where wildly different is perfectly normal
The hierarchy
The hierarchy

The hierarchy

While I’m flitting about Chicago this week with my parents and the boys, Tom is working a music convention downtown. It’s actually a very well known music convention, so I’m not going to link to it here; I don’t want this post coming up in a search yadayadayada. Let’s just say it’s a Very Well Known music convention if you teach band or orchestra, and it’s always held in Chicago the week before Christmas. There. If you’re dying to know what I’m talking about, there’s enough there to manage a Google search.

But I digress.

If you recall, I have a fairly strong music background. I have several music degrees getting dusty in a box at home, I taught middle school band for a few years, and flute lessons for a gazillion years. Growing up outside Chicago as an eternal band geek, I’ve gone to this convention more times than I can count. I go to concerts, breakout sessions, hit the exhibit hall to try new flutes…I’ve done it all. Nowadays I especially like going to see old friends and colleagues. Living so far from Illinois, it’s really my only time to reconnect with these people.

But there is something I noticed when I started going as a first year band director that I never noticed when I attended as a high school or college student. There is an unspoken hierarchy at the convention. I’ve never heard anyone ever speak of it, but Tom notices it as well. Maybe it’s just us.

On the very tip top are the Big Names. Well-known college directors, the ones music students travel to study under. Also consistent high school directors whose bands have hit the big time (large national parades, for instance), and outstanding composers. The military bands.

Then there are the lesser well-known names. The names ring a bell, but you have to think hard about how you know them. These are mostly smaller colleges and less well-known high schools, less well-known composers.

Then high school directors as a whole.

They are followed by female high school directors. (No, it’s not right, but this is my sense of the whole week).

Spouses are next.

Male middle school directors.

Female middle school directors.

If, for some reason, they are there, general music teachers fall here.

Then college students, followed by high school students.

Attending as a spouse (of a band director) I was further up the hierarchy than as a female middle school band director. Sad, but true. These days, attending as a spouse of a non-band director, I’m actually further up the hierarchy than ever before.

Today I’m at this convention for the day. I get to go to concerts, attend breakout sessions, and hit the exhibit hall to get info on Suzuki violin; my days of trying new flutes are behind me. I get to reconnect with old friends and colleagues. My favorite part of the day? Trying to decide what to say when someone asks what I do. Because after all these years, after the thousands of hours of flute practice, after all I’ve done…I’m not doing it anymore.

Perhaps I’m lower on the hierarchy than I thought. Former musician is below them all.


  1. Good for you for going! It’s hard to walk away from a career that was your life and then be thrust back into it for a day. I reconnected with a high school friend whom is working full time, and it was hard to admit that I’m a SAHM and my only outlet is my blog. 🙂

  2. ugh. isn’t that the worst feeling. I was at a party right after I had thing 1 and a “friend” added after my name “she jsut stays home now”.

    hate commenting from my phone…but I didn’t want to forget this one…

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