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American Band: Music, Dreams, and Coming of Age in the Heartlandby Kristen Laine
Synopses & Reviews
"Kristen Laine went back to the heartland-- to the America so many of us fly over without blinking an eye-- and uncovered ... a world where salvation and ambition and teenage angst collide in strange ways no outsider could ever understand, unless you read American Band."
--Michael Bamberger, author of Wonderland: A Year in the Life of an American High School
Every fall, marching bands take to the field in a uniquely American ritual. From the stands, it looks easy. You do‛t see them sweat. For millions of kids, band is more than a show. I‛s a rite of passageĀ—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 i‛s not the only religion, as director Max Jones discovers. After four decades, Jone‛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 beenĀ—or yearned to beĀ—part of something bigger than yourself, you will be rooting for the kids whose voices fill this book.
"In 2004, first-time author Laine immersed herself in Elkhart, Indiana's Concord High School Marching Minutemen, a 240-plus ensemble preparing to defend its state title, and emerges with a detailed and intimate account that delves deep into the rarified world of competitive high school marching and the students, parents and teachers devoted to it. Max Jones is the band's hard-nosed director, in his final season at Concord, and just beginning to fall out of touch with his young charges; students, meanwhile, juggle social and spiritual concerns with their all-consuming commitment to the Minutemen (practicing more hours than even the football players). In the stories of a trumpeter whose mother contracts terminal cancer, a clarinetist who longs for her native California and a drum-line captain who aspires to West Point, Laine finds an intriguing sample of small-town, red-state Middle America's next generation. Her descriptions of field performances-from the earliest planning stages to their in-competition execution-are intricate, but fail to convey their power or majesty; in addition, Laine's emphasis on narrative observation over direct quotes gives the work a magazine feature feel. Still, Laine brings passion, curiosity and affection to her heartland chronicle, ideal for anyone who's ever marked time with an instrument at the ready." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In the spirit of "Friday Night Lights," Laine presents the stirring story of a marching band from small-town middle America in this snapshot of a heartland community and its triumphs, disappointment, and drama.
About the Author
Thirty years after she marched in an Indiana high school band, Kristen Laine returned to the state, moving her family from New Hampshire to Elkhart to immerse herself in the story of the Concord High School Marching Minutemen. She is an award-winning journalist whose commentaries can be heard on Vermont Public Radio.
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