“I actually enjoyed this docuseries! It was professionally done and right on par with some of my favorite netflix produced documentaries.” – Jennifer Stackhouse
Here it is folks, a general review of Marching Orders, a docuseries that followed the Bethune Cookman Marching Band as it prepared for its first performance (The Queen City Battle Of The Bands) of the 2016 marching season. Marching Orders was produced in the reality show format complete with sub-stories that tugged on heart strings and monologues that provided drama and laughs while connecting the audience to 5 main characters; Dr. Donovan Wells (Band Director), Daina (Sophisticats Captain), Ebonee (14K Dancers Co-Captain), Tweet (14k Freshman member), and Markus (Mellophone Section Leader).
The drama is revealed from the very start as several of the 14K Dancers, even veteran members, are not selected in band camp auditions. One veteran member was physically sick to the stomach which resulted in several audition room walkouts. My wife (Jen) thought the veteran member eliminated herself by walking out. She thought the young lady should have said something if she didn’t feel well. I agreed… The drama continued as the Sophisticat Flag Corp auditions are held and some freshmen team members were selected, then denied due to their weight. This was a very emotional scene as girls were moved to tears and even Dr. Wells became visibly upset about having to make that decision… A definite “dust in the eye” moment.
Body image was a constant discussion topic amongst some of the girls. A 14k Freshman member, “Tweet”, was told to lose weight or risk removal as well. Many of the 14k dancers remained on edge up until the uniform fitting. If their uniform was not “flattering” to their figure by performance time, they could risk being sidelined. Jen and I were both moved by the subject matter this portion of the film dealt with. We have two daughters and the youngest will likely end up in some college’s dance studio. We both, having marched on an HBCU band together, understand the effect that having a limited budget may have on properly outfitting teams. However, as parents, we could not help but to imagine our young dancer in this situation and wonder what effect being turned away, based solely on her body image, would have on her self confidence and personal development.
Speaking of parenting, the film included a very riveting story about a student, Markus (mellophone section leader), who hadn’t seen his mother in over 10 years! This sub-story elicited many layers of emotions and came across powerfully on screen. I think most viewers were just as nervous as Markus in anticipation of his mom’s visit. Lol! Kudos to the editor… the buildup to that day was artfully done. My wife and I quietly celebrated their reunion but would have paid her plane ticket to Charlotte so she could see her son leading the BCU Mellophones! It was a great, “feel good”, story nonetheless.
This was a documentary that was produced like a reality TV show so, of course, there was no shortage of drama filled scenes. One source of drama was the situation surrounding Daina (Sophisticats Captain) and her leadership style. Some have argued that she was a little rough in her approach. Some say she was fine and the freshman, she was addressing, just had an attitude. I think her approach was perfectly aligned with the band director’s approach. As a leader she is supposed to be an extension of the band director and I think she accomplished that. I believe she was results driven but a caring leader. She showed how much she cared for her team when she spoke up for the freshmen in the meeting with Dr. Wells and was there crying with them when they were told they could no longer participate. I would argue that her approach is that of “tough love”.
We enjoyed this film and was left wanting more, which is a good thing! If there was one thing we learned about the BCU marching band, from viewing this documentary, it was that being a Marching Wildcat is about being competitive! That point was made over and over in situations throughout the entire documentary. The daily competition that exists among each member is what, I believe, makes BCU one of the best bands in the nation. Seeing band members sidelined, who would be on the field in lesser programs, speaks to the quality that Dr Wells’ system produces.
Go ahead and check this out… you will enjoy it!
(2018) Docuseries, Rated TV-14
Regarded as the nations best, Bethune-Cookman University’s marching band always has a lot at stake. In the Stage 13 Original MARCHING ORDERS, meet the incoming class trying to keep the legacy alive and the seniors who make sure they do. Led by band director Donovan Wells, the Wildcats take it to the field every performance, risking college scholarships and national fame every time.