WARHORSES: Scott Rush’s List Of Excellent Standards

You may not know that I am the current President and CEO of a non profit organization called Advocates for Music & Music Education Association (AMMEA). AMMEA cultivates, supports, and enhances music and music education in the state of South Carolina through fostering academic partnerships and professional learning opportunities for music educators.

AMMEA recently hosted an interview featuring Scott Rush. Mr. Rush is active as a conductor, clinician and adjudicator throughout the United States and Canada. He is also a very accomplished author and has authored or co-authored ten highly touted books: Habits of A Successful Band Director, Habits of A Successful Musician, Habits of a Successful Middle School Musician, The Evolution of A Successful Band Director, Habits of A Successful Middle School Band Director, Habits of A Successful String Musician, Habits of a Successful Middle Level String Musician, Quality of Life Habits of A Successful Band Director, Habits of a Successful Choir Director, and Habits of a Significant Band Director.

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During the interview Mr Rush discussed a list of selections he described as “warhorses”: selections that have stood the test of time and are considered the standard of excellence for high performing ensembles. Mr Rush explained that this list is purposely not complete and should not be used as the absolute authority on what bands should be playing but, more accurately, the bare minimum of what bands should be playing. He believes all students should be exposed to selections of this caliber at some point in their musical journey.

For high school band programs Mr. Rush recommends a “Four-Year Cycle” of specific titles differentiated for 3 levels: Symphonic Band (advanced musicians), Concert Band I (intermediate musicians), and Concert Band II (young musicians). The recommendation is to play at least one of the listed pieces each year while adding in new pieces as you’d like. The idea is to develop a standard list of “workhorses” that become the foundation for your program. Faithfully following this process will expose your students to a wide variety of great literature while also challenging them, at every level, to reach a standard of high quality.


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Scott Rush is the former Director of Fine and Performing Arts in Dorchester School District Two in South Carolina and is the former Director of Bands at Wando High School in Mount Pleasant, SC. He is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts and the University of South Carolina. Under his direction, the Wando Symphonic Band performed at the 2007 Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic and were recipients of the 2007 Sudler Flag of Honor administered by the John Philip Sousa Foundation. His marching bands were two-time BOA Grand National finalist and won the South Carolina State 5A marching band championships nine consecutive years.


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IN LIVING COLOR: An Interview With Mr. Eddie Morris, Colorguard Director – SC State University

Block Us Up! – Mr. Morris, it is indeed an honor to welcome you to Block Us Up! You have contributed greatly to the lives of so many students across the nation that I almost don’t know where to begin! You have always been one of the greats when it comes to color guard and band auxiliary and I appreciate you taking the time to speak with us about the art form.

Mr. Morris – Thank you, it is a pleasure to speak with you Mr. Stackhouse.

Block Us Up! – Before we get into it, would you mind sharing with us a little about your background, your college years, and how that all shaped and prepared you for the position you hold today?

Mr. Morris – Well, while attending HS in Adel, Georgia I was actually a brass player. Not many people know that I played the Trombone in my HS band. Even though I enjoyed playing in the band, my heart was always in guard work and as a result, I really wanted to be on the color guard. Of course, because I was a pretty good musician, Our band director wanted me to stay on my instrument so that’s what I did. I spent my senior year as a band student at Tift Co. High School, in Tifton, GA. In my spare time, I taught myself how to use the flag. I got so good that I began training the girls who wanted to try out for flag and wouldn’t you know that every girl I trained made the team.

Block Us Up! – Oh wow, So you began teaching guard in High School?

output(1)Mr. Morris – Yes, in 1975 I began teaching color guard and was totally self taught. Since my HS director wouldn’t allow me to march with the guard, I began looking for other ways to pursue that passion. I tried out for several Drum Corp International groups. I marched colorguard with the Madison Scouts out of Madison, Wisconsin and a group called South Wind Drum Corp from Montgomery, Alabama. 

Block Us Up! – What was the Drum & Bugle Corp experience like?

Mr. Morris – I loved it. During those years I was, unknowingly, gaining the knowledge and experience I would need to sustain my career for years to come. DCI was an entirely different experience from what I was used to. I was used to the traditional style of march and everything that entailed but DCI proved to be just what I needed to strengthen my skill set. I was learning different styles and techniques while broadening my understanding of guard work. At the same time I was learning the vocabulary that is necessary in order to operate within the artform. The experience was priceless. It was also interesting to see so many males participating at that level compared to most traditional HS and college band programs.

Block Us Up! – The issue of males participating in auxiliaries has always been controversial for the hbcu band culture. As a male color guard instructor what are your thoughts on the issue? 

