By DJ Corchin
Posted November 11, 2013
"This isn't REAL marching band. REAL marching band is an intricate web of creativity and artistic collaboration with the highest caliber of musicians moving about in colorful movement and precise coordination that can only be perfected by hours and hours of dedicated passion and belief."
"Yeah, but they just made Michael Jackson moonwalk."
"This type of thing is EXACTLY what marching band doesn't need. Popular music at a football game being celebrated as music education."
"Pass the nachos."
"I played Dvorak in my marching band last year and won state. Super Mario Bros. is not music. Some people just don't get it. They don't get the hard work and dedication that is really needed to help get more people interested in joining band."
"Dude, shut up. I want to see them dot the i."
"How is band supposed to survive when our idea of music is this?"
"I don't know. But I tell you what? I'm going to play in the band at college next year."
"But you don't play an instrument."
"I'll learn. Now give me some Skittles."
OK, let me just start off by saying yes, this is about THE Ohio State Marching Band. I have been so impressed with them over the last decade. Recently they've been in the news nationally. I'm actually not only impressed, but very thankful to them for doing what they're doing. I'm a strong proponent that marching band is not the only reason music programs exist, but they are absolutely the most visible form of music to the general masses who have not had the opportunity or the privilege to play in a musical organization. I can't remember the last time a marching band got this much attention. And they're doing it by connecting with their audience. In the end, isn't that what music is all about?
Years ago I had the honor to visit THE Ohio State band room as part of performing in BLAST. I was brought there to share my experience as a "professional" (I had a booger in my nose the whole time but luckily it was one of those boogers that are way up in there and not visible, just uncomfortable and psychologically an issue because you're standing there wondering, "do they see it?") musician, and to talk about what some would call professional marching band, even more so than drum corps because I was getting paid to be in it. At the time, I considered what I was doing THE pinnacle of what you could accomplish in marching band as a performer. You were paid (well I might add) to perform the same show thousands of times for an audience that had no choice but to give you a standing ovation EVERY night because it was so awesome. You seriously could not achieve any higher in marching band in my mind. Definitely not as a dancing euphonium player...believe it or not, they're not in high demand. I walked into the band room and saw what I described as Dr. Evil's Command Center. Their podium was so big you could fit most bands inside it. I felt like it had to have an escape pod somewhere (BTW, every podium should have an escape pod, band directing is a tough occupation). I gave my schtick and they applauded and genuinely showed their appreciation. As everyone was leaving, many of them came up to just chat or share their story...except one young lady. She was short in stature, but you could tell she was mighty. She looked up at me, shook my hand and said, "When you're done with BLAST you should come and march with us." I gently replied, "That would be cool!" She smiled and walked out. OK, get ready...IMMATURE JERK ALERT! IMMATURE JERK ALERT!
I went over to my colleagues and had a good laugh. I couldn't imagine going from being paid in a professional and award winning show, back to a college marching band. I thought, "Aww, that was cute." I know, jerk right?
Since then I've drunk my humble juice and been taken down a peg or two. If I had to do it all over again, I would have asked her if I could sign up then and there. To watch THE Ohio State Marching Band perform over the past few weeks has been inspiring. I find myself waiting to see what's going to happen next, my eyes glued to any of the countless websites they appear on when their shows go viral, and sharing them with anyone I know.
People criticize marching bands at times, in particular college football bands as not truly representing what music education is all about. But let me say this, after the past few weeks I visited THE Ohio State band's website. I've learned about their history, the different ensembles available, checked out their school of music, and read countless articles (some written by their students) about how the music program affects them. I would be proud for my daughter (who is one and has a while until she goes to college...also until she talks) to attend their school and learn about music from them. If getting a prospective parent excited about their child learning about music is not good for music education, I don't know what is?
I'm getting super excited for my annual trek, partnering with Marching.com, to the Bands of America Grand Nationals in Indianapolis. I hope to see some amazing musicianship, incredible creativity, and yes...a whole lot of smiling faces enjoying being entertained. Sometimes I see a show and feel inadequate as a human being because I can't understand it. I try. I really do. I always look to go with whatever the creators of the show are trying to accomplish. But it seems I lack the ability to interpret the meaning behind a three headed dragon, being chased by a lone color guard member carrying a ceremonial purple sword-flag combination made out of paper mache handing it off to the drum major doing a jazz fusion interpretive dance, while the band chants (not sings) Danny Boy. I am not worthy.
In my opinion, music isn't just about music. It's about emotions, connection, discipline, and thoughtfulness. I don't care if those are thrown on a football field, or injected directly into the bloodstream. If it has those ingredients, even more power to you if you're having more fun than others. People who consider themselves musical purists are not just experts in their fields, but tend to also be exclusive in the context of not being open to other possibilities, and can turn people off to music. I often compare it to people who think getting kids excited about music through electronic music production is not true music education. I learned a long time ago to not let my expectations of what I think something should be, get in the way of me seeing what it could be. Maybe the "purists" just need a balloon and some cotton candy to feel better? Or maybe they need to drink the humble juice also? It doesn't go down smoothly, trust me ;)
Related: Learn more about THE Ohio State University Marching and Athletic Bands
About the Author: DJ Corchin
is author of the celebrated humorously inspiring Band Nerds book series including Band Nerds Poetry From The 13th Chair Trombone Player and The Marching Band Nerds Handbook. You can follow his blog The13thChair.com to catch his thoughts in real time.
He was a featured performer in the first national Broadway tour of the Tony and Emmy award winning show, BLAST! where he was best known as the "unicycling trombonist."
Now living and working in Chicago as a children's author, his other publications are available world wide and include Sam & The Jungle Band, You Got A Boogie, I Feel... Children's Book Series, and ThunderFeet.
A former high school band director, he continues to be involved in marching bands and music education through speaking events, competitions, and organizations such as Music for All. Mr. Corchin welcomes your comments via email.
For more of his work please visit www.djcorchin.com. Mr. Corchin is an independent contributor so his views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Marching.com.
Text by DJ Corchin. Trombone illustration by Dan Dougherty.
Copyright 2013 Marching.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published or redistributed without permission.
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