02-07-2010 12:24:46 AM CST

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

This update coming to you from Cadets country -- Allentown, Pennsylvania!

The first decade of the 21st Century has come and gone, and 2010 is well underway. Having recently returned from my trip to Ireland, where I had the pleasure of performing for very appreciative crowds in both Galway and Dublin, I am comfortably settling into my spot as a mellophone in the 2010 incarnation of the Reading Buccaneers Drum & Bugle Corps. This is undoubtedly going to be an amazing summer, and I cannot wait for what the rest of the year brings! I have been bitten by the self-improvement bug, and from it I have contracted a passion for life I simply must spread to others!


11-14-2009 11:48:57 PM CST

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

A long-overdue 'Thank You' Post!

This is just a quick post to thank those out there that have helped me out in various ways over the last few years.

A 'thank you' to Lucy Colwell, Brian Cervone, and George Arsenault for allowing me to work with your amazing bands.

A 'thank you' to George Parks, Thom Hannum, Michael Klesch, and Fred Pye for teaching me frameworks of band leadership, dedication, rehearsal standards, and performance excellence.

A 'thank you' to Joe McSweeney, EB McCarthy, Liana Benson, and anybody else who has worked beside me and shown me what they love.

A 'thank you' to Alyson Villard (photography), Kayla Creamer (graphic design), and my many talented friends who have helped me out in various ways!

A 'thank you' to my family for putting up with me drumming on table-tops, my housemates for helping me patch rifle-dents in the ceiling, and my friends for never questioning why my iPod doesn't contain a single song without a trumpet.

Lastly, a VERY special 'thank you' to everyone who has been left out of the above list. (This is why you should never name individual people... you will ALWAYS forget somebody you couldn't live without!)


11-14-2009 10:51:41 PM CST

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

This weekend officially marks the end of the 2009 marching band season! This was quite an interesting and exciting season, full of all sorts of surprises! Let's review:

Last year I was fortunate enough to spend 2-hours every week working with 45 incredibly talented musicians as they strove to field their first ever field show. With this new-and-improved band up and running, I was able to take a step back this year and watch as they clean the show on their own, testing their new student leadership. The result? I was MORE than impressed with what this band was able to accomplish! They took a stock Santana show and performed it so well that NOBODY in the crowd could resist clapping along. Bravo, Tantasqua!

If you're looking for a group that is just chock-full of "please sir, may I have another," here it is! With a desire to step up their activity in the MICCA circuit, I designed a show OOZING General Effect. Was a lot of it difficult? Of course. Was it tiring to learn? Yep! But did this band work through it all with smiles on their faces, wanting to better themselves at every stop, and never settling for second-best? This, and SO MUCH MORE! I truly cannot wait for next year!

Westford Academy:
This band was certainly something special. Under all new leadership, this group was charged with the task of COMPLETELY relearning everything they had been taught. Yes, there were a few "emergency breaks" towards the beginning, but these quickly lessened up as we moved past Band Camp (oops! 'summer session') and into the regular season. By the end of the year, I believe that all goals established over the summer had been met and the band was in a much better place than it had previously been. Next year? We continue our process and take the band to the next step we have been talking about all year!


07-29-2009 1:43:55 AM CST

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Time to pull back the sheet and announce the three shows I have been working on this summer, and will be instructing come August!

Tantasqua Regional High School Warrior Marching Band Presents Santana!
I will admit, before receiving these charts I was only familiar with a select few Santana songs... OK, only one (Smooth)! After a few hours listening to various performances, and then finally playing through these arrangements, I have become VERY excited about this show. Last year, this band did the impossible and pushed themselves for perfection at something they had never done before. This year, the fun begins. Two words come to mind... "Park" and "Bark"!

Westford Academy Grey Ghost Marching Band Presents The Music of Stevie Wonder
Ah, Stevie Wonder... a true inspiration to everybody out there, regardless of how much you love his music. The Grey Ghost Marching Band recently became under new leadership, and with that means a whole new emphasis on the important things in a band: commitment, pride, and having a good time. What screams "good time" more than Stevie Wonder? Very little, that's what!

Framingham Flyers Marching Band Presents A Night at the Movies
It has been a while since I have been this excited about a show. From the first downbeat until the last cutoff, this show just gives gives gives. Framingham wishes to add a second competition date this year, now performing in Finals in addition to a District competition, which shows their desire to step-up and fine-tune their program. With this being the case, the drill and choreography they have in store for them is going to challenge them every step of the way, with the final result being a show CHOCK-FULL of crowd appeal!


