Upon having the chance to rap with upcoming The Game i-dotter Joceyln Smallwood, she had such great depth to her responses that it proved difficult to get her takes into just one front page post without it resembling War and Peace. As such, I didn't want her in-depth takes to be all for naught so I figured continuing this as a Blog Post made sense.
Continue on for the rest of my interview with the soon-to-be history making sousaphone machine from Upper Arlington...
Walk me through a week in the life of practice leading up to a new halftime show.
For a one week show, which is most of what we do, we start on Monday with challenges and we read the music. Often we will have begun working ahead on a show a little bit the week before. So we’ll do some rehearsing inside and go out and learn a little bit of the drill, or refresh ourselves on it if we learned it the week before.
Tuesday and Wednesday we still do a good deal of music rehearsal inside. The latter half of the week is spent almost exclusively outside on the field learning the drill. We each get a packet of charts which tell us where to go on the field and how to get there. We walk through those from page to page and slowly start to put them together. We’ll go through it counting, then we’ll play recordings of the songs that we make inside during rehearsal over the speakers and do the drill along with the music. Eventually we start doing it with instruments and then we march and play it. While that happens in rehearsal, you’re responsible for memorizing your music for music checks which are on Friday afternoon at Gray Day, our dress rehearsal.
On Friday, we have music checks in which the band plays the songs from memory and the squad leaders walk around and make sure you’re playing it right. Squad leaders do the same thing for the directing staff. We take note of people who mess up or don’t know their music. If you fail a music check, you can appeal to a director which means you go try to play it in front of them. If you can’t do that, then you actually fail. You have three strikes with music checks. Once you fail a third time, you’re dismissed from the band, no questions asked. So, it’s a stressful day. That’s why people spend so much time on their music.
After that KL Row (the sousaphone section) goes to dinner at a restaurant of the i dotters choice. Then we go back to the stadium to polish our horns for the game the next day. Once that’s done you go try to get a couple hours sleep before you do the marathon that is a gameday.
Spending so much time together, is the band a pretty tight knit crew?
Definitely. The band is a family. You spend a large part of every day from mid June until January with these people so you get to know them extremely well. Only people who have been in the band really understand what it’s like. They understand the challenges and the rewards of being in this group, so I think that links us together really well. We have one of the most active alumni groups out of any college marching band in the country, which should give you an idea of how tight knit this group is. Once you’re in this band, you don’t really ever leave. Many of them stay really active in the organization and it’s cool to have that connection.
But as far as the band itself, we experience everything together. We have fun, we fight, laugh, cry do everything with one another. A lot of that happens during two a days at the beginning of the summer. You don’t do anything with what the band calls “real friends.” It’s 100% band all the time and that’s when you begin to get close with the people around you. By the time you’re a senior, you know pretty much everyone and the other people in band are some of your best friends.
What should we know about newly appointed band director Jon Waters? We know he’s a former sousaphone player himself but what can you tell us about his vision for the band and how he goes about coming up with new shows?
Jon is great, I can’t say enough good things about him honestly. He’s the type of person who makes you want to be better at what you’re doing. His passion for this group is something that is unmatched I think. He actually dotted the i against Michigan in 1998, so it’s really awesome to have that connection with him. Every so often he’ll come up to me and remind me how many games are left before Michigan or something like that, which is really special. It’s awesome knowing that I’m part of something that he belongs to.
His vision as far as the band is that we strive for perfection. And it’s not just him, it’s the entire staff, that’s how they see it. We’ll be out on the practice field running through something and they’re constantly telling us how to be better. It could be not lifting your legs high enough or playing something sloppy, but it’s always about improving. We’ll march through something and Jon will send us back to do it again because one person screwed it up. And we all grumble about it, but really it’s that type of attitude which has helped us be so good this year. He also talks a lot about tradition through innovation. I think that’s how he puts it—the idea that what is tradition now was once new. So we do new things, we try them out and we don’t limit ourselves in what we do just because we haven’t done it before.
The big thing with show planning is that it’s a group effort, that’s something I really want to emphasize and something Jon emphasizes too. The planning starts in the spring with a meeting where band members can come in with ideas. They take those ideas and widdle them down to themes for however many home games we have that year. From there, stuff takes off. The arranging staff begins arranging music, our directing staff writes the drill. It’s a huge effort. For the Nebraska video game show for example, that idea had been floating around for a couple years and they decided this year would be a good time to go with it. John Brennan wrote the music, Aaron Bell our percussion instructor did the drum parts, Chris Hoch who is the assistant director wrote the drill (what you see on the field) which was unbelievable. He’s a genius, they all are. And that’s the awesome part. When Chris is up on the tower outside teaching us drill for example, the rest of the staff is down on the field with us helping fix things and answering questions. There is never a moment when they aren’t doing something to help. It’s totally a team effort.
My thanks again to Joceyln for taking the time to meet. It was a sincere pleasure getting to hear her so passionately talk about TBDBITL and her upcoming role in shaping its history.