Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Not the way I wanted the state marching band championship to make the news

WOOD-TV has the disturbing news.

24 incidents in 2 weeks.

I find this doubly disturbing. First, I used to live near the affected stretch of freeway and used to drive along it to work at least four days a week. In fact, when I take field trips with my geology classes, the bus route goes right from one end of the hazardous zone to the other.

Second, I used to be a marching band judge for the association holding the state championship.
In what seems like a previous life, but which really