07-01-2009 2:29:40 AM CST

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

The new marching season is upon us and it is off and running! But first, a recap of last fall:

Framingham High School. 2008 Show: Earth, Wind, & Fire.
Hoping to step onto the competition field for the first time, Framingham contacted me with high hopes for a show that would challenge them and still allow for a high rate of success. Not only was this easy to accomplish with the tunes that were selected, but also made for a fun show to watch from the stands. Framingham's first competition in the MICCA circuit went well and I have high hopes for the coming season.

Tantasqua High School. 2008 Show: Selections from Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba.
Lucy Colwell, newly appointed Director of the Tantasqua Warrior Marching Band, first contacted me in June 2008, stating her desire to greatly improve the marching program at Tantasqua, while at the same time keeping things fun and interesting for the students. I saw this as the wonderful, unique opportunity it was: I would be working with students from a strong music program with lots of administrative support, students who are willing to learn, and (perhaps the greatest prospect) students who would be starting with a blank slate, with no prior marching knowledge (this was previously a "pep band".)
This group far exceeded my expectations. Beginning with a four-day Band Camp in August, these students learned the basic fundamentals of being a good marching musician: how to march in time, how to follow a conductor who is 40-yards away from you, how to look left-and-right and divide your interval to give a nice, even look. However, it is the 'other' things they learnt that truly impress me: how to convey emotion to an audience otherwise only there for the football game, how to display pride for your group… for your SCHOOL… without ever having to say a word about it, how 'commitment' means being there 100% of the time, giving 100%, and accepting nothing less than 100%. These students took my words to heart and always went that 'extra mile' to find out what they could be doing different to make their performance better. And, honestly, it showed during halftime.

Fall 2009 is looking promising, and I will be posting soon a tentative list of schools I will be working with this year.


10-08-2008 2:34:59 AM CST

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Been a while since I've had a chance to sit down at a computer and work on something BESIDES music or psychology. Just a little update:

Tantasqua's show has been improving by leaps and bounds. The students are beginning to take more individual ownership for their music and their drill, and it is definitely showing in their performance. Now the real test is if they can keep this attitude of 'individual responsibility' as we begin to fine-tune the show.

Framingham's MICCA performance is only 2-weeks away, and it is sounding like they will be more than ready. I have been unable to see the show since band camp, but I am eager to see what has been done with it.

Band Day organization is coming together smoothly again this year. I am training a freshman, Megan Godart, in the art of 'making things happen' so she can take over my position next year and I move on to greener pastures.

This is all for now. Time to go re-acclimate to the Amherst community!


09-06-2008 1:44:04 PM CST

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

Not a music post, but... I'm officially an Uncle!

Little Myra Rose McKenzie was born August 31st, 2008... mere minutes before the Reading Buccaneers finished their FOURTH undefeated season in a row!


08-12-2008 9:49:20 PM CST

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The last two weeks have been exhilarating! Between getting all of my shows done, helping out at DMA, and starting band camp at Tantasqua, everything has been going swell!

I sense a major update will be coming soon. I have so many things floating around my mind right now, I have to take a few days to sort them all out and write them down in a way that will actually make sense to people. But I will say this...

People will always surprise you with what they are capable of; Big things can come in odd packages.



07-26-2008 10:14:57 PM CST

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Just a few thoughts regarding 'attitude' that have been on my mind as of late:

When somebody in your house has a cold, they may cough... sneeze... etc, and germs are spread. Your healthy sister may touch a doorknob or refrigerator handle and pick up these germs, thus becoming infected herself. While she may or may not start sneezing right away, she herself is now sick. Quickly, she too will begin spreading these germs, contaminating others.

Bad Attitudes and Germs are identical. Both are contagious, both infect people, and both can be spread without somebody intending for them to be. However, germs can be cured by medicine... what about bad attitudes?

You go to the doctor, and they give you a shot. The medicine in this shot, although limited to your own body, is contagious itself; It moves through your arm, spreading to your chest, your heart, your legs, your head... your entire body. While this happens, yes you are still sick and yes you may still spread some germs... but slowly your body is being taken over by the cure.

Yelling at a student to change their Bad Attitude is like amputating a diseased leg; it is an attempt to force a change. Bribing a student is like giving a cough-drop to somebody with strep-throat; it temporarily relieves the problem, but doesn't cure the underlying issue.

The only way to fully eliminate a Bad Attitude is by instead infecting people with your own Good Attitude. In truth, all Attitudes are contagious... Bad ones are just much more easily spread. The key is to inoculate each and every member with Good Attitude starting with the very first time you make contact. With much care and follow-up, this GOOD disease will spread.


07-09-2008 12:03:47 PM CST

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

“Competition is a by-product of productive work, not its goal. A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.” ~ Ayn Rand

Preliminary charting is nearing completion for Framingham High School, and music break-downs are done for Tantasqua High. Now all I need is final numbers for Tantasqua, and everything from Quaboag High. Things are looking good!


