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Interesting Division of Sexes and Instrumentation in Jordan Marching Band

Original post made by Marching Band Lover, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 22, 2013

I had the distinct pleasure of happening to be in the same neighborhood on the same street where the Jordan Marching Band was doing a street marching rehearsal (probably for the City of Palo Alto May Day Parade). I always stop for a parade and in this case I even walked with them for a short while. I noticed that the first 5 in a line across the top were all girls playing the flute. There were about 40 students in the band (this is an estimate) and I noticed that there were only the 5 flautists and three other girls in the band. I think the other 3 were a drummer, a clarinetist and either a trumpet of a sax player. I was thinking that this was a rather unusual breakdown along sex lines (didn't see a boy playing the flute). I think that if a boy had been playing flute in the front row with the girls he probably would be subject to bullying anyway so perhaps that is why there were not boys playing the flute. I was a little dismayed by the lack of women playing instruments that are louder than the flute. I have opinions about all of this myself but am wondering if anyone else can weigh in on this and perhaps illuminate me as to why girls choose the flute so often when they probably could be making much more of a statement (not saying there is anything wrong with flutes or flautists mind you). It looks sort of like a cheerleader row in the front with the girls. This brings to mind a memory of a San Jose High School (Overfelt) marching band that had a line of 8 young women in the front of the parade with the name of the school emblazoned on their chests one letter at a time (O-V-E-R-F-E-L-T). I hope that school no longer thinks that is a good idea (especially in light of all the crimes against young girls perpetrated by the jock culture for the most part).

Comments (4)

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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 22, 2013 at 4:37 pm

PAUSD kids start playing an instrument at school in 5th grade (for most of them). The girls picked the flute, often because it was a small instrument to lug around or the violin because their friends played. Very few boys played the flute, very few girls played the trumpet or clarinet. Most of the kids in the marching band (7th and 8th grade) have been playing that instrument since 5th grade.

On a related note - the Jordan Band teachers are wonderful - both in teaching music and building a nice community of students.

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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 22, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Forgot to add - many of the girls are still playing instruments, the string instruments are Orchestra, not Band.

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Posted by instruments
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 22, 2013 at 4:43 pm

You have a woefully small sample to make statements on. I will answer your questions beyond middle school marching band stuff as there is a much broader music world out there, even in the marching band sector.
If your student is looking for an instrument, it is nice to get some introduction to the different categories - some people relate to brass, or whatever, but becoming mildly familiar with the variety of out there is fun and helpful, if music is a growing interest.
Each school, each year, each music conservatory/SOM, each group of YAs (professional calibre young artists), the zillions of those who just play by ear and/or start up music groups are all varied cases. You will find a mix of females and males. Really, stereotypes about instruments don't hold up if you get a wide enough samlpe, trust me.
Remember there are some musicians who strive lifelong for ever increasing perfection, entering major music competitions, auditions, performing at music conventions, performing professionally, studying with all kinds of advanced teachers, traveling frequently (EVEN young people do this, too).
I can tell you for sure that women play all instuments; our family knows a 21YO female at a leading SOM (School of Music) at a major university who plays tuba, for example (and will be a competitive professional - she already has a bigtime music resume); I think there currently is a female in her 20's who is with a major symphony in that capacity, too, Carol Jansch. Know that classical music is extraordinarily competitive and landing a spot with a major orchestra is a big accomplishment, esp at a young age. Also, some classical musicians who are successful/well paid are not anywhere near as recognized by American mainstream media as they should be, trust me, I know.
We know various significant professional male musicians (both gay and straight) who are flutists. Yep, there are also tons of female flutists of all ages and calibre.
Yes, there are plenty of girls/women who play flute in BAND. I think this is likely to be one of the more visible things. That doesn't mean it is an easy instrument, in fact it is one of the more competitive ones, though it is possible to own a cheap flute and play within reason for basic marching band purposes. In no way does this carry over to the more competitive music scenarios.
You should realize that some marching bands are informal, some are competitive/more formal; some are highpowered like Ohio State and etc. Some areas of this country have really competitive HS marching band experiences - it varies.
You know there are also people who play instruments informally/for fun, in regional settings/pits, in minor venues, in major symphony orchestras, in solo careers, in the jazz genre, and rock & roll, international music, in crossover type situations.
There is an unbelievable spectrum of "musicians" out there. Enjoy.

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Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 23, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Marching Band Lover: You only saw a sample of the band that will be marching in the parade. It is a combination of the 7th grade concert band and the 8th grade symphonic band. These kids practice when their class is in session so the "parade band" is broken out into three groups. For the record, my daughter plays the bass clarinet in the band which is a little bit shorter than a bassoon; it's a real challenge to march and play an instrument of that size.

We love the fact that the neighbors come outside and support the students. They wave at the students and applaud them. I can't tell you how great that is for the kids to see this kind of support. Thank you.

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