Who among you would not like to visit other companies or organizations in the same business as you and see what makes them successful? Well, that is the opportunity I’m afforded this fall as I visit 12 major university marching band programs over the course of three months. The willingness of Purdue University to give me a sabbatical leave for the fall semester, as well as the support of my colleagues around the country makes this possible.
Why a sabbatical? I think it is important that Purdue remain at the cutting edge of the college marching band world. We have had several outstanding directors at the held of the band, from Spotts Emrick to Al Wright and Bill Moffitt. Though these gentlemen, we have gained a confidence that we are among the very best at what we do. I have been here 12 years now, and hope that I have been able to contribute along with our very talented marching band staff, to the ongoing quality of the AAMB.
With the missing television coverage of college marching bands and the preoccupation we all have with our jobs, though, how do we really measure our quality against what everyone else does? The opportunity to visit other top university marching band programs will allow me to study how “the best” operate and compare those operations to our own. It is a great situation for everyone concerned, as we can learn from each other and share ideas that will be of mutual benefit.
The obvious concern is keeping our own marching band operating in the interim. Fall is the worst time for me to be gone, but at what other time can you study marching bands in action? We are blessed to have a wealth of talent on our band staff, so the transition should be seamless. Bill Kisinger, long-time assistant with the AAMB, will take over the director chores this fall. He will be assisted by Dr. Pamela Nave, also a veteran staff member. New Graduate Assistant Matt Conaway brings a wealth of skills and talent to his position, and he will have a strong impact on the program.
To round out the staff, we have brought in Boyd Loughride as an assistant for the fall. Boyd is the retired Director of Bands at Celina High School in Ohio, and has long been known for the quality program he operated there for years. He is a bundle of energy and a very talented man, and will also make a strong positive contribution to the program. In fact, this may be the strongest staff we have had with the AAMB I years. Jay Gephart will serve as the Acting Director of Bands, which pretty much takes care of the staffing concerns. I will really miss the excitement and activity of the marching season, but can rest assured that things will go on at a high quality level in my absence.
I will be accompanied on my travels by Jim Wallace, a strong supporter of the AAMB from Sacramento, Calif. Jim shares my interest in college marching bands, and we’re using his motor home to travel around the country for our visits. His recent retirement as a Senior Vice President at Wells Fargo Bank gives him the opportunity to accompany me on this journey. Without his support, this trip would never have been possible. I must also give a lot of credit to Dr. Tom Robinson, Vice President for Student Services and my immediate superior, for taking an interest in this sabbatical and helping me prepare the paperwork that would be acceptable at Purdue. Tom’s interest in and support of our band program has no equal here at Purdue, and has made possible some of the great strides forward we have accomplished as a department.
Our actual travels began Aug. 26 when we left Lafayette bound for Penn State University. We arrived at Penn State on a Tuesday, and each successive university on following Tuesdays. After our arrival on each campus there are meetings with officials from the band program, School of Music, Athletic Department, Alumni Association, and others. We will observe practices, talk to students and collect operational materials from each school. Finally, we will attend a football game at the end of the week to see how everything comes together on game day. We will also be taking a packet of our Purdue materials to provide to our hosts so they can see how we operate as well.
We will be on the road continuously through November 17, when we will conclude the trip at the UCLA/USC game in Los Angeles. Jim Wallace has created a web site for the tour which you can find on the web at www.marchingbandtour.com The site gives our complete itinerary, information on the trip and a wide variety of photos beginning with shots of this year’s Purdue “All-American” Marching Band Workshop. We intend to update the site as we travel, adding commentary and photos from each school we visit. We hope you will check the site often and share in the excitement of this tremendous undertaking.
The end result will make Purdue the center of knowledge for the college marching band world, and hopefully will pave the way for some positive changes in the program. Rest assured, however, that our traditions and look will remain intact. We will merely add more credibility tour title of “the best damn band in the land!” We’ll see you on the world wide web.