06-23-2008 11:25:42 PM CST

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

What happened to the days where the price of a laptop would drop by half after it has been out for 6-months?

Just a thought that has been on my mind as of late:

Marching Band doesn't simply exist for the sake of music, or for the sake of football. Marching Band is an opportunity for every student involved to learn and practice the basic skills of good character.

How to be on time... by being early.
How to rely on others... by allowing them to rely on you.
How to show respect in the simplest of ways.
How to be trustworthy, friendly, open minded, helpful.
How to have energy... enthusiasm... excitement... and...
How to achieve excellence... by never settling for 'good enough'.


06-16-2008 2:22:20 PM CST

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Back in Amherst after a few days back east. Marched a couple parades with Bandmasters, nice way to keep playing.

A few thoughts on instrumentation:

Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass. The four (main) voices. But just because all four parts are present doesn't mean the sound is going to be full. Having 20 flutes, 15 alto saxes, 10 trombones, and 3 tubas may technically cover everything, but will leave the ear wanting more. A tenor sax part and trombone part may be identical in a piece, but simply having the two different timbre brings so much more to the performance.

Does your band have no mellophones, but you're rich with trumpet players? Ask one of them if they would like to learn a fun new instrument. The two have identical fingerings (in relationship to the note they read on the page,) and the mouthpieces are nearly identical.

Perhaps you have a 50 person band made up of 25 clarinets? Tell them of the opportunity in front of them to try something new! Bass clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, bari sax... all reed instruments which are easy to switch to after a little practice. Maybe this is even a chance to boost your brass numbers. Never pressure anybody to switch, but make it known that learning a new instrument can be both fun and beneficial to them and the ensemble.


06-13-2008 4:33:48 PM CST

Friday, June 13th, 2008

Happy Friday the 13th everyone!

There are certain elements that, if present, combine together to create a top-notch marching program. To list a couple that have been on my mind as of late:

*Active Band Parents*
While many students try to spend as little time around their parents as possible, getting parents involved in a band or corps program can make a HUGE difference. Uniform hemming and fitting, prop design, tarp painting, pit percussion instrument movement, fundraising, post-practice snacks... all of these can be done by parents and thus more time is available for both students and staff members to work on the show.

*Sense of Community*
While some groups meet for 2-hours a day, five days a week, and take all-weekend trips, others may only meet once-a-week for 45-minutes and the occasional classroom period. Regardless of how often a group meets, it is important to make its members as comfortable around each other as possible. Without a sense of comfort... trust... a show will not be performed at full ability. Each and every member should hold themself responsible for knowing the name of every other member in the group.

More on this later


06-05-2008 12:17:24 PM CST

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Summer is finally here! Most of my friends are off with Crown, Crossmen, Cadets, or Buccaneers and I wish them all the best of luck!

Summer, however, also brings along something else... the beginning of marching band planning season! I am currently in communication with three band directors and I am very excited about how this season is shaping up. I would like to spend a special 'thank you' out to Mike Monteiga for lending me his percussion expertise on the reworking of a high school fight song.


11-24-2007 01:12:25 am CST

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

So here's an update that was a long-time coming!

So, for those few of you who haven’t been following the whereabouts of the Minuteman Band, last week at this time we were performing for 30,000 screaming marching band fans at the Bands of America Grand National Championships. All I can say is… wow. The music… the cheers… the energy, enthusiasm, excitement…


It’s funny how things go full circle, you know? Three years ago I was standing on that same field, looking around at those same seats, imagining what it must be like to have them all full of screaming fans. To experience this twice? (my mistake, three times; we were asked to also perform before semi’s as well, an honor that no college band has had in over a decade). I have truly been blessed to have had such great experiences and opportunities with this Band.


(Oh, and Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser was at the show on Friday night! Such a great man, I’m glad he made it out)



11-12-2007 08:27:56 pm CST

Monday, November 12th, 2007

Well, Senior Day has come and gone. I find it amazing how four years can fly by so quickly... without you even realizing. It feels like just yesterday I was arriving at rookie camp and hearing the name "George Parks" for the first time. And now? Now I'm attempting to make a living writing drill, using the lessons and concepts that he has taught me as a bassline. Funny, no?

Oh! And I don't think that ANYTHING could top the feeling I got from conducting Somewhere... knowing what that song means to me, this Band, and my class of seniors...


11-12-2007 08:22:58 pm CST

Monday, November 5th, 2007

As of today, NJMdrilldesign.info is up and running! This may just be a temporary home for my my business, but for the time being suits my needs. Hey, the price is right and the editing is easy. Who could ask for more, right?