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.

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.

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.