MediaStrike Banner

Sunday, September 26, 2010

High Notes, Week 4

High Notes is a weekly topic dedicated to recognizing a collegiate marching band who had a notable performance in the week of college football.

Once again, my schedule limited my football watching this weekend. It was Homecoming at UNCG, where I work, and my job is heavily involved putting it on, so my Saturday was pretty well spoken for. But while I didn't get to watch much football, I did get to spend time with two marching bands.

Spartan Force is a marching band that has been a student organization at UNCG for quite a few years now. They participated in this year's Homecoming parade, as they have for several years.

But this week's High Notes recognition goes to the new kid on the block: The Bands of Sparta. While Spartan Force is an independent student organization, the Bands of Sparta is the official pep band of UNCG Athletics. And as of this semester, thanks to the purchase of field drums, they are newly mobile! They sounded great, and looked great on the move.

If I may be self-centered for a moment, this reminds me of a very similar situation eight years ago. After the purchase of some field drums in the summer of 2002, we put UMBC's Down and Dirty Dawg Band in motion for the Homecoming parade that year. We also put those field drums to use during basketball season as well, beefing up pep band performances.

This was the first time most of campus got to see the Bands of Sparta on the move, and I think they made a great first impression. I look forward to what they will continue to have to offer.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

High Notes, Week 3

High Notes is a weekly topic dedicated to recognizing a collegiate marching band who had a notable performance in the week of college football.

In the spirit of High Notes as it was born two short weeks ago, I'd like to recognize Penn State's Blue Band for this week's high note. I last heard them bringin' it in the stands as the Nittany Lions played the Kent State Golden Flashes in Happy Valley. That said, in information I will go on to clarify, there will be all sorts of plot twists, turns, and honorable mentions this week.

I actually didn't watch a ton of college football this weekend. I caught Thursday night's game with Cincy at NC State, but the Power Sound of the South has never impressed me much. I caught the start of the noon contests (hence Penn State) before heading over to Clemmons, NC. West Forsyth High School Marching Band was having their friends and family day; two friends of mine are on staff over there. I really liked the format; Jim (the director) actually had qualified adjudicators there, who provided feedback on their performance for the band and the friends/family (mostly parents) assembled to hear. The band starts their competitive season next weekend, so this gave them something to work with before it counts. It also served to demystify the judging process for the audience. They sounded and looked pretty good, too, so in that instance, West Forsyth, while not a collegiate band, gets an honorable mention from me.

I stayed around Forsyth County for the rest of the day on into the night, attending Rock the Block in Winston-Salem, so I missed all but the latest games. I did catch the end of Texas at Texas Tech (The Goin' Band from Raiderland, Week 1's winner, continues to impress) and stayed up until Iowa-Arizona was over, quite late here on the east coast.

In the spirit of ESPN, I've decided to name yesterday in college football "Battle Saturday"; that's battle as in Battle of the Bands. There seemed to be quite a few visiting bands in various stadiums, particularly in the Big Ten's out-of-conference matchups. In an in-state dust-up with two excellent programs, Ohio University's Marching 110 visited Ohio State's TBDBITL. Kent State's band made the trip to State College as the Golden Flashes took on the Nittany Lions. And in what begame on of the more meaningful trips of the weekend, the UMass Minuteman Marching Band paid a visit to the Michigan Marching Band in Ann Arbor, a showdown between two Sudler Trophy winning bands.
*                    *                    *
It is a shame that I've had to speak on quite a few losses in the band world in the past couple of weeks. But on that very trip to Ann Arbor, the Minuteman Marching Band lost their director of 33 years, George N. Parks, to a heart attack. Parks is a name I've come to be familiar with just through his involvement in the world of marching music; I am most familiar with the drum major academy that bears his name. What I did not know, until reading about him following his passing, was his ties to the mid-Atlantic and specifically Delaware. Parks was drum major at Christiana High School in Newark, and went on to march at West Chester University in PA.

Additional honorable mentions go to both the Michigan Marching Band and the Minuteman Marching Band. Michigan held a moment of silence on Parks' behalf before their show in the Big House this Saturday.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pictorial Evidence

If you follow me on Twitter (if you don't, @80mins) you noticed me mentioning a couple times that the Eagles in their kelly green throwbacks reminded me quite a bit of the Cavaliers' anniversary corps that performed at the 2008 DCI World Championships. Behold:

(Courtesy of and, respectively)

High Notes, Week 2

High Notes is a weekly topic dedicated to recognizing a collegiate marching band who had a notable performance in the week of college football.

For this week's High Notes, I will first note that I saw a good deal less college football this week than  I did in Week 1 or in most weeks. First of all, I made the trip to Raleigh to watch the USF-UF game with a couple of friends of mine and the Raleigh-Durham USF alumni chapter, so while I watched that game in its entirety, I didn't bounce around as much as I usually do when I'm not locked in on one game. And while I fully expected to be mailing in a High Note for the Herd of Thunder this week, the TVs were actually not at a volume that made much hearing possible. And because I continued hanging out with folks for the rest of the day, I didn't catch a critical mass of the day's later games either.

