Band Dads volunteer behind the scenes

Lucy Sullivan, Opinions Editor

Chris Shaw (right) works with Rudy Del Rosario to improve the timpani cart for the percussion pit during marching band season, 2018. Band Dads work behind the scenes to design and create sets, as well as fixing and transporting them to and from band competitions. Photo courtesy of Katie Jacques.

The first time Chris Shaw helped raise the big “W” at a football game back in 2016, he instantly became hooked on the Band Dad experience. Now as his second child, Sarah Shaw (11), goes through the Westview GOLD program, Chris is seasoned in his work, and leads the group of parents who help organize the behind-the-scenes details that go into the band performances. 

Most of these parents follow similar paths on their way to becoming a Band Dad, with many of them using the term “voluntold” to describe the origin of their involvement. According to Band Dad Art Nisperos, father of Jaden Nisperos (11), he was apprehensive about the impending time commitment the position would require. But mainly, Art said he saw it as an opportunity to grow closer with his son.

“I was a little hesitant because [there is] a lot of things I had to do with work, and I didn’t know if I could make that commitment,” Nisperos said. “But I said, ‘you know what, this is an opportunity for me to really be involved with [Jaden].’”

Band Dads do any number of things, and the term “Band Dad” is somewhat all-encompassing. It includes both men and women who have children in the program, who dedicate their time to designing and building sets for performances,, managing props, helping to carry instruments, and loading equipment on and off buses at competitions. The commitment of being a Band Dad is not to be taken lightly, as they volunteer their time for numerous hours over the weekend during the nine-week fall season, and many more hours on top of that assisting with weeknight practices.

“The Band Dads do literally everything,” Jaden said. “Other than us performing, all of the behind the scenes [work] the band dads do, whether it’s making the props for our show, helping set up the band room, [or] getting the water out to us during parades. [They also] set up all of the music stands and chairs for our shows [and] at football games. Everything behind the scenes is all Band Dads. Literally, all we do is just perform.”

To demonstrate their role within the program, each Band Dad is given a “Westview Band Dad” t-shirt. According to Art Nisperos, the t-shirt is a Band Dad “rite of passage,” which is recognized by other schools at band competitions.

“The t-shirt is how they lure you in,” Art said.

More than anything, Art says the role of the Band Dads is to ensure that things run seamlessly behind the scenes so that the band students and directors have the freedom to focus on their music and showmanship. 

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure that they can reach their goals,” Art said. “That’s [what] makes it worth all the hard work, all the long hours, [and] the cost and everything else. Because the end result is watching your kid being able to achieve something that they may have not been able to if they didn’t have the help.”

Band vice president and clarinet section leader Brianna Vargas (12) said that the Band Dads are important to the fabric of the program, as they make up a faction of the tight-knit Westview band community and alleviate any pressure from the students to worry about performance details other than their music.

“[The Band Dads do] improve the program because you have a lot more people to help with everything.,” Brianna said. “I mean, we are just students. [This year with Covid] you have sophomores that are [essentially] freshmen coming into this program, and you have a massive support group for them. That helps the experience be a little bit less stressful because you’re not worried about what we have to do because we have people to help us with that.”

Not only is the camaraderie between the band as a whole a defining part of the program, but, according to Chris, Art, and Brianna’s father Gil Vargas, the friendships formed among the Band Dads are a part of what makes their work so rewarding. 

Chris Shaw said that, since being Band Dad requires a certain level of construction ability, the group attracts many people in similar fields to his, as he works as a mechanical engineer.

“There’s a lot of relationships with parents that I would never have had if it wasn’t for being involved with the band, and [being] in Band Dads,” Shaw said. “It’s interesting, because the Band Dads attract similar-minded people as far as my skills, you know, construction and building and so forth. So I’ve met a lot of different engineers through the Band Dads, and I think those are relationships that I will keep even after I’m done being a Band Dad.”

The friendships amongst the Band Dads contribute to a light spirit within the program, and the Band Dads get into the spirit of the show each year. This year’s theme was “The Hive,” and the Band Dads donned antenna while they went about their work.

Near the end of the season, the Band Dads recreate the band’s marching routine with plastic instruments, and they call this tradition “Westview Old,” playing off of the name “Westview GOLD.”

At the end of the day, the Band Dads do what they do out of love for their kids. According to Gil, that time is not to be taken for granted as students are often busy with extracurriculars and school, and parents are often busy with work.  

Chris and Art agree that the insight into their students’ lives is part of what makes Band Dads so special. 

“I see what’s a big part of their life in school with band, especially in the fall, and I know everything that’s going on,” Chris said. “I get to see their challenges and [I get to] see a lot of what they’re doing. I [also] get to meet their friends sometimes. And because I’m around the band, I get to see them in their normal environment. So it’s great. I love it.” 

This sentiment carries over to the band students, and as Sarah said, it’s one of the ways that her dad shows that he cares.

“[My dad being a Band Dad] shows his support for what I’m doing,” Sarah said. “It’s really nice, because it is sort of like a form of showing his love.”

Working so closely with the program, the Band Dads get a unique front-row seat to all of the performances: the sidelines. Art describes this as one of the most rewarding parts of his work as a Band Dad, as he is able to see his son, along with the rest of the band, grow as musicians. 

“You watch them and you’re like, ‘oh my gosh, I saw all of their practices, I saw the things that they did, and now it’s culminated into this amazing performance,’” Art said. “It’s incredible.  It’s like watching an artist, you know, [they] start with a mound of clay, and then all of a sudden, boom, boom, there it is. That’s kind of the experience every single time they perform, and they just got better and better and better.”