Marching Music

A Marching Band Consulting Company?
May 23, 2012, 9:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I have at least one band per month asking me for a recommendation…someone to work with their guard, percussion, woodwinds, brass or visual program.  It happens so often that, even with my worldwide circle of friends, I can’t fill all of the requests!  I am thinking that I might be just the person to start a marching band consulting company.  There would be standard rates/pay amounts for quality instructors/clinicians based on experience levels.  There would be a screening process.  This is a probe.  Please comment and give advice, express interest in either getting clinicians or being a clinician, etc. on this article.  If you are seriously interested in becoming one of my clinicians, email your resume including a valid phone number and recent head shot to  Here are the bands I have on my list right now that need clinicians for the 2012 outdoor season:

South Hagerstown High School, Hagerstown, Md
Front Ensemble
Visual (Marching – Corps experience required) 

Frederick High School, Frederick, Md
Color Guard Choreographer and Tech 

Brunswick High School, Brunswick, Md
Woodwind OR Brass Tech
Percussion Tech
Color Guard Choreographer and Tech 
Assistant Director 

Youngsville High School, Youngsville, Pa
Color Guard Choreographer


That’s one way to increase awareness of the sport!
July 9, 2009, 4:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


In all seriousness, this is actually pretty scary; a CBS news cast of last month’s Glassmen bus crash at the following link

The Glassmen are still trying to raise funds to cover tour expenses, including arrangements for the replacement bus.  Visit their website to donate!

Move-ins are coming!!!
May 12, 2009, 2:57 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s just about the middle of May and age-outs like myself are sitting behind desks and in cubicles longing for the smell of freshly cut grass, sunscreen and sweat.  (That really is what drum corps smells like, for those of you who have never marched.)  High School and college kids are excitedly shopping and packing.  The rookie girls (and some of the guys) are packing WAY too much clothing.  Parents are fighting with principals and professors to get their kids out of school early so that they don’t get behind in drill.   If you had cold feet back in November IT’S NOT TOO LATE!  Statistically, at least one member of each corps will be injured and/or quit in the next 4-6 weeks and the corps will be desperately seeking new members to replace them.  My only suggestion is that if you plan on starting your drum corps career as a hole filler, you get in there as soon as possible.  The further into move-ins you start, the more physically fit everyone else will be (and be expected to be) and the higher your risk of injury becomes.

Don’t let that scare you though.  This is a wonderful opportunity, so don’t waste it!

If you need help finding a spot, let me know and I’ll hook you up if I can!

March-A-Thons: Friend or Foe?
March 17, 2009, 11:59 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I got an email from a friend of mine asking for my address so that she could send me a march-a-thon.  I can’t believe it’s that time of year already!

Anyway, this post investigates what march-a-thons mean to corps as well as to members.

Let’s start off with the corps.  The corps, as an organization, definitely benefits from march-a-thons.  That’s why they insist that members fill them out.  With 150 people filling out 20 or so forms each, they’re bound to get some gas money.  Think about it.  If each of 150 people brings in only $5, that means $750 for the corps proper.  Then they offer a small percentage back to the member (usually off of their tour fees) as an incentive to participate.

Just FYI, most corps don’t actually do a march-a-thon like they say.  Most just designate a rehearsal day and figure that they probably march about that much in a day, which is probably true.

Now for the member’s point of view:  Each member pays around $2,000 in tour and camp fees.  Some corps charge more.  A small percentage of the money brought in from a member’s march-a-thon really doesn’t make much of a dent in the tour fee.  If that member were to write a personal letter to friends and family asking for help with tour fees, he or she would probably get much more out of the deal.

So the point is, march-a-thons benefit the corps proper.  Personal letters benefit individual members much more.

High School band directors, this might be a great fundraising tool for you.  Keep a percentage of the money and put another percentage into the kids’ trip accounts or give it to a charity that supports school music.  Invite donors to watch a practice, performance or the march-a-thon itself.  Getting the community involved and showing they what you’re doing is always a great PR move toward future donations and participation.

Young Music Educators and the Economy
February 27, 2009, 7:27 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Unfortunately for young music educators, it is becoming harder and harder to get a job in the current economy, much less an ideal job.  Many, like myself, are teaching outside of their specialty.  Music Ed. certification is K-12 vocal and instrumental, but teachers are rarely trained equally in all parts of the spectrum.

Even if you have known that you wanted to be a high school marching band director since you were 10 (that’s me) you may end up teaching elementary school general music or middle school theater arts.

Keep your instrumental skills up and be patient.  The economic crisis and lack of positions can’t last forever!

Are You Wasting Your Life?
February 26, 2009, 7:15 pm
Filed under: Drum & Bugle Corps, heavy on the philosophy, life lessons

No matter how you feel about George Hopkins, if you’ve actually spent any time around him you know he’s got some great things to say about life.

