Programs all over the country had their world blown up in 2020. Some bands were able to experience elements of a “normal” season while others didn’t have a season at all. Many directors were creative while coming up with different assignments to help students continue to develop and build skills.
One of the biggest struggles of the 2020-2021 school year was trying to keep up the enrollment which lead many directors to choose music that was more “fun” and less taxing on the ensembles. I think we all learned a lot of valuable lessons through our experiences and hopefully that will make us stronger in the long run, but we all will experience challenges in coming back from the trials of the last year or so.
So what can we do to help accelerate the process of getting back in stride? While many programs were able to do virtual assignments to build music skills and other programs were able to spend time in a socially distanced block working on visual skills, where we really lost ground was marching and playing at the same time!
I’ve heard from many directors that they will be fielding “two freshmen classes” this upcoming fall, and while that isn’t completely true across the board, it may be that your entire band is very rusty on marching and playing at the same time. One way to work on this is simply combining visual exercises with music fundamentals.
Every band should definitely start down this path by playing long tones in the basics block! This will evolve into things like tracking and circle drill which are both incredibly valuable and worth your time! I have always felt that we, as educators, often left a large gap in the training between teaching the skills and cleaning the show and the 2020 season made me take a closer look at bridging that gap.
So what can we do?
When many programs shut down last summer (some temporarily and some for the whole year), my long-time colleague (Andrew Ebert) and I started to brainstorm some ways to keep students involved from home while still developing necessary skills and having fun. This became the genesis of “Music & Motion”. Initially it was created so that students could work on marching and playing at the same time in different environments: at home alone, with small groups, or the entire band.
Although it was created to deal with a specific situation, it became something that filled that gap between fundamentals and performance. Going into the 2021 season and beyond this kind of program will be a very useful tool in preparing students for maximum performance quality!
This spring a took some of the brass and woodwind leaders from The Centerville Jazz Band and began working on Etude 1 (Goin’ Home). They learned the music and visual portions very easily… but once we started to put it together it was very eye opening!
Even after a few reps you could see and hear the confidence growing and the quality improve. I’m excited to push further through the program this summer and keep bridging that gap to their performances this fall!
Here is a podcast we did with Tim Hinton at Marching Arts Education that talks about it in depth:
What is Music & Motion?
Music & Motion is a brand new curriculum created to give your teachers and students a fun, direct and simple way to teach all the basic technique necessary to be successful! Created by long time friends, Andrew Ebert and Andrew Markworth, this package combines hummable melodies, modern click tracks with clear drill all into one!
HOW IT WORKS?
Packages can be taught virtually, individually, in small groups or full ensembles. Each student only needs a 30ft x 30ft space to learn all the exercises outside of school. Music & Motion is streamlined to make your experience as simple and exciting as possible regardless of your marching band programs situation.