brain activity than non-musicians when listening to music. (from "Exposure to Music is Instrumental to the Brain", University of Muenster)
  • A ten year study indicates that students who study music achieve higher test scores, regardless of socioeconomic background. (Dr. James Catterall, UCLA)
  • Students with good rhythmic performance ability can more easily differentiate between patterns in math, music, science, and visual arts. (TCAMS Professional Resource Center)
  • At-risk children participating in an arts program that includes music show significant increases in self-concept. (Auburn University).
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