Youth Orchestra Strikes Back

Ads are used to draw attention to a product or a company. I am not sure that Nissan/Infinity had this attention in mind when it began running its ad using students struggling to play a familiar piece of classical music. I admit that I laughed the first time I saw the ad, but then I realized that they were using punching down humor. I don’t think a company wants to be seen as using that kind of bullying behavior, but maybe I’m wrong when marketing luxury cars.…


If Nissan were smart, they would do a follow up ad. Have the same person bringing the car in for regular maintenance, a tune up for subtle humor, have the service bay filled with the orchestra, this time playing perfectly.



While the original ad might be amusing to some, it raises a larger issue about musical development. Too many people underestimate the talent and educational value of children learning music. The trope involving bad music emanating from kids shows up so often in TV shows and movies that some parents cringe at the idea of their child joining band or orchestra.

As a band mom for 15 years, the ad was not only amusing, it struck a “chord.” Trust me when I say there is nothing quite so hard on the ears as an elementary school kid with a violin in their hands. Cost of instrument purchase/rental, private lessons, going to the concerts, taxi service to practice, chaperoning football games for marching band and band competitions in middle and high school, trips to play in some college bowl parade, endless fundraisers to defray the costs of those trips all take their toll. Hosting weekly sectional practices during the summers after the kids became section leaders killed our summers. Zero 3 day weekends free over 6 years because the band was promised to this parade or that competition. Insisting that the kids produce that screeching noise in your home so they don’t let their team down has a toll all of it’s own. Happily, after a while, they get past the noise and all you hear is sounds of success, of effort.

That mom in the ad showed up. That’s love. I was just sad not to see the dad in the car too, but some guilty fantasies, like being able to tune out your kids, really can’t be shared. Parents are not superhuman. We need our coping mechanisms and that ad instantly hit home with me. I usually tune ads out completely, so it was an incredibly effective ad. There is not a band parent out there who has not fantasized about doing exactly what that mom did. But we realize it is fantasy.

Trust me when I say that a parent who is weak enough to be swayed against musical education by an ad for a car, does not have the strength to see their kids’ band “career” through to the end. It’s not the ad that will weaken them…they are weak.



I, too, can see both sides of this. I was a music kid, have a kid who is in the color guard, and DH and I both still play music that is demonstrably hard to listen to for the first many months of trying to master it. And I’m delighted at the youth orchestra’s response. Both sides are completely accurate. I hope Nissan and the youth orchestra can partner up and play both parts for years to come.

ThyPeace, piano practice really does sound like this

piano practice really does sound like this

I never, ever, acted out like that. Never beat on a piano like that. Yes, I did play, once upon a time.

re young musicians, there is a tooth gritting scene in the first “V” miniseries where the aliens land at an LA chemical plant, and the high school band at the greeting ceremony absolutely butchers selections from the score of “Star Wars”.

The orchestra at my high school never, ever, sounded that bad, and it was the ghetto public high school in Kalamazoo, not some elite private school. The conductor had an extra little thing he would do: cue the orchestra from the pit floor to play the 20th Century Fox fanfare as he ascended his podium.


The orchestra at my high school never, ever, sounded that bad,

The things I find on youtube: when I was in high school, there was an annual event called the “Band Follies”, where students could show off their musical talent.

Someone uploaded an audio recording of the opening number from the Band Follies of 1966, a couple years before I started there. There is a bit of feedback early in the recording, but otherwise very high quality for the time. From the sounds after the chorus stops singing, it sounds like they had a chorus line dancing for the balance of the piece.

Kalamazoo Central Band Follies 1966 intro

I found a couple recent Christmas concerts by the KCHS orchestra. They have deteriorated quite a bit over 50 years, but then, so has Kalamazoo.


I absolutely understand how elementary school musicians sound. I was a 6th grade teacher and for 17 years the 6th grade (first year) band practiced once a week in the room next door when I was on my planning period. I was alway amazed with the progress that the teacher was able to make with the kids every year. Did I enjoy it on a note by note basis; absolutely not. But I loved the progress month by month and was rewarded along with their parents when they played at their graduation at the end of the year.


The orchestra at my high school never, ever, sounded that bad,…

By the time you make it to high school, you sound a lot better than you did in 3rd grade. Our bands traveled extensively and were state champs for marching band multiple years. These kids were athletes in their own right, going to “band camp” the same time the football team hit the practice field in August. Jazz band took several state wide awards as well. These kids worked darned hard to get to that quality level. Frankly the music program at that public school was what kept us from moving the boys to a private high school.

The music program not only taught them persistence and team work, developed a strong work ethic, but in our program’s case inclusion and compassion. No one who tried hard was turned away, and the patience and understanding I saw from those kids in the band in dealing with the players with disabilities, some even requiring an aide, was impressive. Not much can be hidden from chaperone on a bus.

I would sooner cut football than the band program.



My ears are worse than I already thought.

I thought the kids sounded PRETTY GOOD.

Perhaps one has to have a more experienced ear for the piece being played, but it sounded good here.