Free Shipping in Canada over $149!*   All prices are in CAD 

Bring Your Parent to Band Class Day

Bring Your Parent to Band Class Day

Ed Dumas

This is an idea that is most definitely not mine, though I have used this touch of genius more times than I can remember. My trouble is, I cannot remember where this idea came from or who I stole it from, so if it was you, give yourself a major pat on the back, because this idea is a good one.

Bring Your Parent to Band Class Day is kind of built along the lines of Bring Your Child to Work Day with a much better result. The trouble with Bring Your Child to Work Day is that there are big limitations on what the children can do while at adult work. The whole plan of Bring Your Child to Work Day is for the children to get some sense of what it is like for the parents to work, and maybe, hopefully, get a sense of what they want to do for work later in life. The trouble comes when you try to put a child in an adult role to get a feel for that adult role.

As an example, my father was a Metro Transit Bus Driver, and putting a 12-year-old me behind the wheel of a 20-ton machine with live people inside is a REALLY bad idea! So, the best I could do is ride the buses with my father. That would be a complete waste of a day, as the only thing I would learn is how boring it is to ride the buses for a day, which I already well knew!

This plan, though, is much more effective. In Bring Your Parent to Band Class Day, the parents are actually intended to receive the first lesson on a musical instrument, rather than just sit idly by and watch their children get a lesson. This was done to fully help the parents understand what it is like for their children to play in the band program. The parents will now be expected to read music, memorize some fingers, and make the first sounds on the musical instruments. Here are some logistics that make this plan workable.

First, the parents can play the child’s instrument. This can be made possible by using some sanitary wipes to sterilize the mouthpieces of the child’s instrument. Reed players can then be given a free reed for the night which will be discarded afterwards. This is a bit of an investment for the band program but is well worth the minor cost of a few reeds. Some parents can even be loaned some unused school horns to try for the evening if some are available.

The child musician will then sit beside the parent and give them some one-on-one instruction on how to hold the instrument, how to form the embouchure, where the fingers go, and how to create the first sounds. Children love doing this activity because they get a chance to show off what they love to do, which is making music.

After giving the parents and children about 15-20 minutes of one-on-one time with this start, I would then ask the students and parents to place the instrument on the floor so that there would be no temptation to play it. I would then spend about 15 minutes going over on the whiteboard the basic rules of music notation. Usually, we would cover just the pitch names in that time, but if you get pitch names and basic note values taught, so much the better.

Following the notation instruction, the parents would return to the instrument with the child’s help, and begin reading some very basic songs in their beginning band book. Anytime that parents would get lost, which is often, the children are ready to step in, one-on-one and help out their parents. If we progress as a group about as far as Hot Cross Buns, which requires three pitches, that is about far enough for one night.

After the parents have tried playing in the student book, the final section of the night was a chance for the children to perform for their parents, with the parents sitting right beside them while their child was playing. Again, the mouthpieces would be quickly swabbed out and the children would put their original reed back on and play some of the early tunes learned in the first few months of playing in the band. With the parents sitting right beside their children, and now after they tried playing for themselves, the parents could better understand what it means to be a musician.

Here are a few of the excellent results that I saw come out of this experience year after year:

  1. The parents had a TRULY good time! I never saw so many parents laughing, giggling, and really enjoying themselves as I did when they tried playing their child’s instrument. It was like they finally had that moment to live out their dream instead of living it through their children.
  2. The parents understood so much better the frustrations that their children might face when learning a musical instrument. But now also, the parents just seemed more capable of offering some guidance and support to their child when things did not always work out for the student. This helped the children develop some resilience through their parents while learning the instrument.
  3. The parents were now also able to better appreciate the successes of their children in the band program. Too often parents are not capable of appreciating that even the simple grade 2 band work is a real challenge for young players, but this activity helps the parents put the students’ work into better perspective.
  4. The parents were now far more prepared to support the band program and their children’s participation in that band program well into the future. There are simply no better advocates for music education than people that have played a musical instrument in the past, even if for only one short night. This would become a powerful force to help the band program grow in future years.
  5. The students/children would learn their material better, as there is no better learner than the one who is now a teacher!

Now, that is the basic idea that someone deserves big credit for. Here are a few adaptations that we made, with the help of others, to truly take advantage of this “Bring Your Parent to Band Class” plan.

We used the help of the local adult community band by getting volunteers for each instrument section. We would find one adult player for flute, clarinet, sax, trumpet, trombone, low brass, and percussion. During the first section where the children are teaching the parents, these adult volunteers would then circulate amongst the students and parents to help wherever it was necessary.

Often it was possible to send each group to a separate room to limit the amount of sound interference between the instruments. In each room, then, would be the band children who had played a few months, parents who are trying it out for a night, and one or more well-experienced players to just help direct the students as to what needed to be taught and help with any challenges that might come up.

