S-Steps To Success

At the end of my first semester at HNHS, I gave a “talk” at the Band Banquet Awards….. At first, I was going to update it with what is outdated or different……but have decided instead to print it as I said it 5 years ago.

How do you think we’re doing so far? Perhaps I’ll make a followup update. Here goes. Enjoy.

Introduction & Rookie Run Down

I’m not a rookie teacher, but this is my first semester at Huntington North. It is my first time as a part-time teacher and my first time as an assistant band director.

Mr. Campbell is a good boss who has had it harder this year because, in addition to breaking me in, is having to do more of the things that Mr. Hippensteel did last year as a full-time assistant. I’m only here for the last two classes of the day.

From my perspective, the best thing going for this band is THIS BAND. The work ethic is good. These guys will do just about anything we ask, almost without grumbling. They have all been respectful to me. As Mr. Reed says, we have a great clientele of students here.

The NEXT BEST THING GOING for this band are THE PARENTS. There are the dedicated people on the uniform committee; measuring, altering, touching up, repairing when the fence tears a hole in the sleeve or touching up dirty shoes – and dealing with those who forgot socks, or shoes, or uniform. There is the Pit Crew that loads, unloads and transports all our equipment. The Food Committee waters the band after every performance and sometimes feeds them twice in a day.

As Bill Clinton said in a church service recently, “I like it here – and I don’t wanna leave.” 

S-Steps To Success After a recent Band Parent meeting, a group of people made an encouraging request.

“Tell us what you need and let us see what we can do.”

I’ve generalized my goals into three major categories – and they all start with ‘S’. I’m calling them my “Sssss-Steps to Success”.

#1 – Super Size

The FIRST thing we need to do is to SUPER SIZE this band. Size doesn’t equal sound – but it certainly helps! We were the smallest Class A band just about everywhere we went.

We need to Search for Super Sizers. Mr. Campbell and I are both going to try to spend time in the Middle Schools lessen one of the big unknowns about coming to the high school.

You can help. Be enthusiastic about your band. Enthusiasm is contagious.

Pit people don’t have to be band members. Your friends who play piano can play mallet instruments. People who quit band in the past can come back. And then, without taking anything away from what it takes to be a percussionist, we can teach just about anybody how to hit something.

We currently have over 175 people in the high school bands, but 90 of them do not march.

Some sad news is that we have 16 seniors. These are sixteen committed people and they will be tough to replace. But the good news is that we have 16 seniors – and the Middle Schools have over 100 8th graders. Let’s get to work.

You need to Stay to be Seniors.

I’d love to see the school or community have to deal with

¯  a marching band that can’t fit in the bandroom.

¯  having to buy uniforms because we don’t have enough.

¯  scrambling to get instruments and equipment for the people we have to use them.

¯  pull into competition parking lots with 5 or 6 busses.

#2 – Sensational Sound

SECOND, you should Strive for Individual Success.

If you become the best that YOU can be, then we can work to blend your individual abilities to improve the overall band. A super-sized band can give us more sound, but we need your individual improvement to enable us to play some of the more challenging types music we heard this past fall.

Study Seriously for Improvement.

You should consider Individual Study on your instrument. If you can pay, we have access to professional experts on every instrument. They absolutely make a difference. For less pay, we can connect you with some college students who are looking for some experience.  And if you can’t pay, let us know, because some teachers will make allowances for hard working students. Mr. Campbell and I have discussed the possibility of periodic after school Master Classes on your instrument, where we can provide some instrument-specific instruction. And several of you are already taking advantage of some of the musical ensembles at Huntington University.

Instruments need to go home. There are no shortcuts. Proficiency requires practice. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it certainly helps.

Your Individual Level of Musical Success depends on a combination of

¯  your God-given musicianship

¯  the training you receive

¯  the equipment you use and

¯  the commitment you have

#3 – Sizzling Show

FINALLY, we need a SIZZLING SHOW, and it won’t come cheaply.

