Indoor, Priorities

Hello all. I have a philosophical issue that concerns me and wanted to know what you all think.

The school I teach at is in the first stages of considering a competitive indoor program in addition to the fall outdoor program. Aside from the obvious questions (Start-up costs, Schedule conflicts, staff etc.) the time commitment to the indoor season will take away from other winter percussion activities like  concert band, district band tryouts, jazz band, perc ensemble...even the yearly musical (this year they are doing West Side Story).

So, will the program be producing true [i]percussionists[/i], or students who are just good at playing in a marching ensemble? As much as I love marching percussion, I'm not sure marching 12 months a year would give students a well rounded percussion education.

So, to those of you who do both, am I right to have these concerns? Am I just too old? Am I thinking too much about this? If the kids want it, why shouldnt I? Can a program really do indoor and outdoor and other ensembles at a high level?

Ive been struggling internally with this for a year. Any opinions arre welcome and encouraged....please.


I went through this EXACT question a few years ago with our program.  I struggled with trying to put together a concert ensemble for things like the Christmas concert and Spring concert when marching/indoor were done.  It was never approached with the right mentality from the kids because they viewed it as ";off season"; and not as fun.  Of course I had players that were excited about it, but not as many.  I made the decision to be a marching drumline from July to May, because it's who these kids are.

Now, with that said, somethings I'm sure are unique to my situation that affected my decision.  We're on the 4x4 block (96 minute classes) and percussion is one of those.  At the time I was trying to figure all this out I had about 25-30 kids in the drumline.  Even if I wanted to do concert ensemble, I would have to split them into different ensembles and I can only rehearse one group at a time.  Indoor allows me to engage every student for the entire class period.  But again that may be unique to me here; I'm just going through my thought process.

Also, I may get flamed or have my ";percussion educator membership badge"; revoked or something, but I accept that some of my students will graduate having marched bass drum for 10 months a year for three years (we're 10-12 here).  If I have a student that is serious about being a percussion major at a university, then I make sure I push that student for all-state, college honor bands, solo and ensemble, etc.  And I teach EVERYONE proper concert techniques and approach.  It still sends me into a rage when I get asked for months ";what are we doing for indoor"; but when it comes time for a concert percussion sectional it's like pulling teeth.  I've lost count of how many times I've given the ";percussion is percussion and it's going to be taken seriously regardless of what we're doing with it.";  That's gotten better, but it still has to be said from time to time.  There was a time when I spent months preparing a concert percussion track system that placed every student on one of three levels in each of the three primary areas (snare, keys, timp) and was going to have that running cuncurrent with the fall and spring semesters.  Then I realized that there was not enough time to both effectively.

I'm sure there are programs that can pull off a great fall and winter marching program along with a high quality concert ensemble, but that's not a reality for my situation here.  My only suggestion is to evaluate your group dynamic and try to figure out what kind of program fits your kids.  For me, I'm ok with a marching drumline 10 months a year, because that I have basically three categories of students:  the few that are planning on being percussion majors, the slightly larger number of students that plan to drum in college but just for the fun of it, and the majority who won't do any of this after they leave high school.  Indoor works best here, and I emphasize here. 

And yes, you are most certainly right to have these concerns.  Shaping a program to the dynamics of your students doesn't mean the kids run the program.

Hope that helps.  Sorry so long.

Keith gives you 2 very important points that you must not neglect: 1) Know your students, and 2) time management issues.

Through 27 years of public education, I have wanted to do it all.�� Some of it has been very successful and some so-so.�� You must consider what your students will buy into, what the parents will support, what the school administration expects, and what the community-at-large will accept.��

Your stakeholders (students and parents) must really be into doing all facets of percussion (for that matter winds and your visual performers).�� I've seen small and large schools unable to sustain all areas because the stakeholders were unable/unwilling to maintain the level of committment that is necessary for a high degree of excellence (instrument/equipment investment and the amount of time that it takes for their involvement).�� Do you have so many students available that you will not run in to scheduling conflicts with their other interests and activities?