Mr. Morris – To me it’s about style. If you have a dance team that utilizes a more feminine style of dance then I believe that team should be all female. If you have a team that is more masculine in its approach, which I have yet to see by the way, you’d expect to see mostly male performers. It’s like broadway… You wouldn’t see males performing like women in broadway productions, unless the play specifically called for that part. At the same time, if males choose to dance, they’ve got to be the absolute best out there. That’s just the way it is. That pertains to color guard too. I’ve always had to be better than the rest. If I was average, I would have never made any of the lines I’ve performed with.

Block Us Up! – After high school you attended universities in several regions of the country. What were your experiences and how did each school shape and prepare you professionally?  

Mr. Morris – Well during the ’81, ’82, and ’83 school years I marched with Fort Valley State. I then transferred to Valdosta State. I enjoyed both schools though the styles were very different. I was always comfortable performing either style. However, at VSU I was able to put what I learned in DCI to practice. Since then I’ve become an expert at incorporating skills and concepts from both styles into my work. After VSU I attended the Florida School of the Arts, majoring in dance. This prepared me for my next challenge which was Broadway. I transferred to City College University, in New York City. There I received my BFA in Dance and was fortunate to have a successful career as a dancer on Broadway. I performed with The 7 Principles, The Kennedy Dancers, and studied at the Alvin Ailey Contemporary Dance School. I also studied at Jacob’s Pillow under the tutelage of Dr. Reginald Yates and Katherine Dunham. I would have stayed in New York if I had never met Eddie Ellis.

Block Us Up! – Yes, You began working with Mr. Ellis as his color guard instructor at Morris Brown College in 2000. How did that come about?

Mr. Morris – I would often come back home, to south Georgia, whenever I had a break. During these times I would be hired to work with the local high school color guard teams doing clinics and camps. For a while I was the Color Guard Coach at Monroe High School, under Band Director Mr. Thetheus White in Albany GA. During those years Monroe High School would consistently compete in Bands Of America. I was excited to compete on that level. I would also do work for Mr. Darren Johnson, who was Band Director at Dougherty High School at the time. On one occasionoutput(3) Mr. Johnson introduced me to Mr. Eddie Ellis, who was Band Director at Morris Brown College. We spoke for quite a while about my background and skill set which ended up being an interview, unbeknownst to me. This conversation led to him presenting me with a job offer, on the spot, to be his color guard instructor. I really had no intentions of leaving New York but since Mr. Ellis was a fellow brother of Phi Beta Sigma, and needed help with his guard, I felt like I had to help him out, because a good Sigma man always helps a brother in need. So I moved down to Atlanta and became the Morris Brown Color Guard Coach. I was somewhat familiar with Atlanta as I had once performed Aida with the Atlanta Opera and The Ballethnic Dance Company. 

Block Us Up! – Working with such a legendary director must have been quite an experience. Could you describe your experiences and challenges with transitioning from the world of modern dance and ballet to HBCU Marching Bands?

Mr. Morris – Working at Morris Brown was a great experience. There is nothing that I would change about it. We had some very good bands during those years. We traveled extensively, performed with major recording artists, and I got to be apart of a major feature film – “Drumline”. It was all very exciting and life changing. Those are moments I’ll never forget. As far as transitioning from dance to college bands is concerned, the content wasn’t really that different. I was taught to perform… To perform within the confines of different styles. HBCU Bands, of course, have a different style, but as a dancer I’ve always had to learn different styles. You had to or you would not be able to pay your rent! Every job didn’t come in one style. So transitioning between styles has never been a challenge for me. I will say, I do not like the role of auxiliary teams in the HBCU style. Coming from the world of drum corp where the color guard is highly featured to watching many band directors push their color guards to the back and off to the side of the field , almost as if they were an afterthought, has always irritated me. I’ve always  wanted to change that about the HBCU Bands. There are so many ways a guard can be used to enhance a show! It’s really a shame that even today many band directors still choose to not push the envelope, visually. There really is no excuse when there are high school groups out performing some of our famed programs. It’s really sad.

Block Us Up! – To that point, I read somewhere that you are affiliated with a new organization that’s trying to change that… Could you speak on that please?

Screenshot_20200406-215727_GalleryMr. Morris – Absolutely, I was invited to join the HBCU Auxiliary & Dance Directors Association. It’s a new organization that was scheduled to have its inaugural conference this spring, in Atlanta, but of course it has been postponed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The conference will be hosted by several facilitators and clinicians from around the country. There will be coaches from Prairie View A&M, Alabama State, Norfolk State, NCA&T, Albany State, SC State, and many others! All collegiate & high school dance, colorguard, or majorette performers out there, be on the look out for this event! It will include engaging workshops, interactive clinics, and a culminating banquet with the coaches and members of your favorite HBCU Dance and Auxiliary lines.

Block Us Up! – That sounds like a great endeavor and just what the culture needs right now. If there is ever anything I can do to help, don’t hesitate to reach out… Now In 2005 you accepted another job offer from Mr. Ellis. This time to become the Color Guard Director at South Carolina State University. Since then, you have served at the pleasure of two other directors while in this role. How would you sum up your experiences at SC State?

