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Thursday, June 23, 2016

New Kid on the Block

Those who consume a variety of marching media know that the landscape has been pretty thin when it comes to drum corps podcasts. The Field Pass with Dan Potter is tried and true, but it a mouthpiece for the League itself. The Marching Roundtable has been in the game for over five years, though they are as much pedagogical as they are fan-focused. But there's a new kid on the block:  Drumcast can be found wherever you find your podcasts (I can personally vouch for Stitcher). It's always great to have a new voice in the fray talking about the activity.

Corey, the series host, hails from Canada - notable in itself, as there are currently no live shows and no World Class corps based north of the border. So far, and he's four episodes and a pilot in at this point, his location hasn't prevented him from reporting on the activity as corps news was coming out late in the spring. Now that the season is upon us, I look forward to what he has to add as we seek more news on the tour and the corps.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Decrescendo in Force

Lee and I at least agree on the importance of military music.
Let me start by acknowledgimg, with the appropriate weight, that our legislators have a number of important issues in front of them currently. I say that not to belittle the issue at hand, but rather to underscore it.

This is important.

 Currently before the US Senate - having passed a House vote - sits Amendment 48 to H.R. 5293, the 2017 Defense Appropriations Act, which seeks "to limit the Defense Department from using money to have musical military units perform in an official capacity for certain entertainment purposes [...] including dinners, dances, and social events." The impact on the missions performed by military musicians would be huge; this amendment would limit military ensembles' ability to perform in parades, exhibitions, touring programs like Spirit of America, and honors for veterans and active personnel. Also at stake could be pieces that many sports fans would take for granted, like the marching units that perform at Army, Navy, and Air Force football games.

At the risk of hyperbole, it's an affront to John Philip Sousa himself.

It's easy to dismiss military musical ensembles as extracurricular (and as a student affairs professional by trade, I have my own thoughts on the value of "extracurriculars"). But such ensembles serve as valuable ambassadors, advertisement, and recruitment for our armed forces. As more than simply musicians, I was reminded - and heartened - in the facebook group #savemilitarymusic of the stories of military musicians who traded reeds for rounds and went from battery to battery as they took up arms alongside their fellow troops. While their instruments may have inspired their service, it didn't end there.

I'm not against taking a realistic budgetary look at the entirety of defense spending, including potentially scaling back musical missions. Paramount is, of course, the safety of the men and women who serve. But a near complete elimination of musical finding from the appropriations is not the way to go about it.

If you're interested in taking action, there are a few resources below.

Link to contact info for U.S. Senators:

Links to petitions:

Monday, June 20, 2016


I've got a thing for homecomings, and a soft spot for long-suffering sports cities. Best of luck to LeBron and the Cavaliers." -July 2014

I realize now that that post was the only other time I've used the Cleveland Cavaliers tag, though a few more feature their name-likeness in Rosemont. But last night, the Cleveland Cavaliers were crowned champions of the NBA with a game 7 victory over Golden State, exorcizing a 52year old championship drought demon from the city of Cleveland. Akron's own Lebron James was a necessary piece of the puzzle, restoring glory to God hjome region, precisely as he set out to do when he returned to northeast Ohio just two years ago.

I don't have anything particularly profound to add to the discussion. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the number of NBA games I caught this year. But as I've said before, homecomings and long-suffering sports cities are a soft spot of mine, and Cleveland is no longer the latter.

Your move, Bluecoats.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

No Longer Banned from Tigerland

It's a little embarrassing when something lands squarely in your wheelhouse and by the time you get to cover it, the story has gone full circle. Still, all's well that ends well.

It seems LSU has a knack for peering over the edge of reason before backpedaling. It happened with the potential firing of Les Miles, and while it didn't save former band director Roy King, we're seeing it now in the marching band as well. Nearly a week ago, it was announced that LSU was no longer welcoming visiting bands to perform at halftime in Tiger Stadium. This disappointing news came as many wondered aloud if Jacksonville State's Marching Southerners would make the trip to Baton Rouge. While disappointing, the original decision was not without basis: LSU may very well have the least sideline clearance of any SEC stadium, and an additional 800 bodies on the sideline during live game action late in the second half is a risk management nightmare. Still, after considerable discussion from the band community, LSU has reversed course, instead working with risk management to devise a plan that will keep safety at the forefront while still allowing two bands to participate.

While the reversal took less than a week, it may or may not salvage Tiger Stadium's Band on the Road season, which best case scenario would feature Southern Miss, South Alabama, Jacksonville State, and Alabama. Still, LSU competes in one of the three most Sudler Trophy-rich divisions in college football, with regular visits from Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, and Arkansas. Even so, full band visits haven't always been the norm among divisionmates, perhaps due to the challenges that led to the temporary ban in the first place. With a new plan in place, we'll hopefully even see an increase in visitors to Death Valley.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Scouts Honor

blah blah blah... click the picture for tickets!
With any luck, elbow grease, and gumption on my part, I will be bringing Scouts Honor: Inside a Marching Brotherhood to the Triad for its first screening in the Carolinas.

