When a first generation Title IX sports kid becomes a music mom

In my best “good old days” voice: When I was growing up, you were either a music kid or a sports kid. My family? We were sports kids. Me, my brother and my sister all played a few sports, starting in elementary school and going through high school.

I didn’t really know many music kids … at least until I started dating one in 1999. When I married him a few years after that, I entered into a family full of music kids, which includes a few who have careers in the industry.

And now, I’m the mother of a music kid. He’s a little sports-y too so there’s that. I’ve got limited experience with music. While I know what I like (hashtag lizzo), I can’t read sheet music or identify a note. So now, as an adult, I get to learn about what it means to be a music kid.

So far? It’s pretty great.

Three things I’m digging about being Jazz Band Mom:

1. The teamwork.

I’m probably like a lot of people when my mind goes right to sports upon hearing the word “team” or reading it. But man, it takes a true team of leaders and followers -- and then alternating between those roles -- for music to work.

Just think of the roll of a drummer, for example. She or he supports other musicians by providing a beat. That’s true until someone like Neil Peart comes along and turns that “supporting” job into, in many cases, The Reason people purchased tickets to see Rush perform live.

Music, after all, is among a select few opportunities to truly make art as a team. Everyone has to contribute at just the right time, fading out and storming back in at the correct moment. And when it happens perfectly? Magic.

2. The freedom.

Sure, music has structures, just like sports. Both have guardrails, if you will. In music, it’s reading the sheet music and playing the notes. In sports, it’s knowing the plays and bringing them to life on the court or the field.

The beauty happens in the interpretation. While the New York Giants may have drawn up a play in 2014 in which the team’s then wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. caught the ball at or near the endzone for a touchdown, but what turned out to be his amazing one-handed touchdown catch? That was art on the football field.

In music, an A sharp is an A sharp, right? But it’s not. Songs played live feel like they’re always evolving, just like the people who are playing the instruments and singing the songs. I think it’s safe to say that a musician like Alanis Morissette sings “You Outta Know” differently as a 40-something woman who is a wife and a mother than when the song came out in 1995.

3. The support.

I’m not sure whether it’s their generation (hashtag fingers crossed), but many of the kids who are my son’s age are just so dang supportive of each other. You don’t hear a lot of complaints or see a ton of side eye about who has The Solo. Instead, I’ve seen plenty of fist bumps and high fives when notes come out right and even when they’re a little shaky.

Humans, I think, are wired to more easily remember the bad than the good. I think that’s why, when I think of playing softball in high school, my mind first goes to seeing that one of my teammates scrawled into the side of a locker: “AMY IS A BITCH.”

While I am very fortunate to be among the first wave of girls in this country to realize the benefits of Title IX and play sports in school, just like the boys, it was tough. Back then, we didn’t talk about bullying and teenagers were mercilessly “cut” from making a team roster, preventing them from playing sports they loved. Maybe these are among the reasons why participation in high school sports is down for the first time in 30 years.

Those experiences in my life, while not all super fun, have made me appreciative of the support I’ve seen among my son’s peers. If kids are supporting each other now, in places like the classroom and the gymnasium and the auditorium, imagine the kind of workplaces … and even government … we could have in the future.


Amy Bailey was a member of the Michigan Capitol Press Corps from 2000-2006. She lives and works in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with her husband, son and an easily excitable Australian Shepherd named Max. Amy's guest column, Something to Say, publishes periodically. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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