Mr. Morris – Overall, this has been a wonderful experience. I’ve been here through theflag girl good times and the bad times and it has all been worth it. We’ve performed before some magnificent audiences over the years. One of my most memorable moments was when we performed “The Flower Drill” at the Honda Battle Of The Bands. The way the crowd responded was just amazing. The kids really executed during that show. Two of the lowest moments of my tenure was when we lost Mr. Sarjeant and Mr. Knighten. They were two of the best and it was a tremendous loss to our program. Today we are thriving under new leadership and I’m as excited as ever about what’s to come for The Marching 101.

Block Us Up! – Mr Morris it has been an honor having you here at Block US Up! Our goal is to bridge the gap between band fans and the band directors and you contributed to this effort in a great way today. Thank you for this awesome gesture and thank you for your, more than, three decades of improving bands and improving the lives of students all around the country. Is there anything else you’d like to add?


Mr. Morris – I would like to encourage those who are interested in dance, guard work, or any of the performing arts to; remember to approach life on your own terms, never allow someone to say what you can’t do, and never settle for anything less than your absolute best. If you work hard, become knowledgeable about your content, and put God first… The sky is the limit.


Mr. Eddie Morris is a highly sought after adjudicator, choreographer, and clinician for all levels of the performing arts. He’s a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Professional Music Fraternity, Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity, and The Masonic Order. He’s performed with legendary dance companies, The South Wind Drum and Bugle Corp, and The Madison Scouts. After traveling the world as a professional dancer, he has now committed his life to educating youth in dance and flag technique. He is currently Director of Color Guard for the South Carolina State University Marching 101 Band.





THE MAN WITH THE PLAN: Linard McCloud’s COVID-19 Band Recovery Plan For Title 1 And Smaller Programs

“Every director must develop an appropriate plan aimed at restarting their band program…”

Band Recovery Plan By Linard McCloud

A few months ago, many band programs were flourishing as they prepared students for All-State, Concert Assessments, Solo & Ensemble, spring concerts, graduations, and of course, (for some) spring drills for the upcoming marching band season. Programs were continuing to work toward maintaining and enhancing their paths toward excellence in musicianship. Not in anyone’s wildest dreams did we think all of this hard work and success could come to an abrupt end, in the way that it has.

However, the COVID-19 virus has no friends in any walk of life. Regardless of a school’s classification (A-AA-AAA-AAAA-AAAAA), report card category, Title 1 status, or performance rating, every band program has been affected. This global pandemic will require music educators to adjust to some significant and unchartered changes to achieve goals and expectations. Subsequently, every director must develop an appropriate plan aimed at restarting their band program.

After a significant and devastating effect to the job market, much consideration has to be given to the economic, academic, and social changes that many students have and will continue to endure. School districts and legislators will make decisions that will significantly impact co-curricular programs. When schools re-open, principals and teachers will be charged with remediating and accelerating core subject areas. While there will be discussions of the importance and the value of other programs (e.g. athletics, band), that old cliché “schools are about the acquisition of basic skills” will be the focal point as testing will definitely take the forefront.

In addition, directors must also be concerned about the lack of state funding due to the loss of jobs and state revenue. Because state budgets will be affected by this pandemic, school districts will be hit hard. We will see changes with hiring, supplements, other amenities and perks to which we have grown accustomed.

So these are some suggested steps for Title 1 and smaller programs that each director should consider as they approach this devastating situation. This is not business as usual, and we must make some bold changes to achieve our goal which is to produce a performing group that is exemplary in all domains of learning.

Steps and Procedures:

1. Evaluate your program (prior to school closing if possible). List all strengths and weaknesses.
2. Develop a plan to expand on the strengths and eliminate as many weaknesses.
3. Check the new adjusted schedule for your district.
4. Check with the music or fine arts director about funding for programs.
5. Create a schedule after meeting with the principal and guidance director.
6. Check to see if they have any confirmed cases of financial and/or housing issues with
your band students.
7. Check on financial constraints on your program. See if the district will fund students who are unable to pay necessary fees to operate a band program.
8. Check to see if any student lost a family member or significant person during this time.
9. Check with the school’s nurse to log in medical issues and needs for each student.
10. Make certain that your class schedules remains the same or even better.
11. Set realistic expectations for the programs, based on your evaluation, with the principal.
12. Set up a meeting with veteran & new students and their parents.

  • After the meeting, I would suggest conducting a music session with the
  • Parents should meet after your students’ ensemble session. Invite the principal
    and other officials to your music session and parent meeting.

13. Discuss with parents an appropriate budget for operating the band under these
14. Handout the rehearsal and performance schedules for the year. Make certain that you leave a window for schedule adjustments.
15. Check the booster club’s status for funding, and conclude the meeting with a pizza party for all participants.