I was lying on a gym floor in the summer of 2006 (the summer that I wasn’t a field liner).  As was the case every single night of that season, I had spent the entire night dreaming about being in rehearsal.  I tossed and turned all night.  My aching muscles seemed to ache even more.  My brain was so full of coordinates, notes and suggestions that I thought it might have to dump the simple knowledge like addition and subtraction.  I had finally come to the stage in my nightly ritual where I could get some rest…that time where I was almost awake but still asleep.


I barely heard one of the drum majors yell, “Good Morning Cadets!  The time is 7:02.  Breakfast today is biscuits with sausage gravy.  Stretch and run is at 8.”  I kept my eyes closed.  I wanted to enjoy the 15 minutes that I could rest, and if I ate sausage gravy I would no doubt have to taste it twice.  (Acid reflux+drum corps food=gross)  The next thing I heard was George’s voice, “Wake up.  You’re wasting your life.”  He kicked a couple of air mattresses and bothered a couple for sharing one.  I was glad to have chosen my sleeping bag and the cold, hard floor early that morning.

At the time  I didn’t give it much thought.  I folded up my sleeping bag, put my shoes on, grabbed my backpack and was out the door.

Now, as a 22 (23 this Saturday) year old middle school teacher (and it’s important to note that I am not teaching instrumental music, which was my life’s ambition) I’m starting to give more weight to those words.

What does it mean to waste one’s life?

This post is far from over.  I plan to add a second edition when I’ve gotten some answers.  Here are my ideas so far:

You’re “wasting your life” if you’re…

-Passing up options that you only have when you’re young (drum corps, sports, a good education, family, etc.)
-Choosing not to do the work that it takes to accomplish what you want in life
-Doing something that you hate for the sake of having a job
-Creating drama for the sake of making life interesting

Please feel free to add…

Marching Styles Part 3: The Straight Leg!
May 30, 2008, 4:11 pm
Filed under: Drum & Bugle Corps, marching band

I know that you’ve all been waiting for this one, so here is the final installment of my marching styles series: the straight leg!

Though I have marched in all different styles, this is the one with which I have the most experience. 

The advantage of the straight leg technique is in its sleek, polished look.  The spectator or judge does not see the jerky, distracting movements of other styles.  The legs move smoothly from point A to point B.  This smooth movement also eliminates the proverbial “ground in the sound.” 

The disadvantage of the straight leg technique is its difficulty.  Most drum corps do a technique that is some variation on the straight leg.  They also have the time and resources to get their members into shape.  This technique is more physically taxing on the legs.  The bottom line: it takes more effort.

Do not be discouraged.  I have successfully taught and used this technique with high school bands.  It works if you have a sense of pride within your band which drives the students to work hard.

How does one execute/teach the straight leg technique? 
Before we get too far, you’re going to need some vocabulary:

edge: the back part of the platform/ball of your foot
platform: the part of your foot which you would stand on if you were standing on your toes
tripod: synonym for platform: you will basically equalize weight between your big toe, big toe “knuckle” and little toe “knuckle

As with any technique, you’ll want to start with the very first step. 
Starting with and keeping your legs straight, push with the edge of your right foot until you must put your left out to catch yourself.  Catch yourself with the left heel, left toe up.  Notice that you are doing all of the work with your back leg.  This technique does not lead, but instead it pushes. 
Do this until you feel comfortable.  If you are bouncing or changing height when you catch yourself, then you are probably pushing too far past your edge.  Back off just a bit and your technique should be just perfect. 

Step 2: Train your hip flexors.  Swing your leg from front to back like a pendulum.  This is one of only two movements which your front leg will do.  The other is the dorsal flexion (toe up) of your front foot. 
Now, the trickiest part of this technique to explain is the transition from step 1 to step 2.  At the end of step one, shift your weight to the front foot, rolling down.  At the same time, bring your back foot in and begin to flex your foot for the next step.  On the “and,” which is where we are at this point, you should almost look as though you are standing still.  All of your weight should be on your left platform, your ankles should be in line and your right foot should be just barely off of the ground.  When you actually do this in context, your knee will bend SLIGHTLY.  You may want to choose not to tell this for your students for awhile so that they get used to the technique and are careful not to put too much bend in the knee.
The second half of step two is just like step one, but with half of the effort.  Push with your left edge and catch yourself with the right foot, toe up. 

At first, this is going to look extremely jerky.  With practice, it will smooth itself out.  Just remember that everything in this technique is SMOOTH.  If you are moving up and down, then you are probably doing one of three things:

1. you are pushing too far, past your edge
2. you are pointing and/or flexing your foot at the wrong time
3. you are moving your hips too much rather than using your hip flexors (remember the pendulum)

This technique takes a long time to master, but it is completely worth the effort.  Straight leg technique, if done correctly, is guaranteed to make your band look and sound much more graceful than you ever thought possible.