For those unfamiliar, Scouts Honor is a documentary that follows the Madison Scouts through a marching season, focusing on the stories of the of the young men playing in the corps. The film has been on my radar for some time now, and I got to meet Mac, the director, producer, and founder in Indianapolis when I made the trip for DCI championships.

It started with a tweet:

As any effective manager would tell you, to suggest is to volunteer:
And so it began. I exchanged a few DMs with the Scouts Honor folk, and after exploring a few options came to the conclusion: Why not me? I went ahead to Gathr Films and signed up to host a local screening. For those unfamiliar - I know I was - Gathr works like a crowdfunding site: When it hits critical mass the screening becomes a reality; if it doesn't, the screening doesn't happen and no one is charged. I've currently got just shy of seven weeks to beat the streets and get 80 people (a fitting number, as it were) to reserve their tickets for a screening in late July. They date was chosen by design because of its proximity to NightBEAT in Winston-Salem. The theater, located in High Point, is easily accessible from Winston and from my home in Greensboro.

If you're reasonable traveling distance from the Piedmont Triad, I invite you to the screening of Scouts Honor: Inside a Marching Brotherhood, taking place on Wednesday, July 27 at 7:30pm at the Palladium in High Point, NC. To reserve your tickets, click here. Want to tell your college roommate in Kernersville or your sister-in-law in Clemmons? Share that link, this post, or the Facebook event with them. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Drumming Up Funds

A couple of college bands are in jeopardy after losing their funding provided by the university.

Halftime Magazine reports that the pep band at Wichita State and the marching and pep bands at West Liberty University in West Virginia have been defunded from Student Government and state funds, respectively. Without the funding, each ensemble's existence for the coming school year is in serious doubt.

Athletic bands exist at the nexus of athletics, music, and student organizations. This format makes for a powerful cocurricular experience, but it also allows any one entity to absolve itself of responsibility for supporting or funding such programs. At Wichita State, the pep band lost the funding earmarked for them by the Student Government Association, which also allocates student fees to student organizations. At West Liberty, state budget cuts which forced the music program to tighten its belt doomed the athletic bands program.

For those who follow major college athletics, the situation at Wichita State may seem particularly egregious. The pep band in question has accompanied perennial mid-major power Shockers men's basketball to the NCAA tournament each of the last five years, including a final four appearance in 2013 and a sweet sixteen trip in 2015. Frankly, it's a bit strange to me that the funding wasn't coming from athletics in the first place. Wichita State's SGA seemed to agree, citing among their reasons for the cut to the pep band funding their ability to be funded by other sources, including the athletic department. Hopefully, athletics will pay the support forward to ensure their games aren't a whole lot quieter in the future.

Meanwhile, in West Virginia, West Liberty's athletic bands were a casualty of the increasing budget cuts to public higher education. Those cuts, which I'm sure put a strain on all academic departments and state-funded areas, may have been exacerbated by the athletic bands' perceived value to the music program. While I can't speak specifically to the climate at West Liberty, the strain between athletic bands and their music departments isn't unprecedented. Lack of musical rigor (real or perceived), their function as student organizations, and their allegiance - some may say subservience - to something as base as college athletics often "other"s them within the department. Indeed, when the cuts came to West Liberty's programs, the interim dean stated,“This decision protects current and future music students because it allows the Music Program to continue to fulfill the established curricular requirements for its degrees”. That statement portrays the athletics band programs as outside of the curricular requirements - a luxury or frivolity, depending on your interpretation.

Here's hoping that both programs find the funding necessary to continue their operations.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

So You're Telling Me There's A Chance

As the Premier League's season pulls into the station, comparatively destitute Leicester City plays the role of the Little Engine that Could. Here in the States, Villanova took home men's college basketball's top prize without the benefit of major conference football money.

Down in East Texas, the Coogs have to be thinking: Why not us?

Among the off-season musings that occupy the time until football returns is the question of whether a team from a non-auto-qualifying conference could ever play for a championship. The field has widened since the Playoff began, and this year's Houston team may have as good a chance as anyone.

Since Boise State last challenged for the spot, it has become apparent that for a team from outside of the power structure to have a shot, it's a multi-year process. Houston will be building upon a strong 2015 outing and a top ten ranking, and a bowl victory over recent champion FSU doesn't hurt either. Several preseason rankings and predictions have Houston in the 7-15 range, and while these don't have any bearing on the selection committee, it gives a snapshot of the Cougars' respect in national media. Houston also hauled in the top recruiting class ever for a group of five team. The roster is, of course, full of Texas Kids™, which I'm sure also provide a perception boost.

Speaking of perception, Houston is also uniquely positioned with a head coach in Herman who many believe could have had any open job in the country this past offseason. He has the clout through his connection to the first playoff national champion in Ohio State; in fact, there was UH gear on the field during the championship celebration, thanks to a smart branding decision from already-hired Herman.

