Letter to Santa

Mike Lawson • • December 6, 2017

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The kitchen is all cleaned up from Thanksgiving and the kids are back at school.

The leaves have fallen off the trees and there is a real bite in the air. This could mean only one thing… it is time for my annual gift list! Who’s been naughty? Who’s been nice? Please deliver the following:

For the Atlantic Coast Conference Athletic Directors — a Clue! Apparently, without consulting with conference band directors, the ACC Athletic Directors voted unanimously to cut the band performances in half during the ACC championship. Clemson will march the pregame and Miami will march halftime. No longer will the bands be able to participate in both. The reasoning was to make sure the halftime was conducted in the NCAA sanctioned amount of time… which is odd since schools across the country have been making the new time requirements work without having to cut a band! This is pathetic.

Columbia University Administration — a Sense of Humor!

The University it seems has canceled a long-standing band tradition. Orgo Night. As reported in Deadspin by Columbia alumnus Katharine Trendacosta, “Orgo Night,” which started in the ‘70s, consists of the band performing an uncensored show in the library the night before finals start. It’s supposed to “lower the curve” for the hardest final, organic chemistry, hence the name. Mostly, it’s an event for blowing off steam. This year the band was informed that they would not be allowed into the library. The school claims that the use of one room in a library for 45 minutes is a “disruption” right before finals, which is obviously the entire point of the thing.” Indeed. Come on Columbia… lighten up!

For the Stanford Band — a Second Chance! After serving a suspension for performances that were seen as offensive the band was reinstated this year and has a new band director. Early reports indicate the members understand the errors of their ways and will, in the future, maintain the unique nature of the band while also knowing where the lines are. Anyone think this is the last we will hear about this? Nah…me neither.

For Jahkee Johnson — a College Scholarship! Jahkee is a trombone player from Cedar Grove Saints in Dekalb County, Georgia. But he is not just any trombone player. You see, Jahkee was born with a rare disease that forced him to have his legs amputated. Jahkee was determined to be a marching member in marching band and worked hard to overcome his physical challenges. Working as hard and being treated the same as everyone else. If this is not an inspiring story I do not know what is. I would want this role model in MY band. Someone give this young man a scholarship!

For Carolina Crown — Many Imitators! This is not really for Carolina Crown and Crown Brass. It is really for others in the marching arts to follow Crown’s lead. In an era where the quality of the sound designer/engineer is becoming more important than the quality of performance by marching members, Crown has shown that great music, technical proficiency and musicianship will still win out oversampled sounds processed through a synthesizer and amplified to deafening levels. The lines between performer and technology have been obliterated by most, which is now seeping into high schools. Crown Brass stands as a beacon of hope against the insanity of technology becoming the determining factor of who succeeds and who does not in the marching arts. My advice to all… follow Crown’s path.

For the Carmel (Indiana) High School Marching Band — a Bigger Trophy Room! For the second consecutive year, Carmel has been crowned the Bands of America Grand National Champion (and the fourth time overall). With all that hardware they have been accumulating it may be necessary to plan for an addition to the school. Congratulations to everyone at Carmel for an incredible season.

For legendary band directors Kevin Kastens, Director of the Hawkeye Marching Band at the University of Iowa, and Scott Pierson, Director of the San Jose State Spartan Marching Band — a Long and Fulfilling Retirement! With more than 60 years of directing their bands both Kevin and Scott leave a legacy that is permanently stamped on the history and tradition of both programs. On behalf of the thousands of students they have taught and the millions of fans who have cheered on their musical creations… congratulations on a job well done!

For legendary Avon Director of Bands Jay Webb — a Heartfelt “Thank You!” Jay is bringing his illustrious 25-year career at Avon to a close. He has set a standard for excellence and provided a road map for others on how to build a well-rounded instrumental music program. The marching band didn’t make the state contest in his first years there. His first BOA Grand National the band placed in the 80s.

A decade later they would win three straight Grand National Championship titles and have been in the top three for eleven straight years.

In addition, the program has featured various ensembles at the prestigious Midwest band and orchestra clinic. I remember Jay from back in the day when he was involved with the legendary Bayonne Bridgemen Drum Line and I (as a member of the Crossmen Drum Line) had to compete against him. You done good, 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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