American Band: Music, Dreams, and Coming of Age in the Heartland

American Band: Music, Dreams, and Coming of Age in the Heartland

by Kristen Laine


View All Available Formats & Editions


In the spirit of Friday Night Lights comes the stirring story of a marching band from small-town middle America.

Every fall, marching bands take to the field in a uniquely American ritual. For millions of kids, band is a rite of passage—a first foray into leadership and adult responsibility, and a chance to learn what it means to be a 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 it's not the only religion—as legendary director Max Jones discovers when conflicting notions of faith and purpose collide during his final year as director. In this intimate chronicle, the band marches through a season that starts in hope and promise, progresses through uncertainty and disappointment, and ends, ultimately, in redemption.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781592403196
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/02/2007
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.28(w) x 9.34(h) x 1.21(d)
Age Range: 14 Years

About the Author

Kristen Laine is an award winning journalist and a regular commentator for Vermont Public Radio.

Table of Contents

Prelude     1
The Voice of God     11
Roots     33
Middletown     59
Perfect     87
State Fair     105
Learning the Drill     129
Downbeat     151
"We the People"     171
On Earth As It Is in Heaven     193
Bonfire     219
Closer Walk with Thee     243
A Beat Too Late?     257
Swing, Swing, Swing     271
Where Is Your God?     289
Postlude     305
Author's Note     319
Acknowledgments     321

What People are Saying About This

Peter Manseau

American Band is a compelling story of young people finding their voices, their callings, and their rhythm. In Kristen Laine's hands, the unfolding highs and lows of a group of high school musicians becomes an unlikely but utterly convincing venue for relating universal experiences: learning to love, learning from loss, struggling with faith.... In other words, growing up. With remarkable empathy and skillful prose, Laine not only grants access to the lives of the teenagers whose stories she so poignantly tells, she actually makes the reader nostalgic for high school, for that time when we dreamed big dreams and loved our friends as if the music of life depended on them. Best of all, while American Band will surely be relished by those who have glide-stepped to 'Take the A Train,' it invites even those of us who wouldn't know a piccolo from a pipe organ to take the field and march along. (Peter Manseau, author of Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and Their Son)

Stefan Fatsis

As a spats-hating, apathetic, marching-band clarinetist in high school, I didn't recognize the driven and talented Concord High musicians who train harder than the football players at whose games they perform. But American Band is much more than the story of a season in the life of the most fanatical practitioners of this uniquely American ritual. Kristen Laine has produced a captivating portrait of what it's like to be a teenager in middle America in the first part of the 21st century. (Stefan Fatsis, author of Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players)

Susan Eaton

A triumph! American Band is an incisive portrait of life and coming of age in our 'heartland' - a place so many of us feel free to ridicule and analyze, but so rarely take the time to truly comprehend. Kristen Laine pushes right through the stereotypes about 'red states,' 'evangelicals,' and the nature of life in the middle of our nation. American Band, is, in one sense, a well-paced page-turner in the great tradition of 'competition' narratives. But it is also much more. Kristen Laine has blessed us with a deeply serious, life-affirming book whose quiet insight and wisdom will stay with the reader many years after those pages have been turned.... (Susan Eaton, author of The Children in Room E-4: American Education on Trial)

David L. Marcus

Through the graceful narration of Kristen Laine, a season of a high school band becomes the provocative story of young men and women grappling with issues of friendships, ambition, and spirituality. American Band transports us to the real America that so many journalists simply fly over. It makes us care us care deeply about the parents, kids and teachers who come together to create a sense of community in these fast-changing times. (David L. Marcus, author of What It Takes to Pull Me Through: Why Teenagers Get in Trouble, and How Four of Them Got Out)

Madeleine Blais

American Band has everything going for it, from tempo to heart to the grand bittersweet finale. What a gift for readers: a pitch-perfect tribute to kids and song and community. (Madeleine Blais, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle)

Cathy Day

Football isn't the only thing happening underneath those Friday night lights. American Band leads us through the championship season of Elkhart, Indiana's Marching Minutemen. But most importantly, author Kristen Laine shows that in the heart of the heart of the country, so-called quaint notions like 'community' and 'personal excellence' are alive and kicking. (Cathy Day, author of The Circus in Winter)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

American Band: Music, Dreams, and Coming of Age in the Heartland 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
angelofmusic_81 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've been a band geek most of my life so of course I was drawn to this book. The way Laine tells this band's story, it ends up feeling somewhere between a cheap novel and a soap opera. Her writing style is less than stellar, but in the end she did make me care about these kids and how much they put into their band. Despite the weak writing it is a must read for any proud former (or current) band geek.
willyt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author presents a little more than a year in the life of the Concord Community High School marching band, one of the more successful marching bands in Indiana. In presenting this "slice of life", she presents a picture of organization, drive, teenage life, and the impact of Evangelical Christianity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ime in high school in marching band but this book does not hit the marching band core beleifs such as unity family and ownership in just the way band does it shpeld capture that
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kristen Laine has written a beautiful and moving account about growing up, life and loss, and the magic and joy that happens when people work together for a common goal. After finishing this book, I had two strong impressions; the first was how vividly Laine brought this story to life. The second was how open the residents of Concord were in sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings to help Laine achieve her goal. The result is not only a great story that you can't put down, but also a very wise book about important issues involving achievement, spirituality, and the power of music.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading this book. Literally, I just closed it. I am in awe. I picked this book up because it was about 'a high school band in Indiana,' but it is much more than that. Yes, it is about a high school band and their pursuit of the Indiana State Championship, but it also about the individuals, students and band director, Max Jones, alike. Laine writes with a clear voice that takes you into the deepest parts of the characters' minds. Their thoughts become your thoughts, their victories your victories, their fear your fears. Laine calls her book 'immersed journalism' it certainl it is. I call this kind of literature 'documentary literature,' Laine writes in such away that you start root for the people she writes about, I got a lump in my throat more than once as I read about Grant and his struggles. Reading about Grant's sister and mother is a real heart breaker. I was never in the band in high school, but that's not a big deal when reading this book. I wasn't on the football team either and I enjoyed Friday Night Lights. Just an amazing book. Read it.
kjtully More than 1 year ago
I took issue with the lack of correct fact checking in the book. I was a graduate of Concord High School and a proud member of the Marching Minutemen from 1982 until 1986, one year under Mr. Jones and three years (seven, really, as I was in the program from age 10) under Joseph Beickman. I quit counting the casual misstatements after 10 or 15 major ones caught my attention. I railed against her demeaning and flat-out derogatory comments about Joseph Beickman, who built the program that Jones inherited, was deeply beloved by the community and his students, and has been highly decorated by many professional organizations far more qualified than Laine to make a judgment as to his competency or the quality of the program he ran. I refer the reader to pages 71-76 of the book. The absence of community input and presence of constant and continuous error (some of which was trivial, other that was major) pertaining to the story's setting and the way that marching band competition is administrated in the State of Indiana at the high school level, distracted me from the story, which should have been the focal point. What a disappointment! If Laine calls herself a journalist, SHE NEEDS TO CHECK HER FACTS!