To say that I feel strongly about the opportunity Winds has in the marching-arts world would be an incredible understatement. As the Executive Director of an organization that was formed to support a drum corps, naturally this does present another avenue in which we can offer performance opportunities and compete, but for me, the largest opportunity is in the scholastic world, particularly those known as the ‘have-nots’.
Small bands struggle with the competitive marching band thing as they try and figure out how to do the '100 kid band’ thing with 20 - 60 kids. The stage of a football field isn’t the correct size for a small band, especially with the type of product being attempted. I say this as somebody who grew up in a small band, who loved to work with small bands, not as somebody telling small bands to get off the stage.
A gym floor is the right type of stage. It allows for the correct type of product for a cast that size. it allows for your performers to truly connect with an audience. It consumes a significantly smaller pool of resources.
“Fall band” can still be a great opportunity to welcome all who want to participate in 'sports targeted marching band’. Pick three fun tunes, go to games, support the teams, and reverse the thinking.
Winds can serve the same role as your upper wind ensemble. It’s the 'audition group’ for those who really want to dedicate the time and effort to be great at the marching arts thing.
You have a good core of 16 winds, four guard and four percussion? Perfect. This is the stage for you. You don’t need to start planning marching band in February, rehearse in May, drag as many kids as you can get to the field to 'fill out the instrumentation’. Worrying about how you’re going to fill that bass drum line with clarinet players. Worrying about your GE score because you have four guard instead of ten.
It’s five minutes instead of seven and a half. Less music, less drill, less props, less money spent, for a higher quality of experience per student.
By doing 'less’ of everything, as opposed to of our marching band mindset of trying to reach for 'more’, you can show your kids a better experience through a better product, a better competitive setting (a packed gym) and a more focused show.
My dream isn’t that the drum corps world runs into Winds, or that we have a huge crops of amazing Independent and Scholastic World groups develop. My hope is that a band director with 30 kids in their program is brave enough to venture into this setting and see the benefits. That’s where this can change the entire activity. For the better.
We can all argue about 'sit down band versus moving about band’, and the calendar of the activity, and how you're stretched to thin already, but I guarantee that for a majority of the smaller programs, less time would be spent on a Winds group than fall competitive marching band, and if we’re going to argue about teaching a kid to play an instrument well, I promise that a better use of time would be for many programs would be to slightly de-emphasize the competitive aspects of marching band and give Winds a shot. Try both one season and ask your kids which they enjoyed more.
Put your kids in the activity that gives them the best opportunity for success, because I guarantee it’s this. They have the opportunity to perform art in a setting where they can achieve excellence on an individual level and have a direct connection with every member of their audience. What’s better than that?
Best wishes, see you all wherever this takes us. Until then I’ll be the guy saying this to every person that will listen until they tell me to get off the stage ;)