When to Tell Your Band Director “No!”

Perhaps it’s just my experience, but band directors often forget that student leaders aren’t robots.

Robot. Says. Marching. Band. Is. Life.

As a college student, and a band director you face a deluge of responsibilities and conflicting priorities everyday.  You have homework due, lectures to attend, rehearsals, club meetings, meals with friends, and textbooks to read (hypothetically, of course), not to mention finding time for yourself. I don’t need to tell you that it can be pretty crazy.

Somehow, when you’re at your busiest, Mrs. Band Director always finds you and asks for a favor. She knows you’re busy, but she really needs your help! You can’t just say no!

…or can you?

Well, of course you can say no. It’s your life, and no matter how authoritarian your band may be, it’s a free country. But when should you say no? It can be pretty difficult to tell.

Does saying yes bring you closer to your goals or your band’s goals?

This can sometimes be hard to tell, for example “does getting Mrs. Band Director’s papers from her desk for her bring me closer to my goals…?” What’s key here is that you start really thinking about whether your actions are bringing you closer or farther away from your goals and the goals of your band. This will become easier over time, but if this is new to you. Take some time to consider your goals. Will this task help you carry out your goals? If you’re really busy, and it’s not a beneficial task, then why do it?

Does saying yes develop your relationship with someone?

Sometimes things aren’t necessarily bringing you closer to your goals, but they have a philanthropic purpose. Building your relationships with others inside and outside of your band is always a good idea. Doing a quick favor for someone (even if you feel it’s a little inconvenient) may prove to your advantage in the long run. And if it doesn’t… it’s still really nice to be nice.

Will you be doing something true to you?

Are you being asked to do something you’re morally or ethically opposed to? If so, you’re not the right person for the job. Never compromise your values for the sake of appeasing your director or accommodating the wishes of your peers. If you do, you’ll likely regret it; but if you stay true to yourself, you’ll likely gain the respect of many–both your fellow band members and your directors. Integrity shines.

Are you suited to be doing this?

If you know you’re going to have a VERY difficult time with a task, perhaps you’re not the best person to be taking care of it. If it’s something urgent, and you don’t have the time to learn how to take care of it, then it’s your responsibility to say no. Otherwise you’ll have someone inappropriately putting their trust in you. Do you know someone who is better suited? Now’s not the time to be making excuses and dodging responsibility. Do you honestly know someone better suited? Perhaps you should recommend them for the opportunity in stead.

Do you have time to be doing this?

If you’re drowning in homework and other responsibilities, say no! Or better yet, find a compromise. If your band director asks you to polish all the instruments in storage, but she’s already asked you to build a bunch of props for a marching band show, ask her which she would like you to take care of first. If they’re both urgent, then you obviously can’t do it all on your own. Help her to see your constraints.

If the answer to several of these questions is no, you should probably say no to whatever you’re being asked to do. Of course, there’s no reason to be a jerk about it. Learning how to say no (especially to a band director) is a skill all unto its own.