The real comparison between athletics and music

The real comparison between athletics and music

By Clarissa Olson Posted April 26, 2019

The “band geek” has been a stereotype since the beginning of time. When people tell me “Oh, you’re in band”, it’s never really said as a good thing. In no way could anyone compare it to the way people say “Oh, you play football.” Generally, that is seen as fairly impressive, and a popular pastime. While I agree that they aren’t the same thing, I also think that people don’t really know what band is. Nobody can understand what it is that we do unless they have done it themselves.

I play the flute, piccolo, guitar, bass guitar, piano, and ukulele, and am planning to learn the trombone next. When I pick up an instrument, I never really think about the things that I do. It’s like when basketball players dribble the ball in for a layup; they just do it. It is what defines us, both as athletes and musicians.

Music is about a thousand times more complex than any sport. I play soccer, and can’t fathom comparing the two at all. Music is more than just nailing certain skills, intercepting passes, making the tackle, or learning plays. It is easy to compare reading music to reading a foreign language, but that really doesn’t do it justice. You have to have the right pitch, concise timing, and proper volume, and you still have to sound good when you’ve never seen or heard what you’re doing before. You have to follow the speed of the director, play in time, and in tune with fifty to sixty other people. You actually have to have the capability to make the music mean something, while simultaneously doing everything else correctly.

For someone who doesn’t know much about music, it is difficult to understand how challenging it can be to succeed at a single one of those things; let alone all of them. Reading music may as well be rocket science. All you get is a series of dots on six horizontal lines to know what you are doing. The duration of the dots (notes), or pitch associated with the lines aren’t set in stone either. There are even times when you don’t play, and you have to be able to keep track of rests just the same. Things like accents or stresses on notes are expressed with seemingly random symbols that can destroy a piece if done incorrectly. Almost none of the terminology is in English, and you still have to sound good. Missing just one of these components is like having everyone on a football team running the correct play, except for the wide receiver; it may just be that one person, but you’re still not going to score.

The hardest thing for non-musicians to comprehend is that you can’t just pick up an instrument and play it. If I were to hand random people my flute, most wouldn’t even be able to get a sound out of it. You also have to have the right fingerings, which aren’t as simple as “first key, second key, third key” etc.

Band is not the same thing as football. It’s not the same as basketball, and it’s definitely not baseball. Being a “Band Geek” doesn’t make somebody any less of a person than an athlete. In fact, participating in something of such a high caliber is actually more impressive than just simply being in sports, but that’s not how it is.