Marching to the beat of her own drum

“Isn’t your dad mad that you don’t do band?”

“Oh, your brother only did well because he’s the director’s son.”

“Why don’t you play in band? I thought because your dad teaches band, you would have to be in it.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you three statements I hear nearly every day, sometimes all in the same day. And I have to be honest–it’s getting older than Betty White.

This is the curse the children of teachers face. It seems that although the concept of the family business has grown obsolete, the idea that talent is entirely genetic has yet to die out.

I am among these accursed teachers’ children because of both my parents. My father is the head band director here at the high school, and he also works at Canyon Junior High and Canyon Intermediate. My mother is a piano teacher, and she also instructs the colorguard (flag people) in the band. My older brother, Ryan Sheffield, was a percussionist (drum guy) in the marching band. He was dedicated to his work during high school and did well. I am in choir and theater and danced for 10 years total, and although I spent a year in band, I never returned.

Why don’t you play in band? I thought because your dad teaches band, you would have to be in it.”

— Erin Sheffield

But it seems many people in the community have these odd contradictory beliefs involving band. According to them, I ought to be in band, since my parents are musicians, and I ought to be good at band.  However, Ryan was both in band and did well and was belittled for only getting things “the easy way” due to relations. Do you want director’s children in band or not, people (and yes, that includes you, reader)? Do you want us to be good or not? Make up your mind.

I feel I ought to set the record straight, not just for myself, but for others who experience my dilemma. To begin with the first question – “Isn’t your dad mad that you don’t do band?” No. No, he’s not, because he isn’t a terrible person who expects his children to only do what he wants instead of what they want. He has always offered us the choice to do what we would like, and while he does feel we should have a knowledge of the arts, he does not feel we should be photocopies of him. Ryan chose to be in band, and I chose to leave it.

Now for the second statement. “Oh, your brother only did well because he’s the director’s son.” First of all, thank you millions for plainly insulting my brother to my face; that’s not rude at all. Still, it’s a valid stereotype, although there are few true-to-life facts to back such a statement. My father argued with Ryan about his decision to first join band, knowing a rumor of family favoritism would come to life, but Ryan chose to participate despite the risk. Also, while many of Ryan’s achievements have gone through my father, many have not as well, and believe it or not, the boy has lost before. During the beginning of his musical years, he worked little and barely practiced, so he didn’t do well and was rarely recognized. Favoritism is certainly an issue to look out for, but my brother chose to practice constantly and apply for contests when he grew older. In fact, my father has had about as much involvement in my brother’s musical career as he has in most other band students’.

Finally, the third. “Why don’t you play in band? I thought because your dad teaches band, you would have to be in it.”

…my father is still not a terrible parent.

I come from a family who dedicated their lives to music, not out of necessity or tradition, but out of dedication and choice.”

— Erin Sheffield

Mr. Sheffield came from a family with connections to music. His mother was in choir, and his father played saxophone. However, neither parent searched for occupations in the arts. His father was a salesman and worked in the oil field. Because of his connections to business, he had urged my dad to go into business instead of music for the money. 

Unlike her husband, Mrs. Sheffield came from a family with absolutely no ties to music, although they allowed her to take piano lessons. None of her siblings followed in her footsteps as a piano teacher.

In other words, I come from a family who dedicated their lives to music, not out of necessity or tradition, but out of dedication and choice. Both of my parents had to fight for their decisions in life and chose paths of their own. Why, I must ask my readers, would two self-made people attempt to “make” their children, knowing such efforts fail?

The environment in which one is raised has plenty of impact upon life thereafter. However, every person has the right to choose his or her path, whether that’s becoming a doctor, rabbi, hair stylist, coal miner or journalist. It is true that plenty of things are genetic, and I may be at an advantage over other children because of my early musical training and arts-y environment, but despite this, every teacher’s child, myself included, has the right to decide his or her future.