Sunday, October 29, 2006

Strike Up the (Marching) Bands

I went to the Area Marching Contest finals last night; I didn't actually hear the results of the prelims before I arrived, but I had faith that at least a couple of my schools would make the finals, and sure enough, three of them did, and one would advance to the state contest, while another would be named one of the alternates. (You can find out all the results for the two Dallas-area contests here.)

As I said last week after seeing two of my schools play each other in a game, marching band has changed a lot since I was in school (commenter Gary P. correctly attributes most of those changes, of which he is not a fan, to the strong influence of Drum Corps International). This has led to things like the use of solo instruments up front next to the pit (which has included saxophone solos in the past, a practice of which I strongly approve), and lots of other unusual things as well:
  • I meant to mention last week that the two schools I saw last week included things like a flute duet and a vocalist; both these things were repeated last night and came off well.

  • The unusual instruments came out in droves last night; one school featured an oboe solo (which made sense, because they were performing part of an oboe concerto in their show), and another one had a piccolo/bassoon duet. I'm pretty sure I heard some piano in there too, though I never could spot the keyboard player. Another school performed part of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" (with some of the borderline-risque dancing but no accompanying riot from the fans), but they used a solo trombone in place of the famous bassoon.

  • Another show, patriotic in nature, had a pair of narrators located next to the pit. I'd never heard narration in a show from anywhere but the pressbox in the past

  • I also forgot to mention last week that one of my schools did a holiday show that ended with the whole band singing "Auld Lang Syne" at the end; by last night, they'd put it into four-part harmony at the end
One of the schools also had all-white uniforms (except for their drum majors, who wore all black). I wonder what the dry-cleaning bill is for those babies...

As I've said before, I have a definite appreciation for marching band, even as I'm fully aware that I'm not the person to be teaching it. I enjoy the performances, but I'd probably hate the rehearsals even more than the students do. I've always thought that a little too much time is put into something that is really as much entertainment as it is music, and it's always seemed to me that there are way too many contests before the "real" one that determines whether or not the band advances to area. But something that a band parent (from the school that's advancing to state) told me last night made something click about all that: She was talking about how bad the show looked at their very first "pre-contest" competition and how much better it looked after being battle-tested for virtually the entire month of October. It made me realize that, since the music and movement has gotten so much more complex, perhaps it really does need a few more competitive performances to get up to the high level that's being sought. (For the "indoor" version of "why I'm not a band director, even though I appreciate what they do," read this post from earlier in the year.)

One of my colleagues made note of the fact that, during the time when everyone was waiting for the results to be announced, many of the band parents were acting as crazy as the kids were (doing the Wave, etc.). I said that, yeah, a lot of them really were just "grown-up band nerds," (meaning that in the nicest way, since I'm one too), and my friend said, that's right, we're reproducing at a great rate. That can only be good for America...seriously.

One more thing--my thoughts go out to the Allen High School band, two of whose buses were involved in a wreck on LBJ yesterday on the way to their own area contest. Five of the students complained of neck and back injuries. (I teach one kid out of the 600 in that band, so the odds aren't great that he was one of the ones involved, but still, I'm eagerly awaiting a reply from the email I sent his mom last night.) The band did regroup and make it to the finals of their contest last night.

Light when we don't need it, dark when we do: I trust that by now, you're aware that Daylight Wasting Time began today. You can probably also tell that I'm not a fan of having the extra hour of daylight at six in the morning instead of later in the day when I could really use it. Instapundit is a fan of year-round daylight savings time for the same reason, and because it would actually save a lot of energy to keep the extra hour of daylight in the evening. He also points to a Popular Mechanics article that supports the same thinking.

Personally, I blame Mr. Wilson: A statue of Dennis the Menace was stolen from a city park in California this week.


James said...

Daylight Saving Time began here in Oz too (well, in NSW and Victoria) on Sunday. I actually don't mind it too much at all - I like longer daylight in the evenings. But to be honest, I've never really formed an opinion either way about it.

Kev said...

Yeah, that makes sense that, in opposite seasons, we're on opposite ends of the savings-time thing. I love Daylight Savings Time too, but it's the return to Standard Time that I refer to as "Daylight Wasting Time" because that extra hour is in the morning when I really can't use it.

James said...

Oooh I get it now!