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Monday, June 27, 2016

Let's Play Two

While it's not yet a done deal, it's looking more like I'll be making it to two drum corps shows this summer. Carolina Crown's event arm has brought back its early season show, CrownBEAT, and a friend and former fellow band member of mine have been talking about going down to South Carolina to see it. If we make the trip, it'll be my first true multi-show season in a few years: Last year, as money and time was tied up in a home purchase, we went to Crown's preview show and were lot rats at NightBEAT; two years ago, car trouble kept us from NightBEAT in Charlotte, so we "only" made it to Championship weekend semifinals.

Since the advent of the Tour of Champions concept, the closest show has been such an event. NightBEAT, which has called Rock Hill, SC; Charlotte, NC; and now Winston-Salem, NC home has featured the seven corps who constitute the series, plus whoever joins them at that show in any given year. While I expect no sympathy for being forced to watch seven of the best in the activity year after year, I do appreciate that catching an additional show allows me to see some of the mid-majors.

The term, which many will recognize from college athletics, is a fitting one for several of the corps that make up the next tier behind the G7. Several of the corps I look most forward to seeing are perennial or near-perennial finalists, while others may dance near the border of top-12 territory or pray each year to make it to Championship Saturday. At FirstBEAT this year, I'll get to see the activity's Mountain West and Big East/American: Boston Crusaders and Madison Scouts, respectively: Boston is a force each year, and often finds its ranking among the top corps (a similar case could be made for Blue Knights, who also share geographic interest with the Mountain West); Madison shares that distinction, but is also the only existing corps from outside the Tour of Champions group to have actually won a championship. CrownBEAT will bring both of those, plus a few more corps I always enjoy seeing: Crossmen (formerly of northern Delaware, like yours truly), Jersey Surf (from right across the bridge), and Spirit of Atlanta (who will be playing Georgia this year!), along with The Cadets and Bluecoats from the Tour of Champions group, and Legends from Open Class.

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.
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