The parents were now more likely to better learn the basic skills of holding the instruments and making the first few sounds. The next three sections of the plan would progress as before without any changes. That is, the parents would then receive some instruction on reading basic music notation, the parents would then try to read some basic tunes in the first-year band book, and finally, the children would show the parents what they have learned so far by playing some more accomplished tunes in their band book.

Now, though, with some adult musician help, we could add one more item to the evening that would bring this all full circle for the parents and students. That is, we would have the local adult community band play a couple of very short tunes to show the parents what they could accomplish for themselves given some time. We would then talk to the parents and invite them to become a member of the Adult Beginning Concert (ABC) Band, which was a division of the local community band.

Now the parents could see that they could actually learn music for themselves and not just live vicariously through their children. The ABC Band would meet one evening per week to teach the same things to the parents as the children were learning, but now without their children.

Over the years of doing the ABC Band, we found that it is best to not include students in the adult group. The reason for that was that parents would feel inferior to their children, at least at first, if the students could play better than the parent. This was usually fixed within a few months because adults learn faster than children, but it was important to recognize that parents felt inferior to their children’s abilities, even if reality disagreed with them. So, the ABC Band did not include children, and the parents had a better parent night out for it.

In the Adult Beginning Concert Band, parents could again use their child’s instrument if they preferred. This could be accomplished just by the parents purchasing another mouthpiece for the child’s instrument. But, if they wanted to learn a different instrument instead, they were welcome to make that jump with the understanding that they would need to rent another instrument for themselves. Many parents chose this option just out of personal desire, and that is fine. Many parents also rented another instrument for themselves even if it was the same type as their child’s horn, and that is fine as well.

The first time that we ran an Adult Beginning Concert Band as an outgrowth of the Bring Your Parent to Band Class night, the number of participants in the ABC Band afterwards was quite large at about 40 members, all adults. This showed me that there was a pent-up demand for a program like this, and using the Bring Your Parent to Band Class night helped meet that demand.

In return, the parents learning an instrument in a separate program but in parallel with their children showed some even more advanced support for the band program. These parents were now quite willing to openly advocate for the development of the band program in their child’s school, and were quite willing to come in and offer that help to make it happen!

For many families, making music now became a family affair with parents and students actually playing together at home and developing skills together. This improved the bonds in families which in turn greatly increased the gratitude from parents to their school band program and teacher.

At the same time, the local community group grew rapidly to soon have three levels of bands under the community band umbrella. These three groups were the Adult Beginning Concert Band, the Adult Intermediate Band, and the more traditional Adult Community Band. There literally were no losers in this program!

Now I would like to offer a story that was told to me by a valued friend, Brad, who had learned to play the sax late in life. He told me that when he was in our secondary school as a student, he used to tease and even bully the music students a little bit because it was “the thing to do.” While I never felt this from him because we ran in different circles at the time, nonetheless he admits to putting down the music students.

Fast forward some time and Brad and I find that we are both teachers in the same school district. When offered a chance to then learn a musical instrument in my newly created Adult Beginning Concert Band, Brad decided to jump at it. He dedicated himself to it with gusto and progressed on sax very well. Brad quickly rose through the ranks of the ABC Band, and the Intermediate Band, and was soon playing in the highest level of the local community band.

Brad’s story starts to come full circle when after a few years of playing in my adult bands he tells me that he used to tease and bully the band students back in secondary school. He now admitted that all the while he was doing this, he was secretly wishing that he could make music in the band too, but felt like he missed his chance. As an adult, he was now finally able to admit to himself that his behaviour as a student was a way of covering up his secret wish to be a musician.

As an adult, Brad became a huge advocate for what the band programs for students and adults were trying to do. But he also became to me a sign of what was missed back when we were just students in school. Just a handful of Brad’s in secondary or elementary school to begin making music can be a huge turnaround for a music program. As adults, they can start to turn around a community.

I strongly encourage all band teachers to use the idea of “Bring Your Parent to Band Class.” There is nothing really to lose, except maybe one night out. The benefits, though, are so huge that you may be astounded by the results. This becomes even more so if you choose to start an Adult Beginning Concert Band in conjunction as part of your program.

Now is the perfect time of year to try this activity with your beginning band class students. Do not wait too long in the year for the students to become “good enough to do it.” They will rise to the occasion when they understand that they now become teachers. This will greatly encourage them to learn their material better before the parent night. From then on, they will all be yours forever, students and parents alike.

Why Tapestry Music?

Tapestry Music has been a BC family owned business since 1996.  With 3 locations in White Rock, Vancouver and Victoria, Tapestry offers in store & online shopping, music lessons and repair services. As a music education specialist, Tapestry is respected and recommended by music educators across Canada.

Best Price


Tapestry will match the selling price of any identical product from any Canadian retailer that has that item in-stock, up until 30 days after purchase.


On overs $149

We don't charge shipping or handling on orders over $149 (before tax and shipping calculation). There are a few reasonable exceptions like very large or heavy items as well as shipping to remote areas.



Exchange or return for full refund items purchased within 30 days if in unused new condition and in original packaging.