10 bands I’ve seen (one is a lie)

Warning Beware of the Tuba Player

A few weeks ago, it seemed like everyone and their brother posted a list on facebook: 10 Bands I’ve Seen in Concert (1 is a lie). You know this list. Right? The poster shares the names of ten bands he or she has seen live and in concert. One of the ten is a bald-faced lie. You’re supposed to guess which one is the imposter.

It was kind of fun. So I decided to play along. I couldn’t just do it the way everyone else was doing it, though. No, I had to do mine with a little twist. I mean, what else would you expect from a life-long Band Geek? Here’s what I posted.

Marching bands!!!

10 Bands I’ve Seen (1 is a lie):

1. Evansville North Green Brigade
2. Harrison Warrior Command
3. Madison Scouts
4. Castle
5. Ben Davis
6. Indiana University Marching Hundred
7. The Marching Pride of Lawrence Township
8. Cowan Blackhawk Brigade
9. Center Grove Trojan Band
10. The Pride of Paoli

Can you guess which one is the lie? I was a little surprised that a few people picked it out right away. If you want to play along, feel free to skip ahead to the comments and share your guess. But come back here and find out the answer.

Warning! Here be the answers! Spoilers ahead!

Continue reading “10 bands I’ve seen (one is a lie)”

3 more things my high school band director told me

Yesterday, I shared three things that my high school band director told me that have stuck with me over the years. But I wasn’t done. There are three more things that I need to share…
Low brass awesomeness

“Don’t mess with the Star Spangled Banner.”

You march onto the field, play the song exactly the way the audience expects to hear it. Then you march off. No fluff. Nothing artsy about it.

He was right. He still is. Every time some pop sensation tries to do something cute with the national anthem, that person gets lit up on the social networks. In a different context, it could be considered ground-breaking (see: Jimi Hendrix), but we are a nation of traditions. And if you’re going to perform the national anthem before a game, you’re better off just performing the song the way it was written and getting out of the way. If not, you might find yourself on some Top Ten Worst National Anthem Performances list.

Whenever someone messes with the national anthem, I just shake my head. “Mr. Briel was right,” I say to myself. “They should’ve listened to him.”

Blind fish and a prediction about our offspring

Mr. Briel opened class one day with a story. It wasn’t entirely unusual that he would tell us a story, but this one was a little different. He started talking about fish. But these were just any fish. They were blind fish that are found in caves.

Blind Cavefish

Then he started to discuss the scientific theory behind this phenomenon. Strange, I thought. I must have accidentally walked into biology lab instead of Concert Band. He explained that organisms adapt to their environment over time. Features that an organism needs in its environment continue to be strengthened. Other organs, like the eyes in the cave fish’s case, eventually phase out. Fish in a body of water in the middle of a cave don’t have any need for eyes, after all. There’s no light anyway. So over time, the fish just stopped growing eyes because they weren’t using them anyway.

Then he explained that the things an organism uses tend to be emphasized as their genetic makeup is passed on from generation to generation. At the same time, the things they don’t use tend to be minimized as an organism adapts over time. Sometimes, these features disappear altogether.

After giving us a brief scientific lecture, he paused and looked over the class.

“You know, I was thinking about this effect of passing along traits to our offspring as I was trying to figure out what happened during yesterday’s class. And I’ve come to this conclusion:

“Your kids are going to be born with no ears and really big mouths!”

You know, there are days when I think of this prediction and wonder if Mr. Briel might have had a touch of the gift of prophecy. Because…well…there are some days where it sure feels like he was absolutely right.

As they say, revenge is a dish best served cold. And I’ve had some pretty large helpings of that dish over the years.

“If you’ll switch to tuba, I’ll put you in Wind Ensemble.”

In 5th grade, I took up the trumpet. A cornet, to be specific. But that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I was part of the trumpet section, so we’ll just say I was playing the trumpet.

Anyway, I started playing the trumpet in 5th grade. I played it all through middle school and even marched as a trumpet during my Freshman year of marching season. I was decent. But I definitely wasn’t great at trumpet. My trumpet skills were nothing to write home about.

At the end of 9th grade, Mr. Briel came up to me towards the end of class. He had a proposal for me. We didn’t have anyone lined up to play tuba the next year. So he asked me and two of my Freshman trumpet buddies if we’d consider switching from trumpet to tuba. To sweeten the deal, he said that he’d put us in Wind Ensemble – the highest level of band at our school – if we made the switch.