We need Spectacular Music.

Some of the band members have suggested we play music from the movie, “The Incredibles”. We’re playing a version of it in class right now just to see if we can. If we were to select that music for a competitive show, we would spend well over $1000 for the licensed music and all that goes with using it. And if we make a different selection, we would need to pay a professional arranger to make it sound good for our band and in a competition show. Ca-ching.

We need Stunning Drill Design.

Merrillville paid over three times what we did for drill design. I have no clue what the Fort Wayne bands pay. We paid $2500 for a drill writer to write this year’s show and put it in the mail to us. I liked our drill from this past fall. But next year, we need the drill designer to be with us several times during the season; to tweak it, fix it, improve it and make suggestions for it. That will cost more.

We need Superb Special Effects. I went to the RCA Dome to watch the finals, taking lots of notes and pictures – and noticed several common factors among the top ten Class A bands in the state.

Several of the state finalists had gigantic tarps on the field. Some were for design, others were actually functional and used by the band to make specific designs. There were platforms and ramps used to feature sections and soloists. One had huge file cabinets that went with the theme of their show, but which were also use for prop storage and even outfit changes. Many had prop hiding shields and barriers. Drum major platforms were several times the size of ours and every band had at least two drum majors. Several had three. One had five.

Most color guards had 2-4 costumes and 4-6 different flags plus rifles, sabers, wheels, sticks, file folders and other hybrid type props.

With the props and the horn and body flashes, we need some theatrical expertise for our show. We intend to utilize an offer to consult and design from the Huntington University Theatre Department.

Before the first football game, as we were picking up some of our big rocks that had been voluntarily repaired at the college, they asked how we were doing with them. I invited them to come to a football game to see – and they did. Professor Mike Burnett brought several of the Theatre Department students to a home game and afterwards, made the offer to help us design next year’s field props.

We need Splendid Style.

That means splendid basics. We have to march better, to get it sooner and to push it harder.

We need State-of-the-Art Equipment.

Most of the drumlines had 4-6 snares, 4 quads and 5-6 basses. If we want to do that, not only will we have to super-size the drumline, but we’ll need more drums.

The pit setups I saw tended to have 6-8 mallet instruments and 8-15 people.

Seven of the ten finalists had sound systems with speakers, monitors, microphones, amplifiers, keyboards, and power supplies. They amplified specialty instruments like bassoon, oboe, alto flute, contra-bass clarinet, electronic violin and even two wireless marching electronic snare drums. Several shows had narration and one had singing. Keyboards and bass guitars were used to amplify the low sound for the bands.

Ten of ten bands had new silver Sousaphones or shoulder Tubas. One had ten such tubas and five bari saxes. Paul from Blessings tells me those instruments are about $4,000 each.

Ben Davis, one of, if not the largest band there, had 100% silver brass instruments.

If we’re going to get more and bigger stuff, are we ready for our own personalized semi trailer, like just about every other Class A band has?

Mr. Campbell and I would like some CD recording capabilities in the bandroom so we can make better quality recordings for marching rehearsals – and also for study and play back for the band.

We need a taller, safer rehearsal viewing platform. It could be permanent or portable. Portable would enable us to move between the parking lot and the grass rehearsal areas. Did you notice the 2-3 story buildings built for the bands at Northrop, Angola, Homestead and Merrillville?

Angola had a tower in between a blacktop and grass field, so it could be used for both.

The band office computer is a several years old hand-me-down from the choir department.

Let me sum it up this way:

Let’s SUPER SIZE this band by searching for super sizers and staying in band.

Let’s develop a SENSATIONAL SOUND by striving for individual success and studying seriously.

Let’s field a SIZZLING SHOW with spectacular music, stunning design, superb style and closer to state-of-the-art equipment.

You give us what we need in people, equipment, work ethic and attitude – and we’ll take some major steps toward BIGGER success.

I like it here – and I don’t wanna leave.

Thank you.

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