Yes I know, you’ve been waiting oh so patiently for someone to post something, ANYTHING about the Academy at UMASS. Sometimes better late than never makes it all worthwhile!

To begin with–it was FANTASTIC!!!! This was our SUPER DMA which means we had drum majors, colorguard members, and band section leaders–over over 360 DMA students! We were also joined by Thom Hannum’s Mobile Percussion Seminar–adding 100 percussionists to the workshop! With over 460 total students I am sure people wonder how long it took for everyone to get “in sync” with the staff and the schedule. Well, the students were excited and enthusiastic right from the start!

The DMA Staff worked above and beyond helping individual students learn new techniques, polish established skills and gave them lots to think about too! Watching proverbial lightbulbs go on and seeing the eyes of a student light up with understanding, well that is perhaps the greatest reward any staff member could ever ask for…and I most certainly got my share!!

There will be more followup posts about the drum major and colorguard tracks over the next few days. The rest of this one pertains to all the “major bandos” as we affectionately call the Brass / Woodwind track.

This year, while our enrollment numbers were small, was perhaps the most exciting group of students I have ever worked with at a Super DMA. 20 in total with the energy, commitment, dedication, desire and down right hunger to learn equivalent to that of 100. We have 99% instrumentation–every instrument was represented except mellophone. But with 2 alto saxophones all parts were covered.

Every student was a phenomenal sight reader too! We spent a portion of our afternoon session working on learning check patterns, i.e. subdivision. While everyone understands the concept of subdivision we took it to a much deeper level and worked on playing the 2nd and 4th 16ths of a quarter note. Go ahead, try to isolate those–big kudos to the Major Bandos!!

Learning how to isolate various subdivision patterns goes a long way as these students learned. Suddenly a piece of music with lots of notes is easier to figure out because they learned who to break rhythms down into smaller and simpler segments and then how to string everything together. Our musical selection for the week, “Freedom Song,” was riddled with syncopation! Check patterns went a VERY long way this week.

The Major Bandos learned what it was like to be a drill designer–they helped break the music down into the count sequence we used for our final show presentation. That’s right, they learned a short drill to go with the music. Now please realize that this track was not a mini band camp. The mornings were spent with Mr. Parks and the Drum Majors learning how to TEACH!! The afternoons were spent with me developing musical skills. The evenings were a split with Mr. Parks and myself learning communication techniques and leadership skills. All in all, the Major Bandos learned a brand new piece of music, a short drill and put it all together in approximately 5 1/2 hours!

On the final morning we were joined by the colorguard vets who added the color visual component to our show! Three quick run throughs and a short review just before the final presentation and it was show time!!

…and by the way, not once, I repeat, NOT ONCE did I ever say “play softer” when the band had a dynamic marking of mf or mp. The SUPER DMA BAND has spoiled me forever!

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