So I switched. And my musical career took off.

Because of a scheduling conflict, I was not enrolled in Wind Ensemble the following semester. I was disappointed, but it turned out to be a great thing. Since I was the only tuba playing in Concert Band, I couldn’t hide behind anyone else. I had to quickly learn how to play my new instrument and I had to learn how to play it with power.

So I did.

Not to toot my own horn (no pun intended…or maybe it is intended), but I got to be pretty darn good for a guy who didn’t start playing tuba until the 10th grade. I wound up on the All-City Honors Band for two years. I played in a large brass ensemble at the State Solo & Ensemble contest. I participated in TubaChristmas for several years. I performed in several church orchestras and brass ensembles. I even had a tuba solo in a jazz concert while at Milligan. Turned out it was my final instrumental performance ever.

All City Band
All City Honors Band. Can you find me? I promise I’m in this picture.

I had a much better time playing tuba than I ever had while playing trumpet. And I have Mr. Briel to thank for that. Sure, he might have chosen me to play tuba simply because I was a pretty big guy and could handle carrying a giant brass instrument around. But that’s OK. I have no complaints. Because it still opened all kinds of doors for me.

And now I’m a bass line guy for life.

Mr. Briel impacted me in many ways. But this invitation to play the tuba? It was life-changing. And I cannot thank him enough for giving me that opportunity.

3 things my high school band director told me

Harrison Marching Band

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that participating in the instrumental music program while I was in high school had a profound influence on my life. I’m not a professional musician (and I don’t play one on TV), but I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to say that the music program might have been more influential on me than the English or science classes I took.

Don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t a slam on my English, math, and science teachers. Those classes were important. You hear me? They’re important! Don’t go dropping out of school, kids – especially if you’re my kids. And I hope none of my teacher friends misread what I’m saying here. I love what you do. Math, science, social studies, English…they’re all critical classes. Don’t try to convince me otherwise.

That being said, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that some of my closest friends from high school were in band with me. It also shouldn’t be much of a surprise that quotes and stories from Mr. Briel, my band director through most of my high school career, are some of my most fond memories from my days of walking the hallowed halls of Harry High.

As the current school year takes off and we are on the cusp of yet another season of marching band awesomeness in Indiana, the stories that Mr. Briel would tell keep repeating themselves in my mind’s ear. There are some valuable lessons in some of those stories. And they’re worth passing along. Here are a few…

“Practice makes better.”

You know the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” Right?

It’s bunk.

There’s always something you can improve. Always. And this is true even at the highest level. The best of the best are constantly improving. They have not reached perfection in their given field. So they keep working at getting better.

We will never “arrive.” No one has done anything perfectly. But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep improving and become the best we can be in whatever we do. And that takes practice. Lots of practice.

Because practice makes better.

Practice vs. Rehearsal

Practice is what you do on your own. It’s individual improvement. You practice to become technically proficient. You practice so things become second-nature. You practice to become the best you can be individually. Because, as I just told you, practice makes better.

Rehearsal is where everyone is working together. After hundreds of man-hours of individuals practicing, all the pieces are brought together in a rehearsal. In order to have an effective rehearsal, everyone needs to come prepared. They need to know their stuff so the band can make proper adjustments together. Rehearsal isn’t the time for individual practice. That needs to be done ahead of time. The most effective rehearsals happen when everyone has done the legwork beforehand during their individual practices.

I realize that this distinction might not be universal. But it certainly stuck with me. You practice in preparation to rehearse. You rehearse the way you perform. Because you only perform the way you rehearse. Things don’t magically change when you step onto the field or when you walk onstage. All of the hours of preparation through practice and rehearsal show their fruit when you perform.

“We’ll add that section when we get to Regionals.”

My Freshman year of high school, our band won just one trophy during marching season. It was a third place trophy. There were only three bands in our class. We were a doormat that year. And we weren’t much better the following year, either.