My middle school program has an 86% poverty level while the high school is at 63%. These are considerations when we attempt to regroup. Having lost the leadership and experience of the senior class is devastating. Most programs depend on them to leave a legacy of achievement and dedication. These are issues we have no control over, but we have to work around them and make adjustments to reach our goal of music excellence. I believe that every program must make plans based on the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has placed on the school district, and most importantly, your school and the way it has to operate moving forward.



Mr. Linard McCloud is a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, Phi Mu Alpha, and Phi Beta Mu Band fraternities. He has served his community as an educator for over 30+ years. He has received numerous awards and citations throughout his illustrious career, including being presented the Key to The City of Winter Haven, Florida. He created South Carolina’s first concert band exchange program, through which his students have performed as far away as Ontario, Canada.

Mr. McCloud is the 1997 awardee of the Milken Educator Award, often referred to as the “Oscars of Teaching.” He continues to teach and guide students in the inner city of Charleston, SC but his lessons have traveled the world.

ALL IS NOT WELL: The Cultural Issues Within The National Honorary Band Fraternity

Kappa Kappa Psi Fraternity (KKPsi)  and Tau Beta Sigma Sorority (TBS) are honorary service organizations whose primary purposes are to serve college and university band programs. Some of their acts of service include service projects, fundraisers, social events, and other activities centered around university bands and music in general. These organizations have been in existence since 1919 and 1946 respectively. Originally KKPsi was an all male organization and TBS was its all female counterpart. This is no longer the case as both organizations currently welcome members from both genders, share a national headquarters, and meet together for national conventions. But it wasn’t always this way… One incident changed this.

The Rutgers Incident

This incident detailed the fraternity’s initial reaction to allowing women to join the fraternity. Title IX of The 1972 Education Act stated: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…” this law primarily affects athletic programs,  but also impacts honorary organizations like KKPsi.

In 1973 the chapter at Rutgers (Alpha Phi) was the first chapter to admit women into the fraternity under the new law. As a result…  the national body suspended their chapter and revoked their charter. In defiance of the suspension, the former members chartered a new organization under the title: Mu Upsilon Alpha Honorary Coed Service Fraternity for the bands at Rutgers. The new fraternity sent letters to all the chapters of KKPsi explaining why they left the fraternity and received responses ranging from letters of support to hate filled manifestos.

The National body of KKPsi offered the former brothers of Alpha Phi chapter the opportunity to appeal their suspension at the 1973 National Convention, but the members of the new fraternity respectfully declined. The history page of the Mu Upsilon Alpha website includes a comment pertaining to its unique history: “In 1978, Kappa Kappa Psi went co-ed. Since that time Kappa Kappa Psi has made countless efforts to re-establish the Alpha Phi chapter. The Brothers of Mu Upsilon Alpha have declined, and although Kappa Kappa Psi has much to offer Mu Upsilon Alpha, the Brothers continue to let their fraternity which they built from scratch grow and flourish…” The Mu Upsilon Alpha Fraternity recently merged with Mu Beta Psi National Honorary Music Fraternity as its Pi chapter.

Is This Another “Rutgers Incident”?

I believe the fraternity has encountered another “Rutgers Incident”. Not a Federal Law changing the rules of the land, but rather another “incident” that will rattle the very core of the organization for years to come…

iota nu

The incident in question, identified as a “New Member Presentation Show” is the sole activity identified by the fraternity as the vehicle by which the act of hazing was invoked. The result was expulsion of all active members and the chapter alumni not being allowed to form any Local Alumni Association of KKPsi that supports the band program at Alabama A& M University. In addition to those things, a 20 year moratorium on any future colonization was placed on the chapter. All of this was unprofessionally, and embarrassingly, announced on facebook. This very public, and what many deem excessive, reprimand by the fraternity was met with immediate backlash and condemnation from all HBCU chapters and many from other chapters of the organization. The excessive reprimand, unlike any other in the past, lead many to wonder if this HBCU chapter was being discriminated against…

Though this video makes many valid points, I was, initially, reluctant to say KKPsi discriminates against HBCU chapters. As a KKPsi member myself, I never felt discriminated against throughout the 22 years of my membership. However, the data cited in the video is alarming and very disappointing. I do however think KKPsi has an issue understanding the culture of its HBCU chapters.

The Fraternity Writes:

  • This situation is the result of hazing related to their New Member Presentation Show, which violated both University and Kappa Kappa Psi policies. 

Its a probate show with emphasis on the word SHOW. I don’t know if its their fault for not understanding the history of black greeks and “the probate” or ours for expecting them to. Furthermore, the university stated it was not aware of why the chapter was suspended. They obviously had no issue with the many probate shows taking place on their campus.

  • Each brother, each chapter should stop and take a moment to reflect on your chapter activities. Is that activity or tradition worth your membership in Kappa Kappa Psi? Your chapters’ charter?

The activity in question is a probate show. A “coming out” ceremony which, due to the lack of diversity on the national council, was mistaken for hazing related activity. And now it seems the national council is forcing all HBCU chapters to consider whether this “activity or tradition is worth your membership in Kappa Kappa Psi” as they said.

Like the students of the Alphi Phi chapter at Rutgers, the Iota Nu Chapter at Alabama A&M University, and more broadly the HBCU chapters of KKPsi, are presented with a choice. A choice that will change the organization forever… Either suck it up, accept the punishment, and wait for the national council to eventually understand the “activities and traditions” of your chapters or like Alpha Phi… respectfully decline.


HAZING: What Is It And Why Is It Still An Issue In 2019?

According to a recent post on social media, a student allegedly suffered injuries after participating in a college band’s pre-drill (band camp) activities. The activities consisted of marching, running, and calisthenics. However, the student also alleged that he/she was hazed and witnessed the hazing of others. This rebooted a discussion about hazing on college campuses that I am, frankly, surprised we are still having…

What Is Considered Hazing?

memoriesI was sure the entire band world had clearly defined what was considered hazing after the tragic death of Robert Champion in 2011. During that time, no band program in the country was immune to the affects of that case. University officials, across the country “tightened the reigns” on their own college bands to ensure that nothing like that could ever happen again. The tragic details of those events shook the entire college band world and forever changed how bands rehearse and prepare for performances. So we thought…

The following are some examples of hazing divided into three categories: subtle, harassment, and violent. It is impossible to list all possible hazing behaviors because many are context-specific. While this is not an all-inclusive list, it provides some common examples of hazing traditions.

Subtle Hazing
Subtle hazing is behavior that emphasizes a power imbalance between new members/rookies and other members of the group or team. Termed “subtle hazing” because these types of hazing are often taken for granted or accepted as “harmless” or meaningless. Subtle hazing typically involves activities or attitudes that breach reasonable standards of mutual respect and place new members/rookies on the receiving end of ridicule, embarrassment, and/or humiliation tactics. New members/rookies often feel the need to endure subtle hazing to feel like part of the group or team. (Some types of subtle hazing may also be considered harassment hazing).

Some Examples: Silence periods with implied threats for violation, Deprivation of privileges granted to other members, Requiring new members/rookies to perform duties not assigned to other members, Socially isolating new members/rookies, Line-ups and drills/tests on meaningless information, Name calling, Requiring new members/rookies to refer to other members with titles (e.g. “Mr.,” “Miss”) while they are identified with demeaning terms, Expecting certain items to always be in one’s possession.

Harassment Hazing
Harassment hazing is behavior that causes emotional anguish or physical discomfort tohaze feel like part of the group. Harassment hazing confuses, frustrates, and causes undue stress for new members/rookies. (Some types of harassment hazing can also be considered violent hazing).

Some Examples: Verbal abuse, Threats or implied threats, Asking new members to wear embarrassing or humiliating attire, Stunt or skit nights with degrading, crude, or humiliating acts, Expecting new members/rookies to perform personal service to other members such as carrying books, errands, cooking, cleaning, etc., Sleep deprivation, Sexual simulations, Expecting new members/rookies to be deprived of maintaining a normal schedule of bodily cleanliness, Be expected to harass others.

Violent Hazing
Violent hazing is behavior that has the potential to cause physical and/or emotional, or psychological harm.

Some Examples: Forced or coerced alcohol or other drug consumption, Beating, paddling, or other forms of assault, Branding, Forced or coerced ingestion of vile substances or concoctions, Burning, Water intoxication, Expecting abuse or mistreatment of animals, Public nudity, Expecting illegal activity, Bondage, Abductions/kidnaps, Exposure to cold weather or extreme heat without appropriate protection

Source: Stophazing.org

This is the definition used in US courts when prosecuting hazing cases. Whether the hazing allegations presented by this student are true or not, the activities we all consider to be hazing should be clear as crystal. But somehow, they’ve once again become “cloudy”….

