How to Request Time Off Your Job for Band

One of my biggest frustrations is students skipping band performances or practices because they “need to work.” In their first jobs they ever hold, students regularly struggle to reconcile their demanding personal work schedules with an equally demanding marching band schedule. Oftentimes, the issue is not as much demanding bosses as much as it is a lack of student training on how to recognize their own control they have over the situation. Many times parents, teachers, and employers assume that student workers magically have the skill and courage to request off work without the proper training and guidance when this is clearly not the case.

In this entry, I would like to offer a printable guide you can use to help students recognize their own agency to request time off from work in a way that 1) doesn’t compromise hours and 2) will keep the student in good standing with their employer.

Before I begin, let me make this one very important point: some students actually do need to work out of personal or family necessity. It is critical to remain sensitive to these situations and accommodate as required for both the health of the student, the student's family as well as the overall health of the band. The band is a place of safety and security for all members, and first and foremost we should demonstrate this commitment to the students.

That being said, in most situations, the application of both foresight and skilled communication can help a student grow in confidence and self esteem facing conflict.

There are two key ideas in this article: 1) The mindset you should have surrounding your job and requesting schedule changes and 2) How to actually request off or a schedule change.


1. Mindset

First, your place of employment is lucky to have you. As a band student, you have built up skills where you:
  1. Work hard.
  2. Show up. Every day. (even when you don’t want to).
  3. Can put on a smile for a customer (even if you don’t feel like it).
You are an employer’s dream. Think about some of the other people who work where you work. Think about some of the students from school who are in your grade. Now, think how true the above statements are. Your employer wants to keep you.

Second, requesting a schedule change (in advance) is 100% an okay thing to do. There is absolutely nothing wrong with telling your boss that, starting 3 weeks from now, you have band practice Monday through Friday 6-8p and you need to make sure you are off work by 5:30 during the week to make it to practice on time. This happens all the time. It is an entirely okay thing to do. You are not being a burden. Solving scheduling conflicts is part of the reason your boss gets paid more than you.

Don’t assume your boss’ position before asking! Sometimes, students assume that their request will leave the business short staffed and they don’t want to put their work friends in a position to work an understaffed shift. That empathy is part of what makes you a remarkable employee (and great student leader)! But this particular issue is exactly what managers are for. Give your boss a chance to do their job which is to effectively manage a good workforce.

Additionally, your initiative recognizing and addressing the issue builds credibility with your employer! The act of requesting time off in advance of conflicts demonstrates your commitment and self governance. The type of person who can recognize conflict early and act on it is a worker an employer can trust to always show up when called upon. Requesting off in advance of conflicts will boost your standing with your boss, not hinder it!

Third, advance notice is everything. Your boss at work, much like your band director, can make most things work with enough advance notice. There is a huge difference in telling your boss you need off for a band concert tomorrow than you need off for a band concert in two months. Lucky for you, you most likely have your entire band calendar already months ahead of time and any changes made to it will almost always be weeks in advance. If you go to your employer with your schedule as you get it, requesting off or schedule changing will not be an issue.*

Which do you think will get desired results?

2. How to Request Off or a Schedule Change

One thing working to your advantage is having a comprehensive band calendar. You have the entire band calendar with every performance date months (if not a full year) in advance! This, together with your courage to speak up and raise the issue will be a key factor that will lead to your success.

If you have your job already when the band schedule is released, take a paper copy of your schedule to your boss the next time you go in to work. If you don’t go in for more than three days, make a special trip to your job to visit with the shift manager and hand deliver that schedule to a supervisor. When you go in for your shift, confirm with the person who makes the schedules that she received your band schedule and ask if they need anything else from you to get those specific days/times off work.

If you got your band schedule a while ago, but just got hired on, first, congratulations! I am so excited for you in your first job! During your interview, I hope you mentioned that you are in band. That is a selling point for many employers as they know that you will come with a set of skills preloaded that will make you an excellent employee. On your very first day of work/training (or before that if possible), bring in your paper band schedule to give to the person who is making the work schedule. Talk with that person and ask “Is there anything else you need from me to get these specific days/times off work?”

If anything in your band schedule changes - say a bomb threat pushed the concert from tonight to Thursday night (actually happened) - let your employer know immediately. The sooner you get them the change, the easier it will be on your employer to make it work. People understand that emergencies happen and will, in most cases, work with you.**

**note: while emergencies do happen, and employers will make every effort to accommodate them, employers have a right to think...

“A lack of planning on your end does not constitute an emergency on my end.”

Get your schedule changes to your employer immediately.

Getting your schedule in ASAP is critical!

A few weeks before each night you need off for a concert, or before your schedule shifts from morning practices to evening practices, remind your boss of the upcoming change that you told them about earlier. Your boss is scheduling potentially dozens of schedules and it is possible that the conflict may have gotten misplaced. The gentle reminder to your boss just before they write the schedule will certainly be appreciated.

And that is it. It is that easy.

Thank you for remembering that band is the one curricular activity that is interdependent between the players. If you skip math class, the person who suffers is you - both with a detention and missing content. If you skip a band concert, everyone in the band suffers. The same is true for band practice. It is incredibly difficult if not impossible to balance chords, fix drill, and overall practice performance without everyone in attendance. No doubt, you feel the same commitment to your team at work. Better planning and the courage to communicate will help you fulfill your obligation to both communities.

On behalf of your entire band family, thank you for taking ownership of your personal schedule and managing through your commitments. Your efforts to actively manage your calendar is what will allow for all of us to reach a higher level - we very much appreciate your efforts! Know that your band director and student leadership team are resources if you find you need additional support. Congratulations, again, on your employment and the wise decision to stay in band. Have a great season!


I hope you can find this useful. I plan on linking this article on my band website under resources and in my digital band handbook for the students who need more than just “all practices and performances are required. Make it work.”

If you have further suggestions, please share them in the comments on this blog post. If you agree or disagree, say that in the comments, too! The validation will help future students linked to this article.

Until next time,


P.S. Here is the printable version of this post edited to be ready to hand to a student. Feel free to make a copy and edit as you like. Best of luck with your students and season. And be sure to let me know if there is anything I can do to help!

*Note: if requesting off with more than two weeks notice is consistently an issue for your employer, it is not normal. One cause may be that your place of work may be understaffed and may be shifting their administrative failures onto you. If this is the case, this is not a healthy environment and I would encourage you to put in applications to work somewhere else.
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