Your local mail carrier may deliver your mail through rain or shine, snow or sleet, but they have nothing on the Mason High School Marching Band. While the amount of hours the band practices border on the limits of child labor laws, members of the band practice in rain, sleet, and blazing heat because they know all their hard work pays off in their performances.
The marching band practices for three hours after school every school day, and eight more hours on Saturdays. Though guard and band each get Sunday and an additional weekday off (Tuesdays for color guard, Wednesdays for band), the hours spent training typically add up to nearly 20 a week. This is also the legal number of hours minors are allowed to work.
According to the Ohio Department of Commerce, minors between the ages of 14 and 15 cannot work more than three hours every school day, longer than eight hours when school is out of session, or longer than 18 hours a week once the school year has begun. Students participating in band wind up dedicating as much time to their extracurricular activity as they would to their jobs.
Katie Schmidt, a junior in color guard, said she stands by the hours, regardless of the challenges they present.
“They’re really long, but in the end they are justified because it makes us better,” Schmidt said. “That’s what got us to fourth in the nation for our competitions. A lot of people have been getting injured or passing out lately because of how they push us on the field but by pushing us, they do make us better.”
Not everyone agrees with the schedule. Sidney Moeggenberg, a sophomore in color guard, said the long practices may help them reach nationals, but they also add a lot of stress and affect students’ home lives.
“During band camp, I saw my dad maybe ten minutes a day. Seeing a parent that little when you live in the same house is difficult,” Moeggenberg said. “I’ve stayed up until midnight the past few nights getting homework done. It’s even worse if you miss something. When I went home [sick], the entire time I’m at home, I’m worried because I’m not at band. You’re sick, and you’re still worried that they’re going to do something and you’re not going to be able to catch up. I’m a very stressed person anyway, so that really adds to it.”
Brass co-captain and teacher Avious Jackson said a large portion of the time spent is dedicated to football games or preparing for competitions. Jackson also said students gain a lot from the extensive hours that can benefit their lives in the long run.
“This is a time investment,” Jackson said. “It’s a lot of time, but they are challenging themselves constantly; they are building lifelong relationships. (And) there’s the time management skill, which is really something you have to practice.”
The practice hours have contributed to Mason’s placing in the top five at Grand Nationals for the past two years, but it may not be the only way to accomplish that success. Some of Mason’s toughest competitors come from Texas, where the University Interscholastic League has put laws in place that reduce practice time to just eight hours per calendar week, state-wide. While these hours do not include football games or competition preparation, they sharply contrast to Mason’s minimal fifteen hour week. Despite less practice, Texas schools continuously place in the top 12 at Nationals, often even higher than Mason.
“It’s difficult, because I know if we didn’t work so hard, it would be hard to (place in Nationals),” Moeggenberg said. “But the fact that they’re placing higher is kind of frustrating, because we’re working so hard.”
Jackson said the sheer number of people in the marching band is a huge factor, and one that most other schools do not have to account for.
“To get that many people and that many components to work together, it takes a lot of hours,” Jackson said. “(Smaller bands) do the same things we do, but we are on a much grander scale. Even just moving from here to there is a task when you’re moving 300 people.”