As the US prepares for President Elect Trump to take office, it’s no secret the stir that has been created around his campaign. One side claiming him to be a bigot and a racist. The other calling him a harsh yet honest man. No matter who is correct, many minorities don’t seem too enthused with the upcoming administration. This is why it was such a surprise when Talladega College‘s marching band agreed to perform in Trump’s inaugural parade. “Why is that a surprise?” some may ask. Well Talladega is defined as a Historically Black College (HBCU). Why, when the minority community is at such odds with such a powerful politician, would a Black school want to openly support such a person? Some in the Black band world say: Exposure.
Talladega is not considered one of the country’s foremost college bands, or even one of the foremost Black bands. So the program has had its share of struggles within the school’s 152 year history. Some speculate that they could possibly be looking for a way to put their school/program on the map. Additional sources also report that many bands declined the invitation to perform, including Washington D.C. high schools that normally attend the event every 4-8 years. Other bands that attend must apply. Many who intended to apply ultimately chose not to, or rescinded their applications. This all begs the question, “Is Talladega’s band program desperate?” They could just be smarter than we all think.
Put yourself in their shoes for a moment: Your the director of a struggling band program. You have been trying to find a way to have your band’s name mentioned among the top HBCU bands and the opportunities are not plenty. The country just got flipped on its head and you finally get that phone call. It’s for a candidate that your community doesn’t really support. What do you do?
Some folks have taken to the web to protest, amassing thousands of signatures in online petitions to the college. There are also anti-petitions, petitioning to allow the band to perform. Though the biggest protests of all could be in the personal posts and tweets. @drwgsi tweeted “No respect for a college seeking to play for a man that disrespected others 4 political gain. Shame on Talladega College.”
Whichever side of the coin you fall on, it is important that we (the band community) support the students, regardless of what the program has decided to do. At the end of the day, these are musicians that have gone to the next level and just want to perform their best. They have committed to their program and their director, in whatever decision is made. So as fellow musicians, lets lift them up and encourage them to perform at the highest level. We can leave the discussion about the decision to perform for another day.
Recently, Universal Studios Orlando Resort has unveiled their new percussion show entitled “Beat Builders.” At face value, this looks to be yet another of those same old bucket & trash can drum shows. We’ve all seen Stomp and Bring In Da Noise, so why would we want another one of these?
Well after giving these guys a chance, they definitely won me over. Not only are the performers personable and very talented, they are extremely diverse as well. This show gives the audience a wide variety of styles and has something for each member of the audience; young to old, experienced percussionist to non-musician, passive onlookers to interactive fans. I cannot see why every single audience member didn’t have at least one solid moment during this show that they truly enjoyed. Another great thing about this show is that it’s FREE (with park admission)! Throwing it back to the Stomp days may seem a bit overplayed in the percussionist community, but these guys did it very well! Great job, Universal.
The Grid Book Series has recently released a revolutionary YouTube video. Except that it’s not just a video, it’s an interactive experience. The user can read sheet music, play along, follow instructions, and becomes totally immersed in the drumline experience. This is a great tool for the drummer that likes to practice on his/her own.
When I was a kid, things were pretty tough. My dad lived far away, so it was difficult to visit him. My mom was in an abusive marriage with a man that I didn’t particularly like, and my grandfather (my idol) left me early on.
All this caused me to seek attention or act out, sometimes in negative ways. Of course this made me a target for kids in school. Now I’m not claiming victim, but I definitely had my run-ins with classmates that had no true understanding of what I was really going through at home. Visits to the principals office, schoolyard scuffles, and depression was soon to follow.
By the time I hit middle school, I was in a full blown depressive state. I seemed to be overrun with emotions and had no way to really vent. Sometimes I’d just cry, and I really had no idea what triggered it. By freshman year, I was suicidal. I had no idea that my saving grace was right under my nose the whole time, and it was a gift already given to me. The gift of music.
In the midst of all my struggles, I had always liked the drums, because it was something my grandfather began to show me before he passed on. I didn’t learn much after that, but I did join the band in middle school, never really taking it seriously. Freshman year of high school, in my depressed state, I began to spend more time by myself. I would just sit on my front porch with my practice bells and snare drum. I would practice for hours on end. I don’t really know why I started doing that, but it just made me feel better.
When I started doing all that individual practice, my skills started to improve, and I realized that I could really manipulate the sounds of these instruments. I learned how to make my drum reflect how I felt inside. Sadness, anger, hope; I started to feel like I could play it all through my drum. And THAT was a defining moment in my life. I fell in love with band after that.
Later, I found myself in college on a music scholarship, marched in a drum corps, and started teaching across the US. Here I am now, as a grown up; a professional percussionist and percussion director with national titles and Hollywood credits. I feel like I owe a ton of what I have to my grandfather. He was only around for a short period, and he didn’t get to show me much, but it really made a world of difference. I am no longer that sad, depressed, and misunderstood kid. I now stand on my own 2 feet. It’s because of my grandfather and it’s because of music.