In Indy for Blue Stars Camp!

I’m excited to be reporting from Indianapolis today, and throughout the weekend, as I work with the Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps at their final camp before Spring training next month.  The entire organization, staff and performers alike, have been in high gear scattered across the globe, and I’m proud of what they’ve accomplished to date.  Check back here and on my Instagram and FaceBook pages throughout the weekend for pictures and videos.  Looking forward to working with such fine colleagues and performers again!

Busy Week of Judging and Clinics Ahead!

It’s been a busy time of arranging and composition the last two weeks.  But now I’m excited to hit the road again, as I judge a Minnesota area Jazz Festival at Hutchinson High School, and get to guest conduct and clinic the fine bands of Johnston Middle School in Iowa.  I’m looking forward to hearing great bands and working with excellent educators!

5-Minute Read: Electronic Marching Intent Forms

Even as this year begins to wind down, we’re already starting to ramp up for the coming marching season.  And part of that planning means getting your membership committed to the roster for the coming drill writing, music arranging, budgeting, travel, and more.  Many programs use an “intent to march” form for this purpose.  But there’s so much information to gather from our membership, and a paper form is always a hassle to get returned to your office.  Why not try an online intent form instead?  The benefits are endless, and there is an easy and free solution in the form of Google Drive.

So Much Data!

We need to know so much about our student performers, beyond their contact info and performance medium.  The measurements for their uniforms.  Medical information like allergies and medications.  Which sandwich do they prefer: turkey, ham, or are they vegetarian? Sometimes we have to spend a whole week before a trip just gathering this information in the midst of a busy week of school and rehearsals.  Instead of dealing with this on the fly in the middle of the season, take care of it early with your intent form!  Using Google Drive’s “Forms” feature, you can create a web-based form that gathers all of this data and automatically dumps it into a spreadsheet you can use to merge into any format.  Your medical forms you keep with you at all times for your performers’ health, their contact information, and more.  And you won’t have to deal with paper, illegible handwriting, or  retyping this information into a computer!

Easy and Customizable

You don’t have to know anything about web site scripting or coding to use this tool.  Everything is WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get), and runs within any standard web browser.  And the customization options are excellent.  Questions can be a text box, paragraph, multiple choice, and more.  In addition, you can specify some questions as required (i.e. medical insurance) or make some questions only appear based on another response.  For example: “do you have food or environmental allergies?” If the student says “yes,” then you can require further information from them with an additional question or questions.  If the student says “no,” then no further questions are asked about allergies.

Better Return Rate

Using a web form also makes it easier to get a return from your students’ parents or guardians because the difficult and crucial step of “getting that piece of paper home” is skipped.  An e-mail can be sent to everyone with the link to the form, and link can be placed on your band’s web site.  This will lead to greater returns at a faster rate.

Perfect for Mail and Data Merge

Now you’ve got great data, already entered into the computer by your students and parents themselves.  It can be used as a mail or data merge in a host of ways, from mailing labels to medical forms. And here’s the best part: I’ve already made a form for you!  Just visit this link, and from the “File” menu within the Google Drive application on your screen, select “Make a copy.” Now you’ve got your own copy that you can tweak to use for your own band program.  Give it a try today!  And if you have questions, then feel free to contact me.

5-Minute Read: Webcast Your Concerts!

As memorable and motivating as our many adjudicated performances can be, it’s the concerts at home, for friends and family, that can mean so much more.  Your winter and holiday concerts, your spring concerts: these events are both a showcase of your students’ talents for their most appreciative audience, and an resounding “thank you” for those who make our creative and artistic activities possible.

But not everyone can be there at our concerts.  Some ill or elderly family members are unable to travel.  Other friends and family may live too far away, or may be encumbered by business travel that prevents their attendance.  Thanks to webcasting technology however, we can bring our school band concerts to greater audiences than ever before, and we can even grow our audiences by reaching out via this electronic medium.

Video Hardware and Software

I know, it seems that live broadcasting a video online is something that would require lots of expensive equipment and sound, but it’s actually become easy and widely available technology.  Any laptop with a decent HD camera, or a stand-alone HD webcam, can be used to video your band’s performance.  As for streaming this video, no special software is required.  There are web services such as UStream (a very cheap option) or YouTube Live Events (a free option)  that allow you to create a live event and stream it to an internet audience.  Just make sure that whatever computer you are using to broadcast your concert is connected to the internet by a strong, hardwired ethernet connection.  A wi-fi or cellular data connection won’t have the bandwidth you need to broadcast.  Finally, don’t forget that some of our schools already have live internet video capabilities that they use for sporting events and morning student news shows.

Audio Concerns

You can get away with a moderately decent image quality for your band concert, but audio is of the utmost importance in our activity.  Therefore, remember the following:

  1. Don’t use a computer or laptop microphone.
  2. If you have a recording booth and staff at the concert, simply take their monitor feed and input it into your computer for the broadcast.
  3. If you don’t have a recording booth or staff, then use quality condenser microphones out in the audience, and feed their input into your computer.  These are no longer nearly as expensive as they once were.

Get Your Students Involved!

You’re a band director, not a sound technician, and you’ve got lots of things to worry about.  So find your school’s technology-wise students and task them with this job!  Maybe there’s a broadcast or recording technology club at your school.  Or perhaps you’ve got students in the band who would like to take this opportunity to apply their interests in recording technology.

It Will Grow, Not Shrink, Your Attendance

Beyond the technical hurdles, I know the primary concern you may have: “will streaming this live over the web reduce my concert attendance?” The answer, as born out by research and the experiences of the many colleges and universities who webcast their concerts, is a resounding “no.” In fact, in addition to allowing those who can’t attend live to still hear and see the concert, live webcasting has been found to actually increase the likelihood that a viewer will attend a concert live in the future.

While this may seem like a daunting task, a little foresight and testing can net you some wonderful results for your band’s most enthusiastic audiences.  Give it a try with your spring concert!

In 1951 Hindemith’s Symphony in Bb Premiered Today

On April 5th, 1951, the band world eagerly awaited the premiere of Hindemith’s Symphony in Bb for wind band.  The composer who had brought us Symphonic Metamorphosis and Mathis de Mahler was going to write an original work for the modern wind band.  And the Symphony in Bb did not disappoint.

The work was premiered by the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” under the baton of the composer himself.  Hindemith wrote the composition at the request of the Army Band’s conductor, Major Hugh Curry. The three-movement symphony showcased Hindemith’s mastery of counterpoint development of thematic material.  The final movement culminates in an incredible double fugue, which is juxtaposed against the original theme from the first movement.  Take a moment to listen to the Eastman Wind Ensemble’s performance of this masterwork for the wind band!