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From The 13th Chair Trombone Player

Humorous and inspiring author DJ Corchin offers his unique observations about life in the world of marching bands.

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From The 13th Chair Trombone Player:

By DJ Corchin
Posted May 10, 2013

From The 13th Chair Trombone Player Eureka! We've cracked it. We've finally invented the electro-magnetic, 1.21 gigawatt hover surface. The implications are endless and revolutionary. During test trials, scores of marching bands were able to program an entire show's drill set via a single smartphone app and have it shared via the cloud to each performer's updated footwear specifically designed to work with the hover surface. All the performer has to do is click their heels three times activating the shoes and the programing does the rest. Never worry about forgetting your dot again. The hover surface precisely moves each player to the correct place at the correct time. Each dot has its own control panel full of customizable options, such as follow the leader, gradual speedup, and moonwalk. All the player has to do is hold on tight and play their heart out.*

*Not for use in rain or stormy conditions.

Man, last year was truly a year for technology and marching band. We saw light up uniforms, incredible audio enhancements, large mechanical creations, and I think I saw a genetically engineered unicorn. It was pretty amazing the amount of time and energy that went into evolving the marching arts.

At Grand Nationals, I was sitting up in one of the boxes when two adults came rushing in and sat in the first row with a cell phone. My buddy I was with, who is a middle school band director (but that's not why he's my buddy, he's actually a nice guy) looked at me like what was happening. Not sure why he thought I knew, but I shrugged anyways. The next performance started with a soft section and my buddy's fight with his chicken strip's BBQ sauce was lost as he let out a cough...twice. The two adults shot him a look like he had just kicked a sick puppy and they wanted revenge (Now my buddy has only done that once, but he's grown since then and I'm proud of him). Not sure why they were so mad, but the show continued on. Then I realized what they were doing. They were calling down to another instructor working the audio board on the field telling him how to adjust the sound. The band performing had mics on everything. Vocalist, woodwinds, percussion, computers, etc. Funny how the box we were in was right next to the judges'. It was clear they were fine tuning the show to sound its best where the judges were sitting.

Now, there are many places I can take this column after that as they were clearly missing the point of why we do what we do. But my first thought was, why aren't there kids doing that up here calling down to other kids working the board on the field? If the group was going to do this, why not teach the kids how to listen and adjust the levels? My second thought was I really appreciated the brie and fruit available in the box as cheese generally makes me feel better. And my third thought was about innovation.

Innovation is what moves societies forward. Fire was a big one. The wheel. Telephone. Nintendo. Companies invest billions into R&D budgets to bring us the ability to drink carbonated syrup without having to digest real sugar. Can you imagine a world without Mr. Pibb? I sure can't.

I am a HUGE fan of innovation. I loved the really fun spectacles I saw on the marching field last year. It was clear that the activity is ready to evolve as it has begun to use other dimensions. And I don't mean time travel, although pulling a band out of 1963 temporarily for extra GE points might be kinda cool. But when you have a full blown coordinated show of lights running parallel at the same time as people moving while playing, you're starting to head towards another level. I combine that thought with how I saw the two adults act up in that balcony and I have to ask the question, are we innovating with the right things in mind?

Marching band, whether some people understand it or not, is part of music education. I would ask each of the groups this year that are spending countless hours trying to come up with the next big grandiose extravaganza we're going to see on the field (whether it's rocket boots or individualized headphone feeds for the audience), if they are spending equal amounts of time trying to figure out how to revolutionize the school day schedule so that students have a balanced approach to math, science, reading, and the arts? Are they looking for the next big technology tool that's going to help a disabled child play a trumpet concerto? Are they experimenting with ways to organize parent groups to be as effective as possible? Are they finding ways to find the cure for "the-band-is-there-to-support-the-sports-teams-itis?"

'Cause I tell you what? If there's no innovation in music education, there will be no music education.

So bring on the lightsaber batons, the hovercraft pit crew cart, and the instruments made from the same material as the T1000. But let's do everything we can to make sure they don't end up in a non-weather controlled storage unit, by innovating with the one thing that will actually move this society forward, our kid's music education. Please keep the rocket boots though ;)

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 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 the upcoming 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 Mr. Corchin is an independent contributor so his views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of

Text by DJ Corchin. Trombone illustration by Dan Dougherty.

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. This material may not be published or redistributed without permission.

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