Allegations Presented By Student

  1. Forcing an individual to address upperclassmen (or any student who is not a freshman) as Sir and Ma’am. Yes, this fits the definition of hazing. Any activity or task that can be seen as a form of “initiation” is hazing.
  2. Section leader threatening to “smoke” the entire section for a lack of music memorization. Yes, a threat of physical harm fits the definition of hazing.
  3. End rehearsals at 10:30pm and requiring students to wake at 3am. Yes, sleep deprivation fits the definition of hazing.
  4. Forcing students to do physical activity in the form of planks or leg lifts while playing an instrument. Yes, this fits the definition of hazing.
  5. Requiring freshman to refrain from walking on grass. Yes, this fits the definition of hazing.
  6. Prohibiting freshman from talking to non freshman band members. Yes, this fits the definition of hazing.
  7. Girls can’t sit next to boys. If this only applies to freshmen girls and boys then Yes, this fits the definition of hazing.
  8. Saying “observation” and waiting to be observed before speaking or doing anything. If this only applies to freshmen then Yes, this fits the definition of hazing.
  9. Being scolded for smiling or giggling and being told to smack yourself if you smile.  Yes, this fits the definition of hazing.
  10. Being yelled at or cussed at for not performing “correctly”. This could fit the definition of hazing. It depends on the circumstances and who is doing and saying what.
  11. Doing excessive amounts of calisthenics ie. 1000 crunches.  In the realm of band… Yes, this fits the definition of hazing. There is no reason a band member should be required to do 1000 crunches.

 Those who forget the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them.

The allegations in this article aren’t proven to be true in a court of law (thank God). However, we’ve known about this stuff happening for far too long… My question is why, in 2019, are we allowing it to still happen? Surely we all know that ANY band program continuing to play within the dangerous realm of hazing culture is playing with fire.

After the 2011 incident there was unanimous dismay and outrage towards hazing culture. However, it did not take long for us to, once again, forget the important lessons learned from the past. I challenge our top programs who have broken hazing’s grip to please share what’s working for you. The rest of us obviously need help…. We are not ok.

Hazing in college bands is a lot like racism in America… It’s our dirty little secret that we don’t address. We allow it to continue in the shadows and only address it when it raises its ugly head. It’s been with the culture from the beginning and if we’re not careful, it will be with us until the very end.

LET’S ESTABLISH THE RULES: The Ten 5th Commandments!

It’s The Ten 5th Commandments!

I’ve been in this game for years, its made me an animal.
It’s rules to this s#*t, I wrote you a manual.
A step-by-step booklet for you to get…
Your band on track… not your wig pushed back.

Rule Number Uno… Never play songs from your show.
If your book is weak… you don’t have to let the world know!
Nobody in the stands giving you a second chance.
Best to suck that “L” up, then get your weight up!

Number 2… Never let ’em know your next move.
If you’re waiting to hear what they play, you’re already through!
Just returning what you’re hearing is gonna be the wrong move.
Be the band that sets the tone or be the band that’s gonna lose.

Number 3… We don’t want to see your band dance!
Leave that dancing to the dancers when you’re cranking in the stands.
In the 5th, I don’t even want to see a horn flash!
While you’re partying and dancing they’re just comin’ for that @$$!

Number 4… I know you heard this before…
The first band to end, gives the other the win!

Number 5… You should never play a “school song”.
No Get Ready, Let’s Go, or Up For The Dawgs!

Number 6… Them simple rap tunes?… Dead it!
If you think 8 bars will get you a win, kid forget it!

Number 7… This rule is so underrated…
Take turns, and keep your sound completely segregated.
Bands playing at the same time don’t mix, like no funds and trips,
or herpes and lips.

Number 8…  Fanfares are a no-no!
The 5th is not the time for your favorite section’s talent show!

Number 9 Should have been Number 1 to me,
The 5th is over when them folks flip the lights and call police!
Y’all be deep in competition, but they ain’t trying to listen…
They’d be waiting at the bus to lock that @$$ up.

Number 10… the loudest band don’t always win.
Song selection is perfection in the game that we’re in.
Trying to blow the bells off can be impressive at times,
But a well played arrangement just blows the mind!

Follow these rules you’ll have mad wins to rake up.
If not, be prepared for a staff shake up.
Your band director fired, dance coach at the strip club.
I heard she dropped it low then kick up.
My man gave her $40 for his birthday turn up.
Gotta go, gotta go, more posts to write up!

LOL! Just having a little preseason fun with this post! As we kick off the marching season I wanted to bring this fun part of band culture to your attention in hopes that more bands understand the 5th quarter and improve their approach to it. By doing so, the competition will become better which makes for a more enjoyable experience for the fans. What are some rules that I left out? Sound off below! #RIPNotoriousBIG #GOAT




LEGACY: Does It Still Work For Today’s Bands?

My alma mater is a unicorn in the college band world. Not for any performance related reasons, but simply because we have never had an alumnus to serve as director of bands. That’s right… Never in it’s 101 year history has South Carolina State University’s Department of Music had an alumnus to serve as band director.


College bands have a long history of “hiring within”. For a university music program, especially an HBCU band program, to never have hired an alum is highly unusual. How we managed to go over 100 years without doing so, and still be recognized through the decades as one of the best, is anybody’s guess. But it does present a burning question… is a graduate the best choice when searching for a new band director?

A great band director once wrote…

foster 96
Dr. William P. Foster circa 2001

In my day, folks called it “growing your own crop” to ensure that you got precisely what you needed, and in the right proportions… My “growing your own crop” methods involved recruiting, evaluating, and training our own alumni, gleaned from our own fertile fields… This was one of the best decisions I could have made during the formative years of the Florida A&M University Marching Band.

