Frequently Asked Questions for new students

General Questions

Is high school band, orchestra, or colorguard difficult?
Just like anything that is worth your time, being in the Buchanan Instrumental Music program takes effort. However, we have a place for ALL students, regardless of your current musical ability level. Every aspect of our program is designed to foster and encourage musical growth and personal maturity. 

Do I need to be in an instrumental music class both semesters?
Yes. Participating in a musical ensemble is a full year commitment. 

Does involvement in instrumental music take up all of my time? 
No! This is perhaps the greatest misconception for incoming students and parents. Participation is a commitment, but it does not prevent you from participating in other activities. It all depends on which ensembles and classes you join (see ‘About Our Program...’). Our students often find that the discipline and time management skills gained through participation in instrumental music are some of the most important values they learn as they prepare for future success. 

Can a student be in more than one instrumental music ensemble?
Yes! If both ensembles meet during the regular school day (i.e. Orchestra & Colorguard), then the student can do 0-Period PE, or rearrange other electives to make room in their schedule. We have had students successfully take two music classes all 4 years of high school. Many students also choose to participate in additional ensembles like jazz, winter percussion, and symphony orchestra. 

What is the time commitment outside of school? 
This varies from group to group and changes with the time of the year. A flute player will be very busy with Marching Band in the fall, but will have very few outside of school commitments during concert season. Percussion and Colorguard are generally more involved with outside of school rehearsals being the norm throughout most of the year.

What other music classes are available?
Freshman can take Jazz Band (0-Period), tryout for Symphony Orchestra, participate in Winter Percussion (percussion students) and Winterguard (colorguard students).


Is it hard to get the classes I need to get into college?
Not at all. Instrumental music students are able to take all of the courses they need to prepare for college. Our graduates are often the most prepared students on campus!

Are the conflicts between instrumental music and specific academic courses? Very rarely. Careful forward planning is almost always able to prevent being in a situation where you have to choose between music and academics. 

I heard you have to do 4 years of PE at Buchanan. Is that true?
Yes. But there are many ways around having to do it all during the school day. First, all students who do Marching Band get a semester’s worth of PE credit for every fall they do Marching Band. Most band/guard students only have to do PE during the school day for their freshman and sophomore years. Students can also do 0-Period PE to free up elective space.


Are there auditions?
All of our upper level band, colorguard, orchestra, and percussion groups have auditions. Auditions for Symphonic Winds, Wind Symphony, & Chamber Orchestra will be based up spring performance evaluations in April. Marching Band, Percussion, & Colorguard auditions take place in the spring (see the last page). Jazz auditions are during 0-period during the first two weeks of school. If a student auditions and does not make an an upper level ensemble, this should not be a cause for concern. We view every ensemble as important, respectable and marked by talented musicians.

What instrumental music class do most freshman take their first year?

Woodwinds & Brass: 6th Period Marching Band Winds in the fall and Concert Band in the spring (most of the time freshman do not make Wind Symphony).

Percussion: 6th Period Percussion

Strings: 7th Period String Orchestra

Colorguard: 7th Period Colorguard

What class do I sign up for on my registration form? 
Just circle band, colorguard, percussion, or orchestra on your registration form and we will take care of the rest! 

Summer School

Why is it recommended that I do summer school? 
Taking Health the summer before your freshman year is a great way to free up elective space and condense a year-long course into just a six week independent study. It is HIGHLY recommended that all incoming freshmen do summer school prior to their first year at Buchanan. This opportunity is not available to most freshman at BHS…take advantage!

What if I am going to be out of town this summer and can’t do summer school?

Speak with your counselor to see what arrangements can be made. Even if you can’t do summer school, there are many other options to fit instrumental music into your schedule. 

Sports & Instrumental Music

Can a student do sports and music? 
Our program is made up of students who have participated in several different sports, even varsity level. With that being said, much depends on the sport, the season, and how involved you would like to be in our program. For example, it is very difficult for a student to be in Marching Band if they intend to play a fall sport, but they can still participate in a concert band class during the day. See the page titled ‘About Our Program...’ for specific information about our ensembles and commitment level. Please contact us if you have a question about the specific sport you plan to participate in and how it might conflict with instrumental music. 


