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I grew up in a small town where kids in band were nerds. We owned it as a badge of honor as anyone in band should–but I was wondering to myself, is being in band still considered nerdy?
Band members are still considered nerds or geeks by many to this day, however some school cultures hold band in different perspectives such that band members are considered “cool”. Many reasons contribute to why some schools think band members as nerds including predominate trends, economic pursuits, and so on.
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This is actually a tough question because it completely depends on your school. Some schools think band members are awesome and are the “cool”, while others think band members are geeks and should be avoided. Growing up for me in my school, the latter was the more common stereotype.
Why Is Band Nerdy?
The truth is that the most important factor in whether band is cool or not is whether the parents in the area think band and art is important.
For example, in my high school (which wasn’t all that long ago ?) the most common profession in the area was the oil field. As you might have been able to guess, the most important event for my high school was football (as it is true for many, many high schools)
So, if the minority of people have a music interest and are different from the main crowd, chances are they are going to be thought of as weird.
If the parents aren’t interested in band, the band program will not be as well funded, and so the band may not be as impressive as it could be. Therefore the people in band in this situation will be fewer and perhaps different than the rest of the crowd.
So if the parents are interested in art and band, these schools are much more likely to have an awesome band program that other students think is amazing.
What Is Nerdy Anyway?
I don’t mean to get meta, but it kind of helps this discussion to think about what nerdy even means. If you’re nervous about joining band because it’s nerdy, you might continue to read just a bit to find out what a nerd is.
- We often call someone a nerd who is obsessively focused on something that’s technical or very detailed. For example mechanical engineers are called nerds because they get a kick out of physic thought problems. Ornithologists will wait for hours in the cold just to see a bird.
So, a nerd is a nerd for getting excited about something that others don’t understand at all.
- Often people are called nerds for not having great social skills. This is really unfair because social skills for a middle-schooler is someone who can make fun of others without being embarrassed. Trust me, if someone is putting others down for not having social skills, guaranteed they are lacking some of their own.
So let’s toss out the idea that a nerd is someone who doesn’t have social skills. What’s more likely is that someone who may not be as social has found a rewarding hobby–there are plenty of people with somewhat drab and unrewarding hobbies and who are struggling socially.
- Often people are called nerds for being good at something that is very technical and difficult. If someone is able to juggle and Snapchat and recite Shakespeare at the same time, they might get the nerd label.
So a nerd is someone who is good at something difficult that takes a lot of practice.
So, putting this all together we have:
A nerd is someone who can intensely focus on something and is capable of developing impressive and meaningful skills.
Why Being Misunderstood Is Being Nerdy
One of the definitions of nerd above talks about how someone is nerdy if they are really into something that nobody else gets. In this case, it’s all about the numbers. If everyone is into anime at one school and not into football, the one kid who is into football and not into anime will be the nerd.
Band members do a lot of things that are very misunderstood. You might not understand if you think about it too hard. I’ll give a few examples:
- Learning a wind instrument is HARD: Trumpets, saxophones, tubas, flutes, etc are incredibly difficult. The coordination required to learn these instruments is nothing short of incredible. I wrote an article on why playing the trumpet is hard as one small example of how an instrument can be very difficult.
- Spit valves: It makes sense–when your wind instrument is full of spit and is making that choppy waterlogged sound, it’s time to release the spit and blow it out through the spit valve…. think about that for a second. That’s normal for a wind instrument player, and completely gross to everyone else.
- Band hierarchy drama: In band players are often arranged by “chairs” according to the capabilities of each player. And… because we’re humans, we assume that the lower chairs are the most skilled players. This isn’t completely made up, for sure–because lower chair music parts are often higher and have more solos. Oh the drama of being knocked down from the 1st chair kingship to the 4th chair peasantry.
- Carrying around huge instrument cases with really heavy instruments: Why do band members always look like they work out on the airport tarmac shuttling luggage?
It’s true, band members are misunderstood. But let’s give the misunderstanders some slack, too–it is a little weird what band members are willing to go through for their band.
Is Marching Band For Nerds?
Perhaps one of the most intense group of band members you’ll find are those in marching band.
Why? Because marching band members are not only willing to do all of the above, but they are also willing to carry and play their instrument while walking on a football field or on the hot asphalt in a parade–sometimes wearing uniforms, and sometimes carrying over 50 lbs of gear (check out who carries the heaviest drums in my post about what marching drums weigh).
If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is. Therefore, because it’s very different than what you and I would do, it can be considered nerdy. There’s no doubt, though. You’ve got to be fit, and you’ve got to be dedicated to succeed in marching band.
Playing an instrument is really hard. Playing while walking in a smooth motion is next level hard. Marching band members have to learn to march in such a way as to not bob up and down as we do normally when we walk, and they are using a lot of leg muscle to do that.
So, if you need a reason not to join marching band, I wouldn’t avoid marching band because it’s nerdy, I’d avoid because it’s tough.
Why Being A Band Nerd Is Awesome
If you want to start learning an amazing hobby that is incredibly challenging and is a skill that takes years of practice to master, or, if you want to help your brain focus (which is incredibly important for a successful life), isn’t that the type of person we all want to be?
So the truth is that if you think about the real meaning of nerdy, then yes, band is super nerdy! But that means it’s super awesome and an incredible experience. I look back on my years in band as some of my favorite moments in high school.
If it is a real concern about being rejected by others for being in band, it’s a valid concern! Don’t sweat it. There are plenty of other meaningful hobbies.
Is It Band Geek Or Band Nerd?
So, it turns out that a band geek is a band nerd is a band geek. These terms are synonymous. The words nerd and geek have slightly different definitions but the way they are used means essentially the same thing. Band Geek has a slightly less negative connotation to it but I couldn’t explain to you exactly what the difference is.