Post BOA thoughts

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Last weekend was Grand Nationals in Indianapolis. Great weekend, and more importantly, some truly great performances. Congratulations to all the bands at the show. In thinking back to the early 90s when I was marching in those shows, it’s pretty amazing to see how far the activity has come over the last 20 years.

Trends come and go, both visually and musically, but there is one trend that I’m hoping is on its way back. Melody. Let me explain.

It’s important to know the medium and the audience you are writing and performing for. Music and visual have to come together to make something special. It is always a little sad when you see a show that is played incredibly well but has little or no visual program to back it up. It’s equally disappointing to see a program that is visually fantastic but has poorly executed music backing it up. There are a number of factors that could play into it. Maybe the performing ensemble had a rough day, maybe the music book was too hard, or maybe the music book was just plain forgettable.

We sometimes joke about seeing a West Side Story show on the field and saying that there is a mandatory 10 point deduction. Sure it has been done to death, but there’s a reason for that: It’s damn good music. Melodies and chord progressions that will stay with you long after the performance is done.

It seemed to me that over the last few years, lots of bands were moving into the direction of shows that had music that is slightly minimalistic, highly rhythmic, and in the end, somewhat forgettable. Still, the performances were great. The performers were nailing the written book and doing it with incredible technique and sound. We would watch and listen to these shows, enjoy the performance, but as soon as the band was marching off the field, you couldn’t hum a single melody from the show that you just watched.

This year, a couple of programs brought out some older orchestral classics as part of their shows. I would suggest that the reason that those selections come back is because the music is just that good. I’m sure that in the 18th and 19th century that there was a high quantity of equally forgettable music too.

I’m not saying that all of it is bad. What I’m suggesting is that we as designers and directors can have both, not just one. We can have fantastic and thought provoking visual programs that are coupled with compelling melodies that will stay with the audience, the performers, and the judges long after we leave the field.

We can demand melody.

The shirt makes it more legitimate

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Trimpe Music Publishing: We publish things.

We actually USED these things?

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I was cleaning out an old desk that has traveled with me since my undergrad days and found a massive stash of old floppy disks. I don’t have a computer that can even take them anymore, so they were all tossed in a box to be sent off and recycled.

But check out this little gem. My original Finale install disks from 1994! How far we have come. I remember walking back to my dorm with the monstrosity that was the instruction manuals that went with the program. Three massive books in a box that barely fit in my backpack.

Somewhere out there are my 2.0 installs…

Famous potatoes!

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I’m heading to Idaho!

One of the great things about doing more judging is the chance to see new places, see new bands, and meet new people. Last year I started judging marching bands with the USSBA in addition to the shows I normally do here in the Midwest. Turned out to be a great fit, did a few shows in New Jersey, and it was a ton of fun.

I think the most notable difference is the merger of the two effect judges into one overall effect judge. Aside from saving the host bands a little money in judging fees, it does make sense. It’s pretty hard to create a strong musical effect without any visual component (and vice versa). Not impossible, but not common. Effect is lots of fun to do. You get to be a little bit of a spectator. Your job is to react, take it all in, and share your observations.

Never been to Idaho, but I’m really looking forward to it. Really looking forward to seeing what’s happening out there. Now it’s time for some quality flight reading time.

RIP George Parks (1953-2010)

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Raise your hand as high as you can. Now raise it two inches higher… THAT IS WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOUR LIFE!
-George N. Parks

The marching world lost a legend, no other way to put it.

George Parks was (among other things) the director of the UMass marching band, easily one of the finest and most beloved marching programs in the country. I knew George from my time working as a SWAG at the Bands of America Summer Symposium. He ran the drum major academy. It was far more than just training them the technique of directing. He was teaching them to be leaders, to be confident, to be something better. Better than they originally thought they could be.

Traveling across the country, the UMass band stopped in Ohio for a performance. That night, he spoke of having some discomfort and was taken to the hospital. It was there that he passed away from a heart attack. I can’t even imagine what the members of the band are going through.

I didn’t know him nearly as well as other people did, but I know that he loved his work, he loved his students, and he loved his music. In turn, there were friends and students who loved him just as intensely and fiercely. I half jokingly said that there were countless people who would have gladly followed him off a cliff at a perfect 8 to 5 with their eyes high with pride.

All I can think is what an absolute loss this is and (somewhat selfishly) how incredibly unfair it is. To say that he will be missed is a gross understatement.

Thanks for everything you did, George. We’ll miss you.

ASCAPlus award!

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They like me! They really like me!

I got something in the mail today from ASCAP today. Usually this is a statement showing me my royalty reimbursements. For concert and orchestral writers, along with any broadcast media, royalties are collected for university, conservatory, and professional performances. Since I write mainly music for high school marching band and there doesn’t seem to be a strong calling for marching band music on the radio, I’m used to seeing a statement with a giant zero on it. Imagine my surprise when it wasn’t that and was instead a letter telling me that I had won an ASCAPlus award!

For writers who have a body of work that falls outside of traditional royalty collections, you can apply annually for one of these awards. It’s a nice way of acknowledging somebody’s effort and work in what they consider “non-traditional venues”. Suffice it to say, I’m really pleased. I can think of a number of other composers in the field who I have high respect for who have also received this. To be added to that list is an honor.

Yet another blog!

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Just what the internet needs! Yet another blog! I used to joke that if you could find 5 or 6 people who all had a similar interest, somebody had probably already created a site on the internet about (and it was likely much better than anything you were thinking about creating).

I had been toying with the idea of creating a blog to talk about composition, arranging, judging, marching band, and the general process of trying to create and be creative. It’s a rather niche market, and there were so many things that I have learned along the way that I wish somebody would have clued me in on 10 years or so ago when I started getting really serious about this as a full time profession. After talking with students and other band directors, I’ve found that there are a few people who are interested in how the process really works.

I don’t pretend to be the be-all end-all definitive word on any of this. In fact, I’ll be the first to tell you that I still have a lot to learn. I’m also of the opinion that once you think that you have it mastered, you probably are full of crap and should seek out some other profession.

More will come soon. Hopefully I will be able to take you through the process of creating an original show from the beginning all the way to a finals performance. Until then, good luck at band camp, and STAY HYDRATED.