Revolutionizing Marching Band: Technology Merges With Tradition

Members of the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band rehearse with their Ultimate Drill Books at their side to assist them with effectively learning the drill.

Members of the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band rehearse with their Ultimate Drill Books at their side to assist them in effectively learning the drill.

It’s something every marching band member knows all too well: the sock-length tan lines, the eight-hour rehearsals, the quirky traditions, the bottles upon bottles of sunscreen, and quite possibly even the heatstroke. Whether you’re marching in a high school band or a college band, summer band camp is bound to be a critical part of your marching band season.

Band camp can come with the unfortunate chance of being a stressful and tense environment as the group puts their show together in a short amount of time, but luckily many new tactics can help make band camp a positive learning environment.

Goodbye Paper, Hello iPads!

Ohio State’s marching band has become known for its innovative halftime shows and creative entertainment formations.

How do they create such crowd-pleasing shows? It’s not that they spend huge amounts of time rehearsing; in fact, they only rehearse for 10 hours each week to learn an entire show. An entirely new set of formations and music are first distributed to the band on Monday, and the entire show is learned by Friday. 10 hours to put this all together is certainly not much time.

iPads have been key to revolutionizing the way the band learns formations and the way the band sets its show in only a week.

“Before this year, we wouldn’t have been able to learn that much music and that much drill in that short of time. The iPad has really helped that,” said former band director Jonathan Waters in an interview with The Washington Post.

This past season, the band had 50 iPads; each squad leader had an iPad in order to assist with learning and checking the formations of their section. In the upcoming season, each band member will have their own iPad.

Yet the technological revolution of band camp is only just beginning. The article stated that the band is looking to even use an app that evaluates students during rehearsal. Who knows what else can be accomplished in the future with an iPad and a few apps?

The “Ultimate” Learning Method

The Ultimate Drill Book provides easy-to-read path information individualized for each member.

The Ultimate Drill Book provides easy-to-read path information individualized for each member.

In 2009, Luke Gall had an idea during his time as a member of the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band. The dot book used by the USAAAMB was something Gall thought had incredible potential with a few adjustments. He teamed up with his brother and business partner, Joshua, to create the Ultimate Drill Book.

This learning tool is one that is now used by the USAAAMB, as well as other top marching ensembles across the nation.

Gall explained exactly what it is that makes the Ultimate Drill Book so effective.

“While we have many Ultimate Drill Book products, they all operate on the same principle: deliver as much information as possible to the performer during the drill learning and cleaning process. Research shows that you are much more likely to remember something if it is presented to you in several ways and with supporting information.

In the case of UDB, The Student’s Ultimate Drill Book has tons of information on every page that is customized to each student. The drill chart shows the the shape and surrounding performers, while also highlighting the path of where the performer came from, where they are currently, and where they’re going to next. Below that chart are the coordinates for the previous, current, and next sets. So right away, the performer is presented with two completely different types of information that answer the same question: Where I am supposed to be? Each product is designed to maximize the process of learning and cleaning.”
The Ultimate Drill Book also eliminates the need of making copies upon copies of drill throughout the season or even throughout band camp; each student receives a sturdy bound book with their name on it. 

The Ultimate Drill Book can hold up through the extremes of marching band camp, including rainy weather.

The Ultimate Drill Book can hold up through the extremes of marching band camp, including rainy weather.

“Our entire line-up of Ultimate Drill Book products are weather-proof and can undoubtedly withstand the rigors of any season. The materials we use are tear-resistant and water-resistant, which means that pages won’t rip and it won’t be a huge deal if you get caught in the rain,” Gall said. “That kind of reliability is what the modern marching band needs.”

Yet the Ultimate Drill Book is constantly developing and reshaping in order to be the top-of-the-line learning method for bands.

“Through partnerships with some of the world’s best marching ensembles, we’re refining all of our products all of the time,” Gall said. “This means that anyone who uses the Ultimate Drill Book gets a truly modern solution that incorporates the ideas of today’s leading visual minds.”

What started as a simple idea during the 2009 USAAAMB has grown into an idea revolutionizing the world of marching band learning. Gone are the days of confusing dot sheets and copies of paper that wither in the rain; instead, learning drill has become an efficient process with the Ultimate Drill Book.

Leading by Example: The Importance of Leadership

A band doesn’t necessarily need fancy supplies to become a successful band, however. The cliche statement that “attitude goes a long way” is certainly true with band camp. Proper leadership and effective leadership tactics are a sure-fire way to improve the efficiency of band camp.

Below, some USAAAMB alumni chime in regarding ways to be an effective leader–especially during band camp.

At the University of Massachusetts, I spent one year as a “rookie,” and the next year, I was section leader. I transferred there at the start of my junior year, so I only had two year to make it count. For that reason, I worked my booty off! When I was given a leadership opportunity, I used it to lead by example. I was the first to arrive at rehearsal and the last to leave. I always came to rehearsal with extra pencils, bug spray, sunblock, etc. I also made rehearsal fun! When times were tense as we began to prepare for a big performance, I baked cookies for my entire section, which had 50 people in it! I brought them to rehearsal the next day and my section was so grateful! It was amazing to see how a small act of kindness turned attitudes around. – Christine Norton, 2009 alumna

I was the head drum major for my [high school] band my junior and senior years. In being a leader, I learned that putting other’s needs in front of my own not only establishes respect, but eliminates the ego trip that comes with the power–a stereotype that many leaders seem entitled. – Gabrielle King, 2014 alumna

The absolute most important thing is to treat everybody fairly and with respect. While I was drum major [in high school], many of my friends believed they were exempt from punishment and, on the flip side, people that I didn’t exactly get along with believed that they would get scrutinized more. I had to put behind all personal ties to my fellow bandsmen and treat them equally, which turned out to be really difficult. I had to find that perfect balance of when I had to be “The Drum Major” and when I could be “normal” me again. I also had to embody the qualities of being a leader, moving on from being just some piccolo player on the field to the drum major position. The greatest quality of a leader, told to me by a U.S. Marine, was “to lead by example.” You have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. You have to make sure every statement you give out has reason behind it. So, in every command I issued out, there would be a valid and productive reason why I would do it. Also, when in very rare occasion I had to issue out physical punishment (as in laps or push-ups) I would always do them with the one punished. I would do this out of respect because if they were messing around and such, not only is it their fault, but it was my fault as well by letting my bandsmen act out of line. I would also say that as drum major, you always have to keep your cool–always push any personal emotions aside about a person and treat them like a colleague, like a boss would treat their employee. – Beau Bujol, 2014 alumnus

As technology merges with tradition, it’s impossible to say what incredible new learning tactics the future holds for marching bands–especially during band camp.


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