Tips for a Successful Indoor Season

Mike Lawson • Archives • November 10, 2008

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With the 2009 indoor marching arts season on the horizon, it’s time to get the production wheels in motion. It’s never too early to start planning for your winter color guard and indoor percussion ensemble. Many aspects of starting your own group, or planning a follow-up season take time. Some processes are even out of your hands, so getting a jump-start can alleviate a lot of stress once the season starts.

Planning the show
Music licensing is a foreign topic for the majority of directors and instructors. If you’ve been throwing around show concepts and music choices, start the process to have your songs approved early. WGI Marketing manager, Bart Woodley comments, “The earlier you start listening to music the better. WGI offers several resources for you to begin the copyright clearance process, but this sometimes takes months. It is a good idea to work on the copyrights for a piece almost four months in advance from when you want to start teaching the show. This means that for most areas you should have music selected by August at the latest.” It may be difficult to nail down what you want to do until your cast is set, but doing so will help solidify the fact that you won’t have to change your tune midseason.

During the show designing process, make sure that you can convince your marching members to buy into your show theme. Since they will be in front of thousands of spectators throughout the season, your performers need to feel comfortable and excited about portraying what you create for them. Keeping it passionate, age-appropriate, and exciting can be a challenge, but the end result will ultimately be something that the students really felt a part of, and something that they will treasure forever. It’s all about bringing something new and different to keep the attention of both the performers and the audiences.

To start building hype in your community and school about upcoming auditions, take a proactive role getting the word out. Be in contact with former members to spread clinic and audition information by word of mouth. Give them an incentive to bring new faces to the group, such as a discount on dues for the season. The Internet is full of opportunities to find more members as well. Start discussion topics on color guard and percussion newsgroups. Try putting together a short video on YouTube with audition information in it. Set up groups on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. Don’t forget the power of blogging and podcasts. Local circuits and newsletters are also great resources to “advertise” your group’s next meeting.

Throughout the Season
Make plans to create an inviting and exciting atmosphere at rehearsals from day one. Getting new and old members to bond is particularly important. Begin with a new warm up routine that energizes everyone. Encourage veterans to introduce themselves to “newbies” and make sure the newer performers are included during breaks and understand details of new routines, technique, and how to make the most out of their season. Oftentimes, matching returning performers with new members as Big Siblings and Little Siblings is a great way to make people feel comfortable. This can help to quickly create relationships that will last throughout the season.

Continuing the hype of the group will help on days when energy is low. Schedule themed rehearsals. Have your members dress up for Twin Day, ’80s Day, Old Costume Day, Tacky Christmas Sweater Day, and any other fun or crazy theme to keep the atmosphere light, but still remain focused on the goal. Incorporating a mascot, cheer, or ritual can keep spirits up as well.

Incorporating outside friends and family may give students that boost of confidence they really need to soar in your performance group. Host a “Friends & Family Clinic” to let them be a part of the experience. Keep them updated on trips and local shows. Encourage students’ families and friends to start a support or fan group to cheer at shows. They can wear matching shirts and make signs to get the excitement started in the performance arena. Although it’s important to have the support of family, make sure they know and respect boundaries. Performers will need time by themselves to prepare for performances without the distractions of others around.

Memories that will last a lifetime are occurring every second during the season. Don’t forget to choose a staff or marching member to be in charge of taking pictures at rehearsal, events, and shows. Also find someone that is willing to take video of your group during these times as well. By the end of the season, a DVD of these will be a great gift for both staff and students so that everyone will be able to look back at all they have accomplished. These photos will remind everyone how special the time they have spent together has been. It’ll also serve as a great way to advertise for the following season.

Off the Floor
While learning to work together as a team at rehearsal, it is also important that your members create trust and compassion off the floor. Planning informal get-togethers can be an easy way to share common interests. Try activities like bowling, skating, a trip to a haunted house, potluck dinners, and sleepovers. The possibilities are truly endless, and members are always looking for ways to continue the fun outside of rehearsal.

Always stress the importance of professionalism and respect with fellow members and competitors. There is always someone watching and making judgments about the group as a whole. Show days are particularly good opportunities to impress future generations to join your organization.

WGI charter member Shirlee Whitcomb expresses the importance of competition: “One of the best ways to keep your students ‘in tune’ with their peers, is to place them in a situation where they watch the others in their class and where they are assigned to come away from each viewing picking out what pieces of the performance they were most impressed with. If they watch from that perspective, focusing on the ‘quality’ and not the ‘problems’ within each performance, they’ll begin to define what qualities they would like to emulate. In addition to this ‘viewing’ education, they can learn to appreciate and applaud the other players in their class and set themselves up to make new friends and to gather new fans who hopefully will learn to reciprocate by showing their support and appreciation of your students.”

Stay Focused
While fun is a key factor of the season, there is a job to be done. Creating a calendar filled with long and short term goals for the group can motivate members to work on tricks, technique, and sections of their show during breaks and outside of rehearsal. Make sure that these goals are realistic and focused on improving their own skills, not just to hit a certain score or beat a specific competitor. A reward system may also be set up for those who reach standards first. For example, the first person to execute a difficult portion of their show perfectly five times in a row might get to sit out at the end of a rehearsal block to watch a section of the show being performed.

Participating in the indoor marching arts teaches students life lessons and builds character which helps them excel later in life. This is the time to create and to inspire. Make this season stand out from rest. Provide a challenge, an adventure, and a dream for your performers and staff. This is the time for everyone to take part in the journey to success.

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