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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.
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