All that said, in week 2 of the NCAA season, I'd like to recognize Southern University's Human Jukebox, though it's not entirely for this week, nor is it entirely for performances at college games. The 'Box easily would have garnered an honorable mention from me last week; while I couldn't tell if they were stellar from the field last week during the MEAC/SWAC Challenge (the camera work certainly wasn't stellar--thanks, ESPN) the absolutely cranked it from the stands. But it was Southern's second performance in less than a week that put them back on my radar. As the NFL season kicked off this past Thursday from the Louisiana Superdome, Southern helped the Saints go marching back in to their home stadium with an NFL championship.

*                    *                    *

I'm saddened that I have to do this, but at the same time this is absolutely the appropriate venue. I'd like to bid an all-too-premature farewell to Ricky English, a fellow alum of the Alexis I. duPont High School Tiger Marching Band. Ricky was the year behind me at AI, played the trumpet,  and after AI took his talents to Dover, where he marched with DelState's Approaching Storm. Ricky was killed in the early morning hours of September 11, 2010 in Wilmington. Rest in peace, Rick. The Lord's herald trumpet section just got stronger.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What's Your Fantasy?

The NFL regular season starts tonight, and many are watching the Saints play the Vikings. But while some are watching simply because football is back, and others are watching to see those two specific teams. Still others are watching not for the Saints or the Vikings, but for Drew Brees, or Adrian Peterson, or the Saints Defense.

Why? Fantasy football.

Each of the past several years, I've been asked to join at least one fantasy league. And each year, I've respectfully declined. Those who know my love of football are a little surprised that I don't get down with fantasy football. But I don't, and I have a couple of reasons why.

The first is admittedly lazy. At least from the outside looking in, fantasy football seems to be a lot of work. I've had people tell me it's not, but I've seen those same people slaving over crafting their team or agonizing over who to play and who to sit, so I'm not sure I buy that. I like my leisure to be exactly that.

The second, and perhaps more important reason why I don't play fantasy football is that I'm a bit of an absolutist when it comes to my fandom. I root for teams, not individuals, and as such I'm reluctant to put myself in a situation that could cause me to abandon some of my key football values and, say, root against the Eagles or for the Cowboys. Some things just won't happen.

Monday, September 6, 2010

New Feature: High Notes

I've watched a lot of college football this weekend, as well I should have, and have the Twitter feed right now to prove it. Naturally, I've been paying a lot of attention to the bands I've been seeing/hearing during this time. A thought I just had for a feature for the blog (assuming I keep it up) is to identify a band of note for each week. An early disclaimer is that this won't necessarily be the best band of the week, and it will be limited to bands that I somehow hear each week, which of course limits it to televised games I watch and/or games I attend.

The High Note for college football's opening week goes to the Goin' Band from Raiderland of Texas Tech.  Tech's band caught my attention during the game against SMU when I noticed one of their featured pieces, unapologetically, was C-Murder's Down 4 My Hittas, to use the edited title. It was unexpected, a bit gully, and certainly the sort of crowd-pleasing I like to hear in bands.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Big Ten: No Half-Stepping

The Big Ten conference announced today their divisions for when they become a 12-team conference in 2011. Having the one-track mind I do, my very next thought after looking at the competitive balance was the marching competitive balance. Which division is the stronger marching division?

(Because of the amount of attention paid to preserving the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry when crafting the divisions, I will refer to the impersonally named X and O divisions as Ohio State and Michigan, respectively.)

Admittedly, I'm not intimately familiar with each of the marching bands in the Big Ten, but I'd like to think I've got at least some idea of each of them. At first glance, I gave the nod to the Ohio State division as the marching frontrunner; I know Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin to all be heavy hitters at halftime. I acknowledge Michigan as a big boy in the other division, but I'm considerably less impressed or less familiar with the others.

I then figured there was a somewhat objective way to figure this out: Sudler Trophy recipients. For those who aren't aware, the Sudler Trophy is awarded annually (now biannually) to an outstanding marching band. The trick is this: No band can receive the award twice. As such, it is logical (and yes, I recognize the fallacy that exists and choose to ignore it for this purpose) to state that the first marching band awarded the Sudler Trophy is the best collegiate marching band, and each year it is awarded to the best of the rest. The Trophy, awarded by the John Philip Sousa Foundation, seems to have a pretty solid Big Ten bias, but since we are talking about the Big Ten here, that isn't a problem.

Ten of the soon-to-be-twelve Big Ten teams are already Sudler Trophy winners; Wisconsin and Minnesota are the two outliers. This puts five winners in each division, an even split. So to break the tie, I decided to go to the numbers. Using the belief that the best won first and so on, I was able to assign a number to each champion based on their ranking, or distance from the first champion. Big Ten member Michigan, awarded the first trophy in 1982, gets a 0 for their distance from the number one spot; Illinois, the second champion, gets a 1, and so on. It follows, then, that the division with the lowest aggregate score  is the "better" marching division. Here's what the numbers told me:

Michigan Division
Michigan 0
Michigan State 6
Iowa 8
Northwestern 10
Nebraska 14

Ohio State Division
Illinois 1
Ohio State 2
Purdue 13
Penn State 23
Indiana 25

With a score of 38 to 64, it looks as though the Michigan Division is our marching tradition champion.
discussion by