© 2007 Kristen Laine. Individual copyrights may apply.
Every fall, marching bands take to the field in a uniquely American ritual. From the stands, it looks easy. You don’t see them sweat.
For millions of kids, band is more than a show. It’s a rite of passage—a first foray into leadership and adult responsibility, and a chance to learn what it means to be part of a community. Nowhere is band more serious than at Concord High School in Elkhart, Indiana, where the entire town is involved with the success of its defending state champion band, the Marching Minutemen.
In the place where this tradition may have originated, in the city that became the band instrument capital of the world, band is a religion. But it’s not the only religion, as director Max Jones discovers. After four decades. Jones’s single-minded devotion to musical excellence has fallen out of step with a younger generation increasingly focused on personal salvation. In what his students do not know is his final season of directing, he has assembled his most ambitious show ever, for the strongest senior class he has ever directed. Amid conflicting notions of greatness, the band marches through a season that starts in hope and promise, progresses through uncertainty and disappointment, and ends, ultimately, in redemption.
American Band is an unusually intimate chronicle of life, in all its triumph, disappointment, and drama, in the kind of community in which most of America lives. It is an especially timely portrait, capturing as it does the spirit of the heartland at a time of profound change. If you have ever been— or yearned to be— part of something bigger than yourself, you will be rooting for the kids whose voices fill this book.
Kirsten Laine is an award-winning journalist whose commentaries can be heard on Vermont Public Radio. She lives in New Hampshire with writer Jim Collins and their two children.
“American Band has everything going for it, from tempo to heart to the grand bittersweet finale. What a gift for readers: a pitch-perfect tribute to kids and song and community.” —Madeleine Blais Pulitzer Prize winner and author of In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle