Hey friends, I’m back!

New year, new marching season, new look for the blog.

I’m going to try something new this season. Since I haven’t been keeping up on this blog like I really want to, I’m thinking I need to do shorter posts. So that’s what I plan to do.

This season is already not the same, because my dear friend Zach Lincoln (a frequent poster on this blog) has passed away. Man I wish he was here to yukk it up with about who is cranking and who is fishsammachee.

He would have had a lot to say about last weekend’s Queen City BOTB. He would have probably thrashed my beloved A&T. And there wouldn’t have been much I could say to debate it. I love my school and they sounded good but I’m telling you, that show was a bit…busy.  Hopefully they can take the criticism they’ve gotten and correct some things for next time.

This marching season is dedicated to Zach though. I’ll never forget you.❤

zach

PS. I told yall in an earlier blog Tennessee State was the business. Yall gonna listen to me one day.

Homecoming 2015

My parents met in the band in college. My mother majored in music. My father was band president. Our alumni band has been in existence for 39 years. Both of them have marched in the alumni band at homecoming for 39 consecutive years.

I say this to let you know that my mother asked me what I would think if they were to stop marching after next year. She said since 40 is a nice round number, they could stop after saying they have marched 40 consecutive years.

I can’t even imagine them not going to homecoming or not marching in the parade. When I was a pre-teen and teenager all the way up until college, I would actually walk the parade route with the alumni band into the game. Of course when I was in college, I was in the university band. The first homecoming after I graduated, the 3 of us marched together. We even got interviewed in the local newspaper for being the first father/mother/child in the alumni band.

Yeah, I know I look like my mom.
Yeah, I know I look like my mom.

I think that this is really boiling down to the fact that my parents are getting older, and I have to face that one day they will not march in the parade. As an only child, this is a hard pill to swallow.

Alumni band was interesting this year. It was not like any other of the years that I have marched. The alumni band was much smaller this year. There were only 3 clarinets that marched, and a small woodwind section as a whole. I was the youngest one in my section. The next oldest to me graduated in 1984. I just couldn’t believe that nobody who marched in the 90s or 2000s or 2010s was there. I truly hope that people don’t stop marching. It would be a shame.

On the opposite end of the spectrum. I ran into some of the newer (2000-2010ish) clarinet alumni and they referred to me as “Ms. Walker”. I know I’m not fresh out of school – being called Ms. or Ma’am usually doesn’t bother me. I work at a university – I’m with 18-22 year olds all the time, so I understand that they are just showing respect. But whew, that took me aback when someone said “Ms. Walker, come and pose with our section in the picture”.

A girl (woman) that I marched with in college now has a daughter in the band. In fact, she has 2 daughters in 2 HBCU bands.

Maybe my issue is that I have to face the fact that *I* am getting older.
Believe it or not, my most meaningful relationships in college were NOT with band folks, and my best friends from college don’t even go to homecoming. One of them said that she didn’t really see anybody she knew there, so she didn’t get a lot out of it. Well, my issue is the opposite, I know plenty of people at homecoming because of the band, and some I would consider friends, but most of these are just surface-level relationships. I hug them, we do the small talk (How are you/where do you live/you look good/really nice to see you), maybe take a picture here or there, and then separate. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to see them, but it’s not like we are going to hang out that night or anything.

I missed a small on-campus memorial for a classmate of mine (we had the same major and took most of our classes together) who passed away last year. On the way home, all I could think was – man, if I was at the memorial, I could catch up with the people in my major. But of course, I missed it, because I was on the other side of campus with the band. The band members with whom I have just passing relationships.

My love for the band as a whole will keep me marching in alumni band. It was such a huge part of my college life, although it did not define my time in college. Time will only tell what will become of the alumni band and my family’s role in it.

Sometimes I wish I could be cloned for homecoming alone.

aaron

Rest in Peace, Aaron.

Songs of the Season (so far)

I can’t believe we are already done with week 6 of the marching season. By this time, bands should be in prime form. If you don’t have your stuff together by now…..

housewives-roll

…at any rate, I would like to share my picks for my favorite songs of the 2015-16 marching season (so far).

This is NOT in rank order.

Welcome to the Jungle – Guns N Roses (performed by Southern)

I love it when HBCU bands play outside of Top 40/Hip-Hop.

Southern has had some good and bad spots this season, but they continue to innovate in their song selection, and I am here for it! You cant tell me you didn’t think of the opening credits in Lean on Me when you heard this song. Or maybe it’s just me.

 

Nas f/Lauryn Hill – If I Ruled the World (performed by Southern)

Yeah, Southern has 2 songs on my list. I gotta give credit where it’s due. I think this replaces Nobody Does it Better as my official “SU crank in the car” song. I may or may not have listened to this several times today before posting this blog entry. I may or may not have made the stank face when the percussion dropped out.

 

Snoop Dogg – Gin and Juice (performed by Tennessee State)

Also a good crank in the car song. Tennessee State has always been a consistent program but they are giving me all I want this season.

 

Foxy Brown/Spragga Benz – Oh Yeah (performed by Jackson State)

I used to love this song by Foxy Brown back in the day on the bassline alone, and Jackson’s tubas definitely deliver.

 

Taylor Swift– Bad Blood (performed by Alcorn State)

I find that Alcorn State does not get a lot of love in the HBCU band world. Some see them as inconsistent, but every time I’ve seen them live, they have been good. Anyway, I never thought I would see a HBCU band play a Taylor Swift song, then again, I think of that year everybody was playing Toxic by Britney Spears…but I digress……

 

Honorable Mention:
This Could be Us – Rae Sremmurd (performed by Miles)

I do like this arrangement. They went a little crazy on the sousaphone part, but overall, it cranks.

What are your favorite songs this season so far? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

I think I might have a problem.

These things may or may not have happened to me in the past few weeks:

  • Not getting anything on your to-do list done because you are watching or sharing feeds
  • Not being able to make your next move for waiting on the infamous whistle
  • Hearing the whistle and jumping to your phone like Pavlov’s dog
  • Sharing a feed, only to have it end or disconnect as soon as you hit that “share” button
  • Getting upset because someone cuts off their feed (or gets a bad connection) as soon as it pops up. Classic bait and switch.
  • Getting upset with people who don’t label their streams
  • Making the decision of which game to watch when multiple alerts are popping up
  • Clicking on a feed that ends as soon as it pops up on your phone, which I compare to turning on the radio just as your favorite song goes off
  • Realizing there’s a feed at a game you want but the person on your list didn’t alert you, so by the time you realize they are live, you’ve missed the best part
  • Having the internal debate: Do I know this person? Are they reliable? Should I share this?  This is my reputation on the line here — they better have a decent provider.
  • Getting alerts within watching a feed and having to make the decision whether to stay on board or jump ship to the new feed
  • Having your battery die just as soon you pull up the stream (this may or may not have happened to me yesterday at Michael’s, sorry Morgan vs. Del St.)
  • Passing the time by watching bands you are just meh about, hoping the game you really want to see interrupts the feed
  • Feeling a bit of pity for someone streaming a meh game, because as soon as that good game starts, everybody’s gonna jump ship. Poor lambs.
  • Feeling more than a little let down when you hear the whistle, look at your screen, and realize it’s for a feed not related to band. Especially on a Saturday.
  • Considering unfollowing non-bandheads just so the above won’t happen
  • Not really caring about a game, but you pull it up when you get the alert anyway just so you can have background music as you go about your Saturday
  • Turning off your music in the car when you get an alert, opening up the game and using that as music as you drive to your destination
  • Being irked by those who beg for hearts, use Periscope as their personal reality show (shut up about your day, we wanna see the bands!), or worse, have side conversations as if nobody is watching. In the middle of a 5th.
  • Thinking to yourself “I’m just here for the comments”.
  • Seeing dozens of bands including those you haven’t seen live in a decade while in your PJ’s

Weeks 1-3: Winners and Losers

WINNERS:

Periscope – The band world has been changed. Get ahead or get left behind. Really, you are doing a disservice to yourself as a bandhead if you don’t have it by now.

Verizon and AT&T – If you stream at a game, these are the only carriers that will get you somewhere.

Portable Chargers and Unlimited Data Plans – If you know like I know, you will have a portable charger for all the streaming. And unlmited data plans are a periscope life-saver.

Young(er) Band Directors – Let me tell yall, these younger HBCU band directors (and assistant directors) are really doing their thing. I am not knocking the older directors, but it is a new era for HBCU bands, and I’m here for it. They are breathing new life and energy into the craft.  Hampton, Morehouse, Southern, AAMU, Tennessee State initially come to mind.

Small(er) bands with BIG sounds – Elizabeth City, Virginia Union, and NCCU just to name a few. And ECSU and VUU have FEMALE band directors — I see you!!! You ladies are making me proud.

FAMU – This may be controversial, but I consider FAMU to be a ‘sleeper band’ this year. Do yall notice nobody (in a large sense) is really “checking” for FAMU outside of alumni? I never thought I would see the day when FAMU was considered a sleeper band. But I think they will be sneaking up on some folks.
See yall at the Honda, because I know they will be there this year. That’s just how Honda rolls.

Piccolos – It feels like for the first time, my beloved woodwind brethren gets some shine.  Even in brass-heavy bands like Southern and Talladega, they are making an impact.

LOSERS:

Periscope – Yeah, they are winners AND losers. Losers, because now that everybody wants to stream in the same area, it impacts the quality of the sound and picture. I’m still here for Periscope, though.

Sprint, T-mobile, Virgin, Cricket, US Cellular, RayRay’s wireless, et al. – If you have one of these providers, just go ahead and give it up. Just stop.  See, I know I have Sprint, I know I’m losing. That’s why instead of streaming, I just share streams of other bandheads. I stay in my lane, and you should too.

Shrinking bands – Now, I will take a powerful block 96 band over a messy 128 any day.  I am definitely NOT against small bands. But what is going on with Virginia State, Howard, Clark Atlanta, JCSU, Lincoln, just to name a few? They used to have decent numbers but have declined in recent years. Shoddy administration, shrinking budgets, lack of alumni support, dried up scholarship funds….I can’t even.

ESPN3 – I’m so over them and their false promises of showing halftime. Hello!!! Halftime consists of showing more than a song, which oh-so-coincidentally is the one song where the band forms ESPN on the field (what a surprise).

Talladega – Once a sleeper band, now they underwhelm me. Every time I have seen them this year, I have been let down. They are loud though.

Small bands with small sounds – Interpret that as you wish. There are too many of these groups out there, many because of circumstances beyond their control.

Trumpets – Why are so many trumpet sections getting buried by low brass this year? Southern, Jackson, Dega, Bama State, etc… Used to be trumpets came a dime a dozen, but now you can barely hear them. Jackson State’s version of Jupiter without a strong trumpet line hurt my soul.

Musical chairs of HBCU band directors – I have noticed that certain schools have a certain group of band directors that rotate few years. At least it seems that way. How is your program supposed to get some stability with these director musical chairs? I’m not mad at the directors, they gotta pay bills. But dayum.

What an interesting 3 weeks. Can’t wait to see how the rest of the season unfolds.