Tuesday, June 25, 2013


There is something about the camaraderie of like-minded, similar-goaled people that is attractive. I don't mean beautiful (although it can be) - but magnetic. Yesterday, I had the privilege of welcoming the participants of this years Drill Design Retreat to our facility. I am not a drill guy, probably never will be. But as I spoke to these people I was almost envious of the invisible bonds that have formed between these music instructors. They don't even know each other - but the work they have done in the trenches of music education have linked them together in a palpable way.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Less is More

Due to a perfect storm of circumstances a smaller marching band will be hitting the street this 2013 season. At first that was a source of concern for me  - but as this season has progressed and we approach the threshold of our first parade I'm coming to the conclusion that bigger isn't always better. There certainly is a safety in the massive sound of 100+ players - but there is also a new excitement in the flexible sound of a smaller corps. Our marches - old favorites - have a new sound. A fresh face.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Notes from the Road

Today's been a rockin pit day! We met Neil Larrivee, one of the founding instructors and arrangers for the Cadets who revolutionized drum corps front ensemble playing and is now the director of education for Vic Firth!

We were filmed for the first Vic firth sneak peak promo video, which was super cool! (In the rain of course! )

This good day didn't come easily though because the past week has definitely been a challenging 'character building' one! It's definitely takes a little while to figure out how a group of almost all rookies can work, play and live together at the highest level of perfection possible! Pretty high standards, but nothing were not used to with Spirit! Being in Spirit has taught me so much more than just how to play - dedication, a positive attitude, leadership, and most importantly how to work as a team, care about the group, and keep on fighting when you feel it's impossible!

The 2013 Cadet pit is definitely gelling now and we're beginning to become a 'well oiled machine', as our instructor Br. Andrew would say:)

Lots more learning to do, but this shows going to be the best yet! Phenom! I feel so privileged to be part of such an amazing ensemble and am psyched to see what we will become in August.

PS - One day Starbucks donated some iced coffee... Enough said:)

A New Parade Season

I am pumped about the marching band season- our first parade is about two and half weeks away, and I am hopeful that we will present the most “musical” marches that we have done in a long time. Can we produce that warm symphonic sound which is out there while we march down the street? I say YES! And we are getting closer each week. Perhaps the biggest challenge is not playing our own parts, but listening to all the other parts first, then adding our balanced sound to that mix…  we shall see. 
Most of our street marches this year are John Philip Souza marches, and they are all fantastic. Soaring melodies, intricate harmonies and brassy fanfare sections, but my favorite is The Crusader march. This is  a lesser known march, that has a gorgeous trio section with flute and clarinet playing a very lyric melody. Come and hear it for yourself! The trumpets and low brass add in, but are NOT the feature!(Catch that trumpets??)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Firm Foundation

SOA definitely prepared me to be a member of the Cadets. Work ethic, being able to take correction, rehearsal technique (following instruction...this can be attributed primarily to Ian Hale!) and even how to do a dot book, are huge skills that I have been crucial entry level skills at Cadets. These are the blocks that build a Championship Corps. The music this year is all Samuel Barber, and the show is coming together really well. We are 130 pages into about a 200 page show. It is so fun to play great music everyday, to have a single focus is very relaxing even if it is so hard, and I love hanging out with friends here who love hard work and the results it can achieve.

To Durban With Love

Today Spirit of America trumpet and trombone instruction resumed with our good friends in South Africa.  It is amazing how modern technology and a kindred love of music can keep this connection going.  As usual the first 10 minutes of the trumpet lesson involved multiple instant messages back and forth in order to connect the two computers, but once that was done we resumed with 4 trumpet players and 4 trombone players receiving instruction.

It is our goal to instruct enough players that one day will be able to teach a studio of fine musicians themselves.  Our focus in on playing with a good sense of sound and intonation, and on teaching the fundamentals of reading standard musical notation.  (This is a new concept for these students, as they are accustomed to playing by ear and by "call and response")

Hopefully every Wednesday for the next several months we will be able to chart the progress of this group, with the hopes that we are doing more than teaching music, we are sharing our hearts and our love for learning.  Look forward to good sounds in the halls of the Durban Community across the ocean in the weeks to come.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Play it Forward

Shortly after our 2013 Winter Percussion season came to a bronze finish two of our members headed out to join The Cadets for this summer's DCI season.  Kirsti Pugsley and Dan Pfeiffer are now heavily immersed in the music of Samuel Barber. It's always exciting to me to watch our kids "grow-up" and share their experiences and talents in other settings. I hope it's a great summer for them. If you want to keep an eye on the Cadets season - and maybe catch a glimpse of Dan or Kirsti check out the link above - or follow the Cadets on Facebook