Letter to Santa

Mike Lawson • • December 4, 2018

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How are you? How’s the missus? The reindeer? The elves? I hope you had a nice vacation after last season and successful preparations for this year! I hope it is OK — but my gift list is a little longer than usual. If you would be so kind as to deliver the following….

For the administrative leaders of the Southeast Whitfield High (Georgia) — some perspective. What else do you give a principal who thinks it is a good idea to throw away most of the trophies and awards earned by the marching band? Trophies were videotaped being discarded. Video tape goes viral, alumni are outraged. Cue apology from the superintendent and principal. The good news — all the trophies were rescued and returned to the band room.

For the Ohio State University Marching Band — An Export License! Following the tragic death of Tyler Butterfield — a member of the Nebraska marching band who was killed in an automobile crash — the Ohio State marching band paid tribute at halftime. Members of the 228-piece Buckeye Band formed “Tyler” after completing the finale from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake as a tribute to Butterfield was read over the public address system at Ohio Stadium during the November 3rd game against the Cornhuskers. The band then marched off the field, staying in the Tyler formation, while playing the OSU fight song. This demonstrates the very best of our band community and should be exported to programs everywhere!

For Band Directors Everywhere – An End to Hazing! Another year, another story of a band being suspended for hazing. This year’s honoree is the Bowie State University Marching Band. The band was suspended in November by the university president based on “sufficient evidence to confirm the existence of hazing activities.” This represents the absolute worst of our community.

For the Brookwood High School (Georgia) Sousaphone Section – Common Sense. Someone thought it would be a good idea to leave the sousaphone covers on their horns and during a halftime performance spell out what the principal called a “completely unacceptable racial term for African-Americans.” I am sure we can all agree this is way over the line. What would ever possess a young person to think this was remotely a good idea? I wonder if the apples fall far from the trees?

For Collegiate Front Ensemble Members – Hazard Pay! Admittedly, the first half of this years’ LSU-Arkansas football game did not have a lot of offense. But we did see LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire get pushed out of bounds where he crashed right into the resonators of a marimba and pinned a poor Arkansas Razorback Marching Band front ensemble member between two instruments. According to the SEC Network broadcaster Tom Hart, “The girl got sandwiched in there! Playing the marimba is a full-contact sport over there!” I am sure the word “marimba” is not mentioned during 99.9 percent of broadcast football games (let alone that the announcer actually would call it a marimba and not a xylophone) so this may be a first.

For the West Chester University Incomparable Golden Ram Marching Band – An Encore! The 325-member Golden Rams worked all year to prepare for their performance at Music for All’s Bands of America (BOA) Grand National Championships. This full-fledged corps style production entitled “The Traveler” featured music that included, On the Waterfront and David Maslanka’s 4th Symphony. It included a spectacular color guard, 34 massive yellow trees moving around the field, an excellent percussion section and winds that filled Lucas Oil Stadium and brought the audience to their feet with a thunderous ovation. Hat tip to director of bands Adam Gumble, assistant director and drill designer Dr. Greg Martin, visual director Todd Marcocci, musical arranger Dr. Andrew Yozviak, and percussion arranger Darren Hazlett and the entire staff for elevating the program to a new level and for setting the members up for success on marching bands biggest stage.

For the Carmel (Indiana) High School Marching Band — A Bottler. After winning their third Bands of America Grand National Championship in as many years, I hope that whatever the “secret sauce” is to their success would be bottled and shared with others. Special shout out to Jeff Young who becomes only the third director in history to win three Grand Nationals in a row. The other two are next on my list.

For the Avon (Indiana) Marching Black and Gold(fish) — A Bottler as well. There is no other program in the country that has been more consistent than Avon. They have spent 12 years (that is not a typo) in the top three at BOA Grand Nationals (including their own three-peat) under the direction of Jay Webb, Matt Harloff and Robert Burns. There is really something special going on here and sharing the wisdom with others can only benefit the field as a whole.

For the legendary Director of Bands for the Marian Catholic High School (Illinois), Greg Bimm — His Own Grand National Finalist Directors Room! What do you get for someone who has such a legendary career shaping so many lives? Well… after 34 – YES 34 consecutive years making it to the BOA Grand National Championship Finals as well as being the winningest director in BOA history… you name the finalist room after him! Sadly, the streak came to an end this year. That only means Greg has already started working on a new streak that will undoubtedly begin next year. Much love and admiration for all you have done and continue to do for our youth through music my friend.

For all the readers of SBO and our music educators everywhere — A safe, happy and healthy holiday season and all the best of your wishes for the New Year.

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