Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

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.

My smooth shave with the Gillette Fusion Proglide

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SmoothSummer #CollectiveBias #shop

#SmoothSummer Header

I recently decided it was time to try out a few new looks. Thanks to the Gillette Fusion Proglide, I was able to get an amazingly smooth shave as I experimented with different styles of facial hair. I have to be honest when I tell you that I approached this journey with a little bit of fear and trepidation.

Here’s why:

When I was in high school, I tried to grow a beard. I tried to grow a mustache. I tried to grow a goatee. During the final weeks of marching band season during my Senior year, my buddies and I decided that we’d show our focus and dedication to the Band by not shaving. By the time our final performance rolled around, each of us had a little bit of fuzz on our chins, but that was about it. Looking back, our efforts were rather funny. But we thought we were cool.

Things changed once I moved away to college.

Since Fall Break of my Freshman year of college, I have had a goatee. A lot of things have happened since I started sporting that patch of hair on my chin. I fell in love with (and ultimately married) an amazing woman. I graduated from college. We’ve added three children to our family. My children have never seen me without hair on my face. Throughout the years, we’ve been through the highest of high mountaintop experiences and the lowest of low valleys. I think it’s safe to say that my goatee and I have been through a lot together. But after having the same look for such a long time, I decided it might be time to say goodbye to the old style.

The Gillette Fusion Proglide is powered with FlexBall technology. What does that mean? Well, it means that this razor responds to the contours of your face like no other razor can. It means that you can get those tricky corners and edges without any tugging or pulling. It means no more stubble five minutes after shaving. Do you hear me? NO MORE STUBBLE! A smooth shave is something everyone in my family can appreciate. And that’s something worth celebrating.

Want to join in the celebration? You can find the Gillette Fusion Proglide at your local Walmart.
Gillette Fusion Proglide available at Walmart
Can’t get enough smooth faces? Check out these #SmoothSummer faces on Pinterest. I especially like the link to celebrities with and without their iconic facial hair. It’s amazing how different a smooth face looks, isn’t it?

Follow Hairspray and HighHeels’s board Smooth Faces of Summer on Pinterest.

In regards to my own personal facial hair journey? The jury is still out on which style I’ll stick with long-term. Of course, my wife and kids get veto power over any style that I choose, but I’m curious: which one do you like best?

The full goatee?

Goatee #smoothsummer

The “Three Musketeers” Look?

Three Musketeers Look #smoothsummer

A Soul Patch (kinda)?

Soul Patch #smoothsummer

The Mustache?

Mustache #smoothsummer

A Totally Smooth Face?

Clean Shave #smoothsummer

Whatever style I wind up choosing, I know that the rest of my face will remain smooth with the Gillette Fusion Proglide.

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?

Dear Lip-Dub Proposal Guy…

Dear Lip-Dub Proposal Guy...

Dear Guy Who Pulled Off An Amazing Proposal…

Thank you for sharing your special day with the rest of the world. I know some guys are ticked off at you because you made all of our proposals look pretty lame in comparison.

They’re wrong.

I watched your video and I was moved. I had goosebumps. I’m man enough to admit that I even got a little bit misty-eyed. Of course, I tweeted about it, too…

Continue reading Dear Lip-Dub Proposal Guy…

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?

 

 

 

Flashback Friday: Band Geek Edition

This Is Our Story, 1993 (I think)
This Is Our Story, 1993 (I think)

It’s high school football season again, and you know what that means…marching band! I was saddened to learn in back in May that the Blackhawk Brigade wasn’t going to field a marching band this year. There wasn’t enough student interest (remember…we’re an itty-bitty school in the middle of a cornfield) this year. I enjoyed listening to them rehearse during previous Summers and that was something I definitely missed this year. Hopefully they’ll be able to return to competition in 2010.

Although I was always happy to hear them rehearse, I know marching bands aren’t always greeted by their neighbors with open arms. There were many times we’d rehearse outside the Band Room during class time. I guess we were too loud one afternoon because a neighbor came over and got into a big arugument with our band director because she was trying to sleep. Being the obnoxious high school Band Geeks that we were, that just made us play even louder. She eventually drove away, waved a particular gesture at us, and blared her car horn.

At least, that’s what I think she was doing with her horn. I couldn’t hear it because we were playing too loud. 🙂

I believe that was the year we were performing what became my favorite show, which was selections from the musical, City of Angels. I liked the music so much that I went out and bought the soundtrack. I still listen to it on occasion. It was a fun show.

I wish I had a video of that show, but I don’t. If any of you fellow Recovering HHS Band Geeks happen to have a copy of our City of Angels show, I will love you forever if you could get me a digital copy somehow.

But until that time, I guess the Madison Scouts’s version will have to do. 😉

Part 1

Part 2

John Williams: Genius?

One of the more challenging classes I took in high school was Music Theory my Junior year. There were just a few of us in the class, and Mr. Briel decided to push us. Part of the class including listening to a series of notes and determining the intervals between said notes. I think I can say I did pretty well. I have no where near absolute (aka “perfect”) pitch, but we practiced listening to the intervals between the notes that I got pretty good at it.

But that was more than fifteen years ago.

Needless to say, I’m out of practice. That’s why I hesitate to post this because…well…although music was essentially my life during high school (it happens when you’re a dedicated Band Geek), my ability to read music has dwindled since those days. And my ability to discern intervals like I could in music theory has definitely dwindled…or disappeared altogether.

But

I read about this a few months ago and haven’t been able to shake the idea. First, listen to this part of The Emperor’s Theme in Return of the Jedi. Starting at around the :20 mark, the choir joins the music, building tension in the dramatic climax to the Star Wars saga. Just take a few seconds and listen to the progression of notes the recurring musical theme. You can stop at the 1:10 mark (unless you want to keep listening…which is tempting).

Got it? Good.

Now, bear with me here.

At the :32 mark on this clip from the celebration scene in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, a children’s choir starts singing in the background. Listen to them (you might have to turn up the volume).

I know I’m off my game and haven’t analyzed music in a very long time, but isn’t this the same theme, just in a different key, tempo, and some modifications to the rhythm? But it’s the same intervals, right? So it’s just a modification of another theme. Right?

If so, how come I didn’t hear about this or figure out out until ten years after Episode I was released?

I know recurring themes is common. And many of the musical themes used in the Original Trilogy popped back up in the Prequel Trilogy. But most of those were pretty overt. I don’t remember another instance where John Williams took a theme and modified it like this.

Maybe I’m wrong. If you know of another example, please share it. But unless I’m proven otherwise, I’ll just believe he’s a genius. Makes me want to see the Star Wars in Concert tour. Too bad the closest venue is in Oklahoma! Nothing against Oklahoma, really. It’s just too far away. Anyone wanna buy us some plane tickets to the land of the Sooners? 😉

This also helps buttress my belief that John Williams is, in fact, the man!!