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Andrew's Tips: How and When to Change BandsBy Andrew T. Lenz, Jr., Santa Cruz, California, ©2006-2008
There are a number of reasons that you might consider changing bands. Personality conflicts, difference in goals, schedule issues, moving . . . here is some advice and some things to think about if you are mulling leaving a band.
Take your time making the big decision. The grass always looks greener in other band pastures. Weigh all the pluses and minuses. It's a good idea to always inform a band—especially when you join them—what your goals are. That way it won't come as a surprise when you eventually decide to join that Grade I band across the river or drop out of the competition band to join a street band doing bar gigs. Letting your band know that you are unhappy may lead to improvements—the bass drummer starts wearing deodorant, the repertoire gets fresh material, that one guy stops pouring beer down your drones, everyone gets focused and starts winning competitions. But if there is no hope and if the current band has been a great chain around your neck for many months and you have to work yourself up to get to band practice or to a performance, it's probably time for something else. Piping is supposed to be fun and fulfilling. If it's not, then know it or not, you are probably dragging everyone down with you.
If you do decide to leave, make sure to fulfill your obligations to your current band to the best of your abilities. Unless you are in a life threatening situation, you owe that to your bandmates. You also owe it to your bandmates to be as upbeat as possible and not act like it's torture to finish up the season in their company. Make all the practices and gigs. And whatever you do, don't flake out and just stop showing up, leaving the band to wonder if you are alive or dead. If you must, send an e-mail or leave a note, but such things are always better done face to face. Be an adult about it. And if your band is formally structured, a written resignation is a good gesture to present to the band in person so there are no misunderstandings.
Be honest and open about your reasons for leaving. Don't say you are moving out of state only to have the band see you playing with the other band across town! If there's a personality conflict, then for the benefit of those staying, tell the pipe major about it—if he/she's the reason, let the situation dictate how forthcoming you are about the details.
As a sign of goodwill, perhaps throw a party in honor of the band and feed your bandmates. Or bring munchies to band practice. There may be those in the band who will hold a grudge against you even if you have the best of reasons for leaving. Those things happen, but you have to do what is best for you—and them—in the long run.
If you have items belonging to the band such as a uniform, equipment, etc. then make sure to return it as soon as you leave the band---and have it cleaned and pressed first if necessary! It's a nightmare for the band to try and track you down to get their things back. You certainly don't want to keep what doesn't belong to you—and don't fool yourself into thinking that the band "owes it to you because you earned it." Also if you happen to have any debts to the band or to bandmates, make sure those are paid off well in advance of your departure.
If you can manage it, leave the door open. Ask the pipe major if it would be alright to return if the other band doesn't work out as expected. Or if it'd be ok to join the old band for a gig now and then, if the opportunity arises. That shows that you appreciate your friendships in the band and can enjoy playing with them.
Changing bands can be a traumatic experience for all involved. Perhaps following some of the above advice will help prevent that.
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This page last updated Sunday, March 14, 2010.