Dr. Foster, in all his wisdom, was correct. Hiring properly trained and evaluated graduates was (and still is) a sure way to get the exact product FB_IMG_1476792086233intended every time. If the product is good, why change anything?… If it aint broke don’t fix it. Hiring non grads can be a gamble that sometimes pays and sometimes busts. Why would anyone wager against a proven concept?


Can graduates be trusted to innovate beyond what was handed down to them? Are they even allowed to innovate at all? In many cases the alumni director is put in place to ensure that things are kept the way they are. Though many aspects of a typical halftime performance was created over 70 years ago,  those maneuvers, steps, drills, and in some cases songs, still thrill audiences today… but for how much longer? In the year 2030 will floating diamonds still be as innovative as they were in the 1950’s? Times have changed, audiences have changed. As we look back over the last century I think it is obvious that not much innovation occurred within the ranks of most college bands. The next century must be different.

So, What About Tradition?

No school wants to lose its traditions. A band’s traditions are passed down through the decades and are the very things that make each band unique. Whether it be a sound concept, a marching style, or a specific maneuver… each of these things help to define a band’s style and approach to performance. Without these traditions it would be easy to say “once you’ve seen one college band, you’ve seen them all”. 325389_662185739083_1070673018_o

However, tradition sometimes gets in the way of innovation. When new ideas are presented they are usually packaged deep within a box of “school traditions” which they are not allowed to step out of. Most college bands are stuck in the “traditional way” of performing because it works. But if they are not careful a lack of innovation can make the marching arts obsolete.

Outsource Or Grow Your Own Crop?

So what would happen if your school hired a band director who was not an alumnus? Would the program lose its identity? Precedent has shown that it could happen…  At SCSU we have managed to hold on to certain “traditions” like playing Up For The Dogs, Pass the Peas, our attention and manuever comands, arrangements, and all the drum cadences. The only lost I can see is the tradition of “horn flashes”. I guess it depends on the individual hired, because any of those directors could have made significant changes that could have caused a total identity change for The SCSU Marching 101 Band. Some directors are so indoctrinated to the ways of their alma mater that they go from program to program creating knock off versions of that band their entire careers. Others are able to adjust to where they are and to what has been established there. One huge positive of hiring a non graduate is that individual may bring new innovations that an alumnus would not be allowed to attempt. It really is a gamble… Each school must decide if hiring outside of their own fertile fields is worth the risk of losing some of the coveted traditions of their program while potentially gaining growth and innovation. What are your thoughts?

LOUDER IS BETTER: Are Woodwinds A Thing Of The Past?

I can’t put my finger on exactly when it happened but some time between my graduation from college in 2000 and today, the loudest marching bands are viewed as better. This is the case for a large portion of the public and, sadly, most musicians too… I remember the days when being loud wasn’t something musicians went to first when bragging about their performance. Now it seems like it’s the only thing that matters. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like bands weren’t huge and they weren’t filling the horns up with air back in the day. My school’s tuba section was nicknamed “The Thunder Brothers” for a reason. It’s just that there were so many other things that differentiated bands back then… high among them was the sound.

“You’ve heard one marching band… You’ve heard them all”

I remember the days when most of the “good bands” possessed a unique sound and they protected their sound above anything else because that was the most important characteristic of their organization.  Two bands would have totally different interpretations of one song and it made both performances different and exciting in their own right.  This was facilitated by the fact that every band had its own arranger who wrote most of the music heard by the public. Fast forward to today and most bands still have their own arrangers… but the writing styles have become so similar that many times bands sound exactly the same and the audience is left with that “You’ve heard one marching band… You’ve heard them all” feeling, which hurts the culture.

One major change in the way things used to be is how we think about woodwinds. Today, woodwinds are rarely used independently in the marching band setting. Most arrangers typically follow the practice of doubling them with their upper brass counterparts (which causes them to disappear into oblivion). Others write an independent line here or there but only to make it appear as if their band has some concept of contrast, which is quickly diminished once their 90% brass band re-enters the music. In smaller ensembles, like some high school bands, many woodwind players are asked to learn a brass instrument during marching band. Re-enforcing the non importance of woodwinds in the marching band setting… So why do we still have them at all?

Woodwinds… why do we still have them at all?