There are many areas of the country where the school administration (or school system's administration) just doesn't comprehend what it really takes to achieve in the various areas of music.�� Depending on what is the top sports and cultural (artistic and societal) influences in the school's area, administrators usually don't understand what it takes for a successful winter guard, or percussion ensemble, or concert band.�� I've consulted in various places (including the area where I teach) and they understand/are fanatical about football and the fact that there needs to be a marching band that plays loud music that the audience can relate to.�� Forget a BOA style show or a group that has intricate marching and music.�� That's does not compute for many schools' administrators.�� Narration with a classical music show or with music that's not on the radio would probably receive very little appreciation from the audience; perhaps outright booing.�� They ask, ";Why can't the band just show up and play loud?";�� I don't know about your area, but most administrators that I know are former coaches - usually football.�� They rarely understand about the intricacies of developing a halftime/competitive show.�� Most times they could care less since they have so many groups in their school/community that they must placate.��

I'm fortunate to be in a school where the support is overwhelming and the level of participation is fantastic.�� Several administrators here are former coaches but there is so much involvement (for over 30 years) that they don't want to rock the boat.�� Actually, I think they are pretty smart and support the program in order to serve their needs (one hand washes the other so to speak).

The community-at-large will be the ones that make or break whether you can come up with the money for the ensembles that you can produce.�� I've taught in a community in the past where they just could not understand the need for a winter guard.�� As a result, the availability of facilities became next to impossible to schedule since basketball for all age levels took priority over use of the limited gym facilities needed for a winter guard.�� It took several years in that same school system to develop a concert program that repeatedly attracted a large audience (large being 500-1000).

And there's one more factor to consider - burnout on the part of the director.�� Do you have a family?�� Do you have a hobby for stress release?�� Do you live at the music facility?�� Do you have any health issues that arise from time to time?�� How much time do you have to apply to the various aspects?�� Do you have additional staff?�� Is there really enough help to render an acceptable level of success?�� These are just a few questions�� to consider.

This is complicated to resolve and its a complicated business we work in.�� Its also good that you want to work through your concerns.�� As I stated earlier, we all want to be successful and have our students exposed to opportunities for success.�� Sometimes its better to be successful at one or two activities than to be mediore, or worse at several.�� Is it right for your situation?�� Ultimately, only you can decide based on what I've briefly covered and what Keith has offered.

Best wishes to you.��
Coach and I started a winter line in '99 from a program with a solid summer/fall program.  It sure helps when they already have hands and feet.  It's a lot of work when you're competing for space with sports teams and other activities.  We even hosted a show our first year that had over a dozen lines attending, but that show really helped pay for the season.  They way I convinced the music program to allow it was to make sure no extra effort had to be done by anyone else.  I also pointed out that most of the kids would be sitting at home otherwise.

It's up to you to make sure the kids are getting an education.  You can have the best of both worlds- one year the state Marimba soloist champion was my center snare, and the vibraphone champ was my center quad.  Kids are sponges and will adopt the philosophy you give them.
It's probably been implied, but ";know thy student";.

I had many percussion students that had no intention of being a collegiate percussionist, outside of a drumline.  In fact, I am one of those kids, too.  I played pit first because I was the only one that could read a staff at my school.  Seriously.

So if a kid wants to march bass three years, then let them.  But at the same time, if your kids want to be more well-rounded, approach your winter line with a less competitive mentality.  Let some kids play things they wouldn't normally play.  Let them change instruments.  Spend very little to start with.  Make it a learning experience for everyone, and if you approach it with that attitude, you will be successful no matter your placement.

If your kids just want to kick ass and step on the throats of other lines, that's cool too.  Approach it as super competitive, and elite.

But I think if you ease into it, hearing what sounds like a bit of trepidation in your post, you can't lose.  Besides, if you're not having fun, what the hell is the point?
[quote author=drumcat link=topic=2315.msg12213#msg12213 date=1203728138]
... Besides, if you're not having fun, what the hell is the point?

Amen to that!
One of my college band directors use to say ";How do you spell band?  F-U-N.";  The same could be said about drum corps, percussion, winter guard, or whatever.
I'm going through the same thing right now.  The school I work with is fairly new (5-6 years old), and has a small but strong fall program.

This is my first winter with them, and we do a 12 week lesson + ensemble season.  They are on a 4 period schedule, so the ensemble is extracurricular.  Some of the admin/band directors have been against doing a full indoor program because it doesn't teach ";concert"; techniques, they believe it's time consuming and expensive, and so on.  The problem is that the school's percussionists are not required to be in the ensemble, so out of the 36 kids in the program about half of them are percussionists.  The rest are orchestra or wind/brass players that are interested in it.  Even with the fall program, out of the 12 frontline students last year, [i][u][b]2[/b][/u][/i] of them were school percussionists.  It serves no real basis for strengthening the day band program.

I'm all for a concert ensemble season, but with only 12 weeks (one ensemble rehearsal a week + one lesson) to prepare a half hour concert, it isn't very beneficial.

[quote]So, to those of you who do both, am I right to have these concerns? [/quote]
Yes you are right, and yes it can be both good and bad for a program to do year round marching percussion.

I've seen an indoor program do great things for a program that is trying to get more kids excited about drumming and get parents involved in the success of their children. I've also been apart of where an indoor program really burns the kids out and makes for a lot of internal conflicts among the percussion students.

I personally have just switched to a three year cycle where I am going to do indoor for a year (with a percussion concert at the end of the year) and two years of just percussion ensemble in the spring.

It all really depends on the quality of the kid in your ensemble. . . Can they handle doing both and can you be successful doing both should be the questions you want to ask yourself. The successful part is very important because it will help build momentum for whatever you are doing in the future. The term successful does not mean that you WIN everything but that the kids come away from the activity better players and people.

[quote]Am I just too old?[/quote]
No you are not! Take a pad and pencil to WGI finals and start writing down what you like and do not like about the shows you see. That's a good place to start if you feel a little behind the times. I took 28 pages of notes from last years performances. You will probably find me doing the samething this year too just to make sure I keep tabs on the direction of the activity.

[quote]Am I thinking too much about this?[/quote]
No. . . But it's good to question your methods and always nice to try something new and fresh even if you feel a little weird in the process. It's what makes us really dig to be better teachers.

[quote]If the kids want it, why shouldn't I?[/quote]
You may have different priorities. . . and they may not be ready. . .Thats your call.

[quote]Can a program really do indoor and outdoor and other ensembles at a high level?[/quote]

YES! It is possible but remember when you do these things it takes A LOT of time and energy to make these activities happen at a high level. Hours, weeknights and weekends are pretty much taken once August rolls around and if you are not smart about how your schedule your activities and hire your staff, you can possibly run yourself, your students, and your own family into the ground if you do this for too long.

This will be the first season in 6 years that I haven't done an indoor drumline of my own. (Though I am writing and working for a few in my area) I would have to say that it's really nice for once to come home and not be thinking about my upcoming show.

My 2 cents. .�� :)
Wow, Thanks for all of the great responses. Much appreciated.

I guess this is a struggle for more of us than I thought.

After talking to other local instructors about this as well as the posts, I just can't see the value in it for the student in this district...yet. Concert Band is the only instrumental ensemble that is co-cirricular,  so I'm going to push for an extra-cirricular concert perc ensemble as a starting point. I feel we HAVE to offer them that experience first, before giving them another marching experience.

Unfortunately, I do not have the final say, but at least Im solid on my opinion now. Thanks, and if any one has anything else to add, feel free!

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