Winning hardware was fun, but all of these competitions during marching season were in preparation for the Indiana State School Music Association’s (ISSMA) organizational marching contests. They were kind of like a postseason tournament for Indiana marching bands. The system has changed since then, but in my day, there were three rounds to the ISSMA statewide contest: District, Regionals, and State. To move on from District to Regionals, you had to earn a Division I rating by earning a particular score or better. I think the minimum score was 60 out of 100, but I could be wrong. Everyone with a Division I rating advanced to the Regionals round. So your band was really competing against itself. It was entirely possible that all bands at the District level could advance to Regionals. If I remember correctly, we always went to Jasper, IN, for District.

There were two Regionals for each class in the State. The competition at Regionals was twofold. You were trying to earn a Division I, similar to the  District competition (requiring a higher score to earn a Division I rating). Your band was also competing against other high school bands for the right to move on to State. After all the bands performed, the judges ranked the bands, announcing the top five bands at each Regional. Those bands would then advance to the State Finals. Yes, it was entirely possible for a band to earn a Division II rating and still advance to State. But that was highly unlikely.

The ISSMA State Finals was made up of 40 of the top bands in the state (10 from each class). State was an all-day event where bands from each class took the field at the Hoosier Dome (it wasn’t called the RCA Dome yet) in competition. After each class performed, the bands were ranked from 1 to 10, with four bands being crowned state champions of their classes.

During my Freshman and Sophomore years, we didn’t even come close to earning a Division I at District.

Things started to click during my Junior year. The pieces started to come together. We marched to selections from the City of Angels soundtrack and it was a fun show. We knew something special was happening.

The Reitz Invitational might have been the first contest of the season (my memory’s getting a little hazy. Don’t you dare tell me that I’m getting old). We performed half of our show at that contest. That wasn’t too uncommon that early in the season. We were shocked when we heard the announcement over the PA during the awards ceremony that we, the perpetual doormat of Southwestern Indiana marching contests over the past two years, had won first place in our class.

We were on cloud nine. We had made our mark. And the region knew it. The Warriors were here and we were here to stay.

Very rarely did Mr. Briel talk about looking ahead to the end of marching season. We were pretty focused on the immediate future. We had to build upon our success with each subsequent contest. We had to get better. So we usually only needed to look ahead to the contest ahead of us.

During one of our rehearsals after the Reitz Invitational, Mr. Briel was sharing with us how much we were going to add to our show with each subsequent competition. As he charted things out, he told us how we were going to complete our show at District.

Then he paused and said, “Now, if you’re paying attention, you realize that there’s still part of the show that we haven’t added yet. We’re going to add that section when we get to Regionals.”

The place erupted.

It was a bold prediction. A confident prediction. It took some guts to say that to us. But we were ready. We were up for the challenge. And we did add that final piece to our show for our performance at Regionals. We ended the season with a Division II rating at Regionals. But we didn’t care. We were ecstatic to be there. And we had a lot of fun along the way.

Of my four high school marching seasons, I think I look back on the City of Angels show with the most fondness. We had more success my Senior year, and even earned a Division I at Regionals, but there was something kind of magical about that Junior year. Some of it might be because we were given a challenge and we rose to accept that challenge.

Just like Mr. Briel knew we would.

There are three more things that Mr. Briel told me that have stuck with me over the years. I’ll be sharing those tomorrow. Be sure to come back and read some more wisdom from a band director who probably had more of an impact on my life than he realizes.

It’s hot. And you need a cool #TwitterTuesday

TwitterTuesday

Yeah. You have to read the entire thread to get full glory of the tweet.

Speaking of cups….let’s take a moment and listen to the original Cups Song…

I know. It’s way too early for a musical interlude. But it was totally worth it.

Time to press on into cool #TwitterTuesday awesomeness (because it’s hot, Don!*)

My evil plan is working. Soon I will take over the world…mwahahaha

One of the many, many reasons tubas rock.

Nothing more to say about that.

Not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that I’m associated with Miley’s performance. It is what it is, I guess.

Thank you, Dr. King. Thank you.

Then the Hoosiers did this…

Unfortunately, this past Saturday was a different story. But that’s another post. An entirely different post.

I love my co-workers.

Yet again, Los knocked it out of the park.

So….what are you dreaming about? What God-sized dream has He given you?

Yeah. The crowd was electric. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Gonna recap that in another post. Probably tomorrow.

SO EXCITED about Indy Pop Con!

