As the marching activity grows, we see new innovations both on and off the field, season after season. As it continues to become more educationally oriented, consulting and publishing businesses are started to fill an ever growing need for higher quality educational and musical resources. This has allowed for some of the top leaders in the activity to offer comprehensive products detailing their philosophies and approaches to a successful marching program. The recently released “In The Mix” DVD from Dynamic Marching is an A+ quality resource for teaching your music ensemble whether you’re a percussion instructor just starting out or you’re well into your tenure as band director.
Michael McIntosh, writer of the DVD, has been designing, writing, and composing for pageantry, marching bands and drum corps for over 15 years. His success in the drum corps and BOA circuit has put his name at the top of a prestigious list in the marching world. Point is, this is someone who knows what it takes to make a program great. Not “ten years ago” great, but “today” and “tomorrow” great. This is an important distinction, because for an activity that is evolving so quickly, it’s critical to stay at the forefront.
The DVD is very comprehensive in it’s approach to a successful marching percussion and ensemble program. The chapters break down as follows:
1) Introduction from Mike
2) Have No Fear, Get The Gear – suggestions for instrumentation and other equipment
3) If You Build It, They Will Drum – fundamentals and what to look for in an audition
4) Crank It Up – tuning your drums
5) Performance All Day Long – filed under “perfect practice makes perfect”
6) Who’s Afraid Of The Eraser – the compositional process and how not to overwrite
7) Master Track Mix-Down – getting the right full ensemble mix/how to define timing responsibilities. This chapter is worth the price of the DVD alone IMO
8 ) Technology, Are You Scared? Electronic tips on how to get your ensemble plugged in
9) Meet On The 50! A one on one interview with Mike on teaching philosophy, general effect, and a few other things
You’re probably asking, “so is this really for me?” Here are just a few ways this DVD can be helpful to different levels of instructors:
Experienced percussion Instructor with their own program(s): A new perspective from someone you know and trust. There’s always value to be had in listening to someone else’s perspective, especially when it’s coming from someone at the top of the game. No matter who you are, you’d always take the opportunity to sit down and listen to a Mike McIntosh, Jim Casella, Paul Rennick, etc. talk about their philosophies on what it takes to build and write for a successful program.
Younger instructors (aspiring and just getting started): A great reference as you start to build your own program. Nearly everyone in this group, no matter how experienced you may be, are still digesting the information we’ve received having recently been full time students. As our minds transition from student to teacher, it’s important to keep the right things in perspective and the priorities in line. Set the right foundation and build your program off of that. Interested in writing? Chapter 6 is a fantastic break down of how to arrange a battery and pit score effectively. Want to know a proper bass technique? Chapter 3 will tell you.
Band director: Chapter 7 (ensemble mix) and 8 (technology) alone make this DVD worth the price of admission for any band instructor. Need to know the golden rules of when the kids should listen, watch, or anticipate? Sick of hearing ensemble tears that never get better? Check out chapter 7. Other very useful references are the chapters on equipment and maintenance (when to replace stick and heads, how to transport equipment) and what to look for in an audition. When you can’t hire a “drum guy,” at least know the best things to look for when assigning spots.
Will the DVD make you a great drumline instructor if you’ve never picked up a pair of sticks? Maybe not. But it will highlight the key things you need to do and what you need to provide your students in order for them to reach the goals of your program. It can also be a tremendous source as you look to hire young instructors (college/recent college grad). If you can build upon the foundation of your understanding towards marching percussion, you will know what to look for when you hire extra hands.
Is this DVD for your high school or college program’s students? No, but it can be a great resource to share with student leaders for multiple reasons. As they become leaders and mentors to other students, I feel it’s important they have a broader understanding of their percussion section. In this regard, it’s also useful for breeding future instructors for your program. By widening their paradigm to marching percussion, you can essentially create a grassroots campaign that pays back long after they’ve graduated your program.
Finally, if you’re reading this and are a current student, take the lead and suggest this to your band director (point him to this review first if you think it will help).
The ideas laid out by Mike are not the ONLY way to have a successful program, but they are certainly one of the ways. And for how comprehensive a resource this DVD is, it’s a great place to start.
In The Mix is available now through DynamicMarching.com