Marching Band

Should I do Marching Band?
Yes! Besides the fact that you get PE Credit (2 years less PE for students who do Marching Band all four years), Marching Band is the most popular part of our program and one of the best experiences you can have in high school. Brass and woodwind students are highly encouraged to be in marching band. Percussion and colorguard students are required to be in Marching Band in addition to their Colorguard or Percussion class. Typically only students who have a direct conflict with Marching Band choose not to march. *Student must participate in Marching Band in order to be eligible to audition for Wind Symphony. 

Does Marching Band take up a lot of time? 
While Marching Band is an involved activity, rehearsals are limited to Tuesday & Thursday evenings, and Saturday mornings through the first part of November, approximately 10 hours a week. 

Are there tryouts?
At spring workshops we provide basic training for all of the students so everyone has the chance to learn and develop their marching skills. Students are evaluated to determine each student’s status as a primary or alternate marcher. Ultimately, no position is permanent and it is up to the student to earn and keep their primary status.

Who selects a primary marcher versus a alternate marcher?
The staff that is hired by Buchanan High School will consult with the Head Band Director and offer their recommendations. The Head Band Director will make all decisions on assigning primary or alternate marching status. Attendance record, music and drill memorization, body coordination (marching and movement), and a healthy cooperative attitude will be among the criteria considered for primary marcher status.

What is a alternate marcher or “shadow”?
A alternate marcher
is a student who has not been assigned to a specific position in the competitive marching show, but fully participates in every other aspect of the marching band season including trips, football games, rehearsals, etc. A alternate marcher is analogous to that of a 2nd string player in competitive sports in that the alternate marcher is in good standing and ready to perform when called up to the field.

Is there Marching Band on every weekend during the fall?
Most of them, at least until November, but often times we are done by 1pm on Saturday. Competitions are in October and half of November and are usually a full day on Saturday. Out of town competitions are on weekends and span multiple days.

Jazz Band

When are jazz auditions?
Jazz auditions are held each spring. Jazz is open to everyone regardless of ability level.


Do I have any financial responsibility when my student participates in instrumental music?
As with any athletic or co-curricular program in CUSD, students are not required to pay to participate. However, the California State Budget does not fully fund all aspects of the program we provide. The Buchanan Instrumental Music program strives to provide a world-class music education on a shoestring budget. We depend greatly on parents to support our program through fundraising and donations. 

Do you need parent volunteers? 
Yes! Parent volunteers are essential to our program. Several opportunities exist for you to volunteer: Chaperones, Hospitality, Fundraisers, etc. This is a great way to share in your child’s music experiences. 


Is travel an important part of the program?
Traveling enriches the student’s musical experience by allowing them to take their music on their road and getting them to see other parts of the country along the way. We have found that some student’s most memorable experiences are when we are on the road. The Marching Band travels out of town a couple of times a year. Wind Symphony, Orchestra, Winter Percussion, and Open Guard will also do an overnight trip or two in the spring. All of our groups will do several day trips to local festivals around the valley.

Where has the program traveled in the past?
Our ensembles have traveled throughout the United States and Canada performing at the Bands of America National Concert Band Festival in Indianapolis, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Disney World, the Fiesta Bowl, Hawaii, Washington D.C., Vancouver, B.C., Dayton, Ohio, the Pacific Northwest, and Bands of America Grand Nationals in Indianapolis. We have many exciting travel experiences planned for the future!

Is there a fee for travel?
We charge a field trip fee to cover the expenses related to a specific trip. If anyone has a financial hardship, we are able to work with the student and the family so every student is able to fully participate in our travel experiences.

Do you have a question that isn’t answered here? 
Let us know! Send us an email or give us a call. We’d be happy to meet with you. E-mail us at: or