The style of play that many traditional marching bands have adopted within the last two decades (and even further back for some) is one that caters to a brass heavy sound… similar to the all brass instrumentation of DCI groups. I predict that within the next decade most, if not all, “traditional” college marching bands will not include woodwinds in their instrumentation. Here’s why…

  • Volume: Let’s face it, the current fad is to be the loudest. Unless this changes, (which I don’t see happening any time soon) a marching band full of woodwinds is a “losing” one, according to public opinion. Having those woodwinds will make you appear bigger, which could be a bad thing because according to the typical audience member, the biggest band should always be louder (ie. better). However, woodwinds will never produce the volume of brasswinds.
  • Cost Savings: When comparing marching brass and woodwinds, of equal quality, woodwinds are typically more expensive to purchase, maintain, and repair (sousaphones are the exception). When awarding scholarships, why pay for a clarinetist and a baritone player when you can get a clarinetist that plays baritone? You’ve just saved thousands! Many smaller programs have already phased out marching woodwinds for this very reason.
  • No Marches: For the longest time traditional bands held onto “The March” as the tool by which a band’s musicians, especially woodwinds, sharpened their saws. How well a band played The Circus BeePurple CarnivalThe Klaxon, and other marches could give the listener an indication of the caliber of musicians within that program. Within the form of a typical march is a section called “the trio”. The trio features the woodwinds and, very prominently, highlights their contributions to the marching band’s sound in general. Well… many marching bands (with the exception of a few) no longer play marches. In hindsight, stepping away from the march was likely the nail in the coffin for woodwinds.

Or I could be wrong of course…

Maybe we are not in some musical shift of historical proportions and this is all just a fad, a blip on the historical timeline… kinda like bell bottoms. Lol! What do you think? Would the great bands of yesteryear get “cranked” on by today’s standards? Do woodwinds still have a place in today’s marching bands? Sound off in the comments!

YOU MUST WORK HARDER THAN US: The Small Bands That Accepted The Challenge…

Stop for a second and think about your favorite college marching bands. Now choose which of those bands you would rank as your “top 3”. Then, which of those three are considered to be small bands (80 wind instruments or less)? If you are like most people, then none of your “top” ranked bands are considered “small bands”. No matter how great a small band is, in our minds, they will always be a step below the “elite” programs. Subconsciously, we seperate them from the bands we consider to be “better”… the bigger bands.

A few months ago I did an article entitled IS BIGGER BETTER?: Can A Small Band Ever Really Be The “Best Band”? In that article I explored the belief that most people, naturally, prefer bigger marching bands and smaller bands must work 10 times harder to overcome that disposition. Luckily, this year there were a few bands that did just that…


Since Marques Graham took control of “The Power House Of The South” just 4 short years ago the Savannah State University Band has undergone more than just a name change. The program has excelled from regional prominence to national dominance as it has faced formidable MEAC competition from the likes of Florida A&M, South Carolina State, and North Carolina A&T. The secret to SSU’s success is undoubtedly their sound. With less than 50 winds The Power House manages to produce a sound that is full, clear, and consistent.


With a new look, and a refined sound, the Stillman College Band has muscled its way up through the ranks to be a formidable band in the state of Alabama and beyond. Under the direction of Mr. Monsieur-Pejay Howard, the Pride Of The South has had another standout year on and off the field. Utilizing a drum corp approach with an all brass instrumentation, similar to Ohio State, Stillman manages to stand out amongst HBCU bands with its unique sound. Don’t be fooled by the size, this is a band full of surprises.


Under the leadership of Jorim Reid, former director of bands at NCCU, The Bronco Express has quietly become a program to be reckoned with in the state of North Carolina and throughout the nation. With a strong emphasis on the total program, the FSU band has taken the time to first strengthen its wind ensemble, which has provided a strong foundation for its marching band to grow upon. Utilizing marching techniques that combines the best from both the corp and traditional styles, flanked with unique arrangements tailored to its size and instrumentation, The Bronco Express will undoubtedly continue to wow crowds throughout the nation.


Under the direction of Mr. Alvin Level, the phrase “Small band with a big sound” sums up the Marching Thorobred Express perfectly. I was very impressed with the volume and depth of the band’s sound considering its size. This is the type of band that makes you forget that they are a “small band”. The KSU band’s field presentations have been visually stimulating as well, with well designed drills and exciting routines from their very talented flag and dance teams. The KSU Marching Thorobred band is definitely a program to watch out for, whether its on the field or in the stands.

Some say music is music and if it sounds and looks good, then it just does… no matter what size. But those same individuals will never name one of these bands as their “top 3” and it comes down to this… Marching band is both visual and auditory. Naturally it’s more appealing to see formations with 200 musicians as opposed to 80. And of course 200 musicians will, in most cases, produce a bigger (I didn’t say louder) sound than 80.

So yes, if we’re honest, the deck is stacked against the small bands from the get-go. Our lofty expectations, unfairly, require them to sound just as good, look just as good, and perform just as good as their larger counterparts… But with less resources, in some cases less talent, and always in the shadow of our preconceived bias for larger bands. However, there are rare instances when a small band, under the right director and with the proper administrative support, is able to do amazing things impervious to our bias. And it is in those instances that perception and bias is changed.

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