What a crazy, busy marching season, right? We all are breathing that sigh of relief as Thanksgiving is quickly approaching.
Except for those that are still in playoffs…
Or those warmer climate states that have a later competition schedule…
Well, it will be all over soon for everyone and then we can just sit back, relax, and enjoy some time away from fall marching band, right?
The reality of the activity is that marching band never TRULY ends. Once the final note of the show is played, the band director and their staff begin the process of brainstorming about music, themes, and design for the next year’s show. Band directors focus on improving the musicianship of their ensemble during concert band season and through jazz bands, percussion ensembles, lessons, and other small groups and ensembles. Color guard instructors are improving the skills of their students through winter guard activities. Everyone is thinking about how to recruit the next group of “rookies” and what it’s going to take to get them up to speed with the experienced marchers.
It cannot be stressed enough the importance of continually improving the performance skills of the students in as many ways as possible during the “offseason.” Let’s face it, running a successful band program comes very close to being a 24/7/365 job! However, many band directors neglect to focus on one very important aspect of their program during the “offseason.” It’s not a purposeful neglect by any means, but it’s a part of their program that if left unattended, can result in a stagnant band program.
What aspect is this?
The continuing education of the band directors and their staff members!
Yes – band directors neglect to continually educate themselves and provide educational opportunities for their staff members! Why is this?
First, let’s be honest with each other. Everyone is EXHAUSTED! On top of a normal work day, band directors and their staff members spend 3-5 nights a week rehearsing the students, then attend a Friday night football game, and then spend another 8 to 12-hour day with the students on Saturdays for rehearsal followed by a contest or festival. That’s basically doing almost two full time jobs, of which one you do not even get paid minimum wage (for some staff members, little to no pay once you factor in gas and food expenses)!
Second, it can be difficult to find professional development in the world of marching and pageantry arts. Marching band, especially from the show design and color guard perspective, is very much a trial-by-error type of learning process. It can be compared to a master/apprentice type of job situation where the best instructors/designers have learned how to instruct/design by working underneath other great people in the activity. While this is a wonderful way to learn the trade, there are pockets of the country where this type of resource just isn’t available. Additionally, there just aren’t many classes, seminars, or workshops available nationwide for marching band staff members to access and we all know that judges’ tapes, as good as they can be, just don’t quite provide all the help we really need.
Third, those classes, seminars, or workshops that are available can become expensive when you factor in location, travel, lodging, meals, and registration fees. While band directors may be able to get some funding from their school districts to pay for part of the expenses for professional development, rarely will districts pay for professional development of volunteer staff members. The expense then falls to the booster programs that already have many financial burdens on their plate just to make sure the kids have Dinkles on their feet and flags in their hands to spin.
Last, time is a HUGE factor. Let’s face it, band sucks up much of our personal lives. Even in the “offseason” there are after school rehearsals for various ensembles or musicals. Band directors and their staff members want to be able to spend time with their families. They want to get to projects around the house they neglected all fall. They want to go on either winter or early summer vacations before the craziness of the next season hits in late July or early August. How can they fit in a week-long summer professional development event, or evening classes/seminars, or anything else in their very busy schedule?
The reality is…
Marching band directors and staff members MUST find time in their schedules for their own professional development.
We all have seen online the “newer” definition of INSANITY: repeating the same action multiple times expecting different results. This is exactly what happens when band directors and staff do not seek out professional development. If you are not learning new things about the activity, then you do not have new things to bring to your program and your students. You are therefore teaching the same ideas and concepts from year to year. If your program isn’t growing and improving, and you are teaching the same thing from year to year… Well, you see where this is going…
Additionally, we need to set good examples for our students! We expect our band members to learn and try new things. We strive to teach them how to stretch themselves so they can grow and improve and musicians and performers. Yet, how can we truly expect our students to do this if we ourselves are not doing it?
Here is a list of resources for professional development that I have used in the past as well as some that I know exist. I would love to come up with a more comprehensive list, so if you know of other resources available to band directors and their staff members, please feel free to email me at email@example.com and I will add them to this list.
MFA Summer Symposium: https://camp.musicforall.org/directors
The Music for All Summer Symposium is a week-long summer camp at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Students can enroll in different tracks including marching band, high school and middle school concert band, jazz, orchestra, percussion, student leadership, drum major, high school and middle school color guard, music production, and student instructors.Directors and staff members can enroll in different tracks as well including Band Directors, Color Guard Instructors, Percussion Specialists, Collegiate and New Teachers, and Middle School Directors. There is even a Parent/Booster track for parents to attend.The Summer Symposium has a DCI Corps that is the “Corps in Residence” for the week. In the last few years, Carolina Crown has been the corps. There are opportunities to attend seminars with the various sections, designers and directors of the corps. The week’s capstone event is the DCI Central Indiana show.
Spirit of America Visual Design Retreat: https://spiritofamericaband.org/events/visual-design-retreat
The Spirit of America Visual Design Retreat is held on Cape Cod in Orleans, Massachusetts. Hosted by Greg Harms and Brantley Douglas, this week-long event brings together drill writers of all skill levels – from the professional writer who writes multiple drill each season to the average band director that writes one drill for their own program.Sponsored in part by Pyware, this retreat provides excellent instruction in the in’s and out’s of Pyware as well as instruction on drill design. Novice drill writers will get excellent instruction in how to use Pyware and experienced writers can take advantage of the cooperative atmosphere created among attendees. Everyone is there to learn and help one another create the best visual programs for the students they can. Rumor has it, the amazing Dustin Merrill from Pyware will be in attendance this upcoming year!
Marching Arts Education and Color Guard EDU: https://marchingartseducation.com and https://marchingartseducation.com/color-guard
The Marching Arts Education and Color Guard EDU website provides quality live and recorded webinars on all topics pageantry arts related from some of the biggest names in the business!With a yearly membership fee, you and your staff members can access hours of instruction and webinars to aid in developing your marching band ensemble. Topics range from arranging and designing to instrument pedagogy, from DCI to WGI to BOA, and everything in between.
Marching Roundtable: https://www.marchingroundtable.com
The Marching Roundtable is a podcast hosted by Tim Hinton that currently has 760 podcasts about the marching and pageantry arts. Tim Hinton does an amazing job bringing in top names in the activity to discuss many of the big issues that we face within your activity. Guests have included Michael Cesario, Michael Gaines, Matt and Ben Haloff, Key Poulan, and many, many more! He talks to many of the top DCI and BOA designers about their show concepts and instructional methods as well. There is something for EVERYONE in this podcast series! I highly recommend this series to anyone involved in the marching arts, especially if you have a long drive to work each day like I do!
Smith Walbridge Clinics: https://www.swclinics.com/drilldesign
Performer’s Academy: http://www.performersacademy.com
Dan Ryder Pyware & Marching Band Drill Designing Workshop: http://www.danryderfielddrills.com/images/marchingworkshop.htm
Fred J. Miller Summer Clinics: https://www.fjminc.com/summer-clinics
Pyware “E” Learning: http://www.bandfo.com/eLearning.html
Drill and Visual Design HQ: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1858877687671324/?ref=bookmarks
Pyware Users Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/pywareusersgroup/
Band Directors: https://www.facebook.com/groups/banddirectors/
Please take the offseason to reflect upon you and your staff’s strengths and weaknesses and find some time to take part in professional development. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
Please feel free to comment to this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m looking forward to hearing from you all about marching band professional development!
Blessings to you all and Happy Thanksgiving!
Ten-Hut Productions LLC