Thanks for checking in to this installment of #TwitterTuesday! Tune in next time where I might just include your tweet. Unless you aren’t on twitter. Then I won’t. Because I can’t. So maybe you should just get on twitter and follow me.

Whaddya say?

*If you have any connection to Evansville at all, you want to click that link. Trust me.

Once a Band Geek. Always a Band Geek.

We are the Warriors and the Warriors are Great!

The 1993-1994 Evansville Harrison High School Marching Warriors
I dug this up at my parents’ house when we were in town for a family reunion. I’ve already shared it with my fellow Recovering Band Geeks, but it’s too good of a picture not to share here.

So here’s the 1993 Marching Warriors.

Jasper District: Division 1
Evansville Central Regional: Division 1

Oh yeah, and that Division 1 at Regionals? First time ever. thankyouverymuch

Do you see me? Don’t you dare point at my brother and say it’s me. I might have to hunt you down. After all, I got plenty of the “You and your brother look so much alike” treatment at the reunion. 😉

First one to point me out (without cheating and looking at the tags on the Band Geeks facebook page)  wins! What do you win? Well…

nothing.

But at least you can proudly boast that you won. Right?

2010 Ralphies

Happy 2011!

As we say goodbye to the year that was 2010, it’s time for my annual awards, the Ralphies. I should probably give it a different name at some point because…well…I’m not named Ralph. But then again, if the Big East can include a team in Texas and the Big Ten can have twelve teams, calling my awards the Ralphies really isn’t that big of a deal, is it? Oh – and don’t get me started on the lame new Big12Ten logo and division names.

Without any further ado, I present the 2010 Ralphies:

(drumroll please…)

Best Movie
Secretariat

Even though I knew what was going to happen, I was still on the edge of my seat. That’s some pretty good storytelling. It didn’t hurt that I got to take Aiden to see it and his excitement during the race scenes was contagious, to say the least.

A very close second would be Toy Story 3. But Secretariat wins. By a nose.

😀

Best Record
Tonight by tobymac
TOBY MAC - TONIGHT
I think I only bought one new album in 2010. So, I guess this is it. It’s a pretty good one, though. Every time I hear Get Back Up, I can’t help but think of Haiti and how we’re praying that the people rise up from the destruction caused by last year’s earthquake.

Best Song
Planting Trees by Andrew Peterson

Best Book (Fiction)
American Hercules: a novel based on the life of Peter Francisco by Travis Bowman

This was a good book, but it also kind of wins by default. I think it was the only work of fiction that I read this year. My involvement with Blogging for Books will probably change that for 2011.

Best Book (Nonfiction)
American Band: Music, Dreams, and Coming of Age in the Heartland
by Kristen Lane

As I said in My List (NOT my Resume), I have been working on a novel about high school marching band since 1994. After reading Ms. Lane’s account of the Concord High School marching band, I’m tempted to give up. Because very little else needs to be said. She nails it. Everything about my marching band experience is captured in this book. This is a must read for any and every Band Geek.

The ending is very bittersweet. It even brought me to tears. And that’s saying quite a bit. I don’t think any book has ever made me cry. This one did.

Kudos to Kristen Lane and all of the players in the story of the Concord marching band.

Best TV Show
Caprica, Syfy Channel

Too bad they canceled it.

I liked 24 this season, too. Too bad it’s also not coming back. Oh well.

What are your favorites from 2010?

 

 

 

Torturing My Inner Band Geek

Listening to this makes my inner Band Geek cringe. I know trumpets can sound awful sometimes (being a recovering trumpet player, I’ve produced some of those sounds myself), but this is over the top. Why didn’t anyone stop her at some point before she went on stage? That poor girl. This clip kinda makes me think of Miss “I personally believe” Teen South Carolina.

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.2014857&w=425&h=350&fv=key%3D1397d6b2b1]

more about “Star Wars Trumpet Stacy Hedger from y…“, posted with vodpod

And Miss Hedger sounds like such a sweet girl. Here’s a better example of a trumpet playing music from Star Wars. Although I think this one’s the best (but there’s not really a solo…and I’m not sure what the screaming is all about).

(HT: Codex Blogspot)

**UPDATE**Apparently, Warner Music Group is on a rampage, trying to protect its copyright and removed the original video from youtube. I’ve found a suitable replacement (for now).