Lastly, while it's tough for a group of five schedule to stand up to power five scrutiny, a group from the American has as good a chance as any. If last year's conference powers hold serve, Houston will face strong squads in Navy, Memphis, and whoever emerges from the East. But perhaps most notably, in addition to an ACC squad in Louisville, their out of conference begins with an opening week "neutral" but in-town tilt with Oklahoma in Houston's NRG Stadium. If the Coogs can knock off the Sooners? Let the buzz begin.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Orange and Green

Mark Richt has lost control of the Sun Life Stadium construction project.

With the Miami Herald reporting that construction on Sun Life Stadium, home to the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Hurricanes, is running a few weeks behind schedule, the Canes may have to consider an alternative location for their home opener. They've considered FIU's Stadium, virtually down the road, but they also reportedly have a "top secret contingency plan".

I hope it's in Tallahassee.

Miami's opponent for the home opener is FAMU. While it's extremely rare for an FCS school to host their FBS - much less Power 5 - opponent,  this could throw a bone in a major way to a smaller program in the state. And while Tallahassee is nearly a 500 mile trek from Miami, it gives the U some tendrils elsewhere in the state - and in FSU's backyard, in a year where the Noles and all other in-state opponents are scheduled to come to Miami's south Florida home. FAMU's stadium actually holds more than FIU's. While it would be a considerable hike for Miami, I don't see home field advantage playing a huge role here. Miami will win the football game just as assuredly as the Marching 100 will win halftime.

Friday, April 22, 2016

On Guard

While no one's asked for it, I feel the need to make a quick clarification for my guard folks. In my recent March/April Staccato, I was dismissive of the weekend following the Final Four, as its highlights are baseball, golf, and WGI. I've gone on record as not being particularly fond of baseball (though opening week holds a special magic) and I care so little about golf that I'm not sure I've so much as mentioned it. But my feelings about WGI are a bit different. Both my marching band and dance roots give me an appreciation of guard, but as a standalone activity, I don't follow. So while I can appreciate individual shows and have a great time at an event, I'm not attuned to the bigger picture.

Put another way: for me, it's all about context.

I can enjoy a Carolina Crown on its own merit, certainly, but how are they doing relative to the Blue Devils? Sure the Eagles got that win, but they're still not going to make the playoffs. I tend to enjoy the sports/activities that I do in the micro and the macro. With guard - and it should be noted, I feel the same about WGI Percussion, and [no data available] for WGI Winds - championship weekend doesn't mean as much since I don't have a dog in the fight and I'm not there. Still though, I'm excited that a sizable swath of marching arts fans descend upon Dayton to enjoy what they love!

Monday, April 18, 2016

March/April Staccato Notes

Well well, I haven't had much to say over here since the round of 64 in the NCAA men's hoops tournament, and now we're in a whole new hosts of sports. I've had enough topics of interest to at least give a series of short notes.

-After an epic finale - and a strong tournament overall - the Villanova Wildcats are your 2016 Division I men's basketball champions. The Philly sports fan in me is thrilled, naturally. So is Roxanne Chalifoux, AKA last year's Crying Piccolo Girl from Villanova.
-The week/end that followed the Final Four should have been of great interest to someone with my broad interest - sports and the marching arts - but of reasonably little consequence in the specific. Sorry Masters, MLB, and WGI. My wife however, is back in her element, watching O's updates on her phone.
-I had occasion to visit the College Football Hall of Fame during a work trip to Atlanta. I caught it before the move as well, back in South Bend. While the whole Hall is great, I will admit to being the guy taking the pictures of the band stuff.
-LSU - you know, the same school that played fast and loose with Les Miles' livelihood this past football season - has placed band director Roy King on administrative leave.
-Satellite camps have been banned by the NCAA, effective immediately. It's been noted by many that for them to have been defeated, some had to vote against their own self interest.
-In other NCAA football news, there's a moratorium on new bowls for the next three seasons. Good, say I - there are too many already.
-The NBA will start including ads on jerseys in the 2017 season. From my admittedly limited scope, I don't see the cause. The sports one associates most closely with advertising - soccer and NASCAR - also have limited breaks in the action for actual commercials. the NBA doesn't have this problem.
-Last but far from least, the 500 pound gorilla in my North Carolina World: HB2, a shameful piece of legislation that garners most of its press from its implications on bathroom use for transgender folks, but goes much further to restrict the rights of North Carolinians and the state's municipalities. First, to draw a sports analogy: The bill itself was rushed through a special session as opposed to being given due consideration by the legislative body. While I thought for a moment our governor may consider a veto on grounds of its overreach, its haste, or its business implications (which I'll get to in a second), it turn out he was waiting at the Hoosier Dome for the Mayflowers to pull up.

In a sports context, both the NBA and NCAA have issued statements admonishing the bill, and each has some pretty major skin in the game. The NBA is slated to host its All-Star game in Charlotte in 2017. It looks like it's going to stay, despite Atlanta's public dirty-macking on the event. The NCAA will host first and second round men's basketball tournament action here in Greensboro in 2017, though them making a political statement wouldn't be unprecedented; South Carolina just got its postseason rights back after removing the confederate battle flag from the state house grounds.
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