|HBCU or show style marching band|
To jog everyone's memory or inform those of you who haven't heard, a group has been meeting for at least a year now, with the goal of starting a community marching band for middle school students. I didn't make it clear in the last entry (I apologize), but the main reason to do this is to help spark interest in music and band and band front in our middle school students so that when they reach high school, they'll join the NAHS Marching Eagles.
This is NOT to replace the middle school program, but to help support it in many different ways. As probably everyone knows, funding has been cut to public school music programs, which means staff and rehearsal time is limited. N-Town Rhythm would help get instruments into the hands of kids who want to play, give them an opportunity to play outside school and extend the activity through the summer months. When I was a student, NASD gave me all these opportunities (and I became a music teacher, thanks to them), but these days, it's a struggle for our district's music teachers just to keep the band together, through no fault of their own.
The 1st question Mr. De Kok asked was "So why not support the current band director?"
|Military style band|
Question #2: "Why does the marching band experience have to be HBCU-style? Is N-Town Rhythms not intended to be diverse?"
The word diversity is usually used when talking about race so when I read this, that was my first thought. This would be like suggesting that white musicians shouldn't play jazz and black musicians shouldn't perform Italian opera and no one but Latinos should do Salsa dancing. But probably I was wrong and the question has nothing to do with race--only the diversity of marching styles.
Let me explain those styles to anyone who hasn't been in a band.
|Corps style band|
Corps style is more relaxed--you walk rather than march, rolling on the outside of your foot so it seems like more of a glide. When you mark time, you don't usually lift your toes off the ground. You form arcs and other shapes.
Show (HBCU style) uses high steps, fancy turns and dance moves. Visually, the show style has more energy. It's favored by the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, hence the name, but also by a lot of other colleges and high schools.
When I was in Norristown High, I learned show style with a little military style mixed in from the best band director I ever studied under, Brent Hentzel. At West Chester U., I learned corps style. Of the three, show style is the most fun and, even though it takes a lot of effort, it doesn't feel as much like work as the other styles.
If I were teaching a middle school marching band (or even high school), I'd definitely use show style. The other two are too formal and not entertaining or energetic enough for that age group. I think the kids will get more a boost to their self-esteem from show style. They need to associate marching band with fun or you're not going to get students wanting to continue in the high school band.
Mr. De Kok wrote another comment that was so long, I can't reproduce it word-for word here (go to the link above to read the whole thing under Comments), but I wanted to address some of his thoughts.
He says "...the best use of the middle school years is building of performance fundamentals..." and "...when I was a middle schooler, I could barely walk and chew gum at the same time..." I think he's basically saying that he doesn't believe our middle-schoolers are capable of anything more than possibly walking onto a field, playing a few tunes and walking off.
|Easton Area Middle School Band doing Show Style|
I should add that when I was at Rittenhouse (when it was a junior high), we also had a marching band. We sort of marched onto the field, formed an "R", played our alma mater, formed an "S" (for Stewart, our sworn rivals--it was the only game we performed at), then played their alma mater. That was it. Boring. I might not have joined the high school band if that was all I expected, but I'd seen my brother in the high school band, doing show style at halftime shows, and I couldn't wait to get there because it looked like fun.
The director of N-Town Rhythm leaned show style at her university so that will be her primary focus, but she's also said she wants to mix styles so the students learn a little of all of them.
Honestly, even if all N-Town Rhythm accomplishes is to walk onto a field, play a few tunes and walk off, IF they do it in an entertaining style that will make their parents smile and make the kids feel good about themselves, I think you're going to find more kids sticking with band into high school and more of their parents showing up to be band boosters.
Instruments have been donated to N-Town Rhythm, but they still need volunteers. If you'd like to help, or you want to find out how to get your student involved, email Ernest Hadrick at email@example.com or Jocelyn Hadrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.