Music Education: The Center of the Wheel

It is July. We have reached the final month of summer break and our attention is turning to the school year ahead. Decisions are to be made regarding what music will be performed and which events to attend. Every music education program is unique and faces its own challenges. Most have multiple seasons and ensembles to plan. It is easy to set goals for a marching band season or a choral festival, but how is that enhancing your entire program? What is the center of your music education wheel?

Photo Credit Sandy King

Concert Band. Marching Band. Jazz ensemble. Chamber groups. Indoor Percussion. All of these are part of a music education program. Some programs focus heavily on marching band over all others. Some put concert ensembles as their priority. In reality, each program should work towards a common goal.

What is the yearly goal for your music education program? Do you have one?

Every part of our program – every rehearsal, every piece of music, anything you do – must drive your group closer to the yearly goal. Each part of the program should have its own specific goal, but these ideas need to address your yearly goal.

What can your yearly goal be for your music education program? Anything. Maybe it is having students perform all 12 majors scales in quarter-notes at a tempo of 100 beats per minute. How can you use your marching band rehearsal to meet that goal? Or, your goal can be to perform a large ensemble composition with choir and winds. Find ways to work on pitch and tone stability at softer dynamics. There are hundreds of options. These goals can be piece-related, focused on student success, or just fun. The idea is to build a program with a yearly focus. This will help bring continuity and enjoyment to all parts of music education.

Creating a more efficient marching band rehearsal Corey's Commentary

As band directors, we are constantly on the go and working behind the scenes. Sometimes, we do not plan appropriately for the next rehearsal. This often leads to a more chaotic practice and frustration. Having a regular rehearsal routine helps set the standard and expectations every day, allowing students to feel comfortable and ready. In this episode, I present a few things that helped me manage rehearsal expectation and build to a successful day and season.
  1. Creating a more efficient marching band rehearsal
  2. Center of your music education wheel
  3. Considerations when writing for color guard
  4. Emotional Pacing of your Marching Band Show
  5. Should I join marching band in college?

Writing for Color Guard (revisited)

Creating a more efficient marching band rehearsal Corey's Commentary

As band directors, we are constantly on the go and working behind the scenes. Sometimes, we do not plan appropriately for the next rehearsal. This often leads to a more chaotic practice and frustration. Having a regular rehearsal routine helps set the standard and expectations every day, allowing students to feel comfortable and ready. In this episode, I present a few things that helped me manage rehearsal expectation and build to a successful day and season.
  1. Creating a more efficient marching band rehearsal
  2. Center of your music education wheel
  3. Considerations when writing for color guard
  4. Emotional Pacing of your Marching Band Show
  5. Should I join marching band in college?

Color Guard (or auxiliaries if you wish) is one of the most important and, yet, misused components of a marching ensemble. Many times, this portion of the group is left to fend for themselves creatively or just moved aimlessly around the field. Because of the significance both visually and energetically, Band Directors should show careful attention toward the Color Guard from day one of show design. Here are some tips for improving the performance of these teams:

 

Include Guard Staff in the Color Guard Design Process

When meeting to discuss show ideas, be sure to include all members of your design team and instructional staff. If you can design with all parts of the program in mind, the show’s flow will improve. Create a timeline of musical selections and begin outlining important visual moments as well. Once the entire show is in place, meet with your guard staff and begin to create a storyboard for the entire show. This type of planning will go a long way to composing beautiful moments to feature the winds, percussion, or color guard in addition to establishing when the full ensemble generates impact together.

Balance must be achieved for Color Guard

Band Directors, find ways to maximize performance and rest time during the show. The cardiovascular nature of this activity can take a toll on the performers. The winds and percussion do not play and move for every second of a show. Neither should the entire guard. Utilize small squads of the guard from time to time, especially when one section of the winds or percussion are being featured as well. Find balance in the routine and use.

Color Guard instructors, it is okay to write simple flag (or rifle, etc.) routines for a portion of the show. As Sara Gray (a Winterguard Adjudicator) has suggested- routines should be written FOR the music. If a simple routine matches musically, then allow the music to guide your choreography. Having the team do 16 counts of excellently executed drop-spins into a dramatic toss while leading to a major impact point in the winds and percussion is appropriate and more visually effective. Visual energy and musical energy must move together.

Guard Staff: Remember Your Guard Members

A common problem with Guard routines designed for high school programs is that the choreography is overwritten. Groups attempt to perform movements that the students are not comfortable doing. Staff members will simply say “they will do better once we clean it.” Sometimes, yes, they do improve. But many times, they do not find success. Just because Carolina Crown’s guard executed this amazing trick does not mean the 9th graders on your team can do it as well.

After agreeing to design a visual book for a high school once, it was requested that I allow room for visuals performed by the Cavaliers in 2002 to be inserted. It was my recommendation that the group not attempt these motions and find something that fits their ensemble. Long story short, this ensemble never performed the moves quite like the Cavaliers and it affected their overall performance.

The team of young women and men under your instruction deserve a show that they know will challenge them in some way, but also be attainable. The abilities of your team must be a priority and, much like the winds and percussion, routines should be drawn from the fundamentals that you work on daily. Write for the people in front of you.

Photo Credit: Indiana State University/Courtesy Photo
Photo Credit: Indiana State University/Courtesy Photo

Pacing Your Marching Band Show

One of my favorite things about marching band shows is the emotional impact they can create. The highs and lows in the performance pull me in and make each performance unique. However, there are several ways these impacts are impeded during the show. Whether it is how the ensemble builds to the impact or the monotony of sounds generated, the overall emotional content is lacking. Pacing matters. The way an ensemble builds to a moment of emotional tension matters. Condiseration for pacing must occur during your show design process.

Today in Corey’s Commentary, we discuss a few ways to help improve the ensemble’s performance to create better moments of tension and release.

View from the press box of a marching band festival, Lewisburg HS in Mississippi.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Be sure to build to the moment of impact and not peak early.
  • Make silences musical.
  • While there are several different musical impacts, they should not feel the same.
  • Articulations matter.
  • Pauses between movements of your show should not be longer than 4 seconds.

Creating a more efficient marching band rehearsal Corey's Commentary

As band directors, we are constantly on the go and working behind the scenes. Sometimes, we do not plan appropriately for the next rehearsal. This often leads to a more chaotic practice and frustration. Having a regular rehearsal routine helps set the standard and expectations every day, allowing students to feel comfortable and ready. In this episode, I present a few things that helped me manage rehearsal expectation and build to a successful day and season.
  1. Creating a more efficient marching band rehearsal
  2. Center of your music education wheel
  3. Considerations when writing for color guard
  4. Emotional Pacing of your Marching Band Show
  5. Should I join marching band in college?

What do you think? There are several ways to help improve the musical effect of the performance. These are just a few. While most groups fight the battle of notes and rhythms early in the season, focus on articulation, articulation, and dynamics is just as crucial. For me, we must teach these ideas from the very beginning. How we start the first note matters. The standard is set. The tone of the first note is important; however, the articulation, sustain in volume, and release should be addressed.

As an adjudicator and audience member, I want to be moved by your performance. Attention to how you travel to moments of impact matters. Consider the emotional pacing of the show.

Corey’s Commentary Podcast

Yes. You read that correctly. I am starting a podcast. Why? Because I feel as if my experiences in music – well, and life – should be shared. Blog posts are awesome but there is something about the power of the voice. With that, I am proud to introduce to you the “Corey’s Commentary Podcast.”

Creating a more efficient marching band rehearsal Corey's Commentary

As band directors, we are constantly on the go and working behind the scenes. Sometimes, we do not plan appropriately for the next rehearsal. This often leads to a more chaotic practice and frustration. Having a regular rehearsal routine helps set the standard and expectations every day, allowing students to feel comfortable and ready. In this episode, I present a few things that helped me manage rehearsal expectation and build to a successful day and season.
  1. Creating a more efficient marching band rehearsal
  2. Center of your music education wheel
  3. Considerations when writing for color guard
  4. Emotional Pacing of your Marching Band Show
  5. Should I join marching band in college?

Question. What will this podcast cover? I am glad you asked. While my life experiences center around music – marching band, concert band, performances, etc. – the podcast will cover more. Sure, most of the content will center on helping those in the music world. There will be podcasts on marching band show pacing, should I do band in college, new pieces of music, and all sorts of items for music education. However, that is not all I love.

There is coffee. Chicago Cubs baseball and the sport in general. Star Wars because it is awesome. Men’s mental health. Grilling food. And just life as a 42-year-old man who is a husband and father. Suffice to say there will be conversations about anything and everything that pops in my brain. All of this in hopes of connecting and sharing life with other people. Maybe something I say will spark thoughts in you. Awesome! For some of you, this won’t be your brew. Well, I love coffee but hate cold brews. It won’t be for everyone.

Where can you find the podcast? Well, here in this post. Each episode will be featured on my website as soon as they are ready. It will also be available on Spotify with hopes of adding to iTunes and other media soon.

If you do enjoy “Corey’s Commentary Podcast,” feel free to show some support. Like the episodes. Leave comments. Buy me a coffee. Or, just reach out with a text and say “Thanks, bro!”

Should I do marching band in college?

Congratulations! You are graduating high school and plan on attending college in the fall! Many choices are going to be presented to you and decisions will have to be made.

  • Your major.
  • What classes to take.
  • Which meal plan to select.
  • Who is going to be your roommate and in which dorm will you reside.
  • Do you join the marching band.

Let me answer one of these questions for you. YES! Join the marching band! I do not say this for the benefit of the college directors and their ensemble growing in number. This is about you – the one that has spent a great deal of the last four years riding on a bus to and from ball games, contests, and other events. For you – the person who built relationships with others that you may have never met otherwise. You – the one who enjoyed the atmosphere of performing. Here are a few reasons why I believe participating in marching band (or concert band for that matter), regardless of your major, is beneficial.

To answer this question, check out the first full episode of the Corey’s Commentary Podcast!

Creating a more efficient marching band rehearsal Corey's Commentary

As band directors, we are constantly on the go and working behind the scenes. Sometimes, we do not plan appropriately for the next rehearsal. This often leads to a more chaotic practice and frustration. Having a regular rehearsal routine helps set the standard and expectations every day, allowing students to feel comfortable and ready. In this episode, I present a few things that helped me manage rehearsal expectation and build to a successful day and season.
  1. Creating a more efficient marching band rehearsal
  2. Center of your music education wheel
  3. Considerations when writing for color guard
  4. Emotional Pacing of your Marching Band Show
  5. Should I join marching band in college?

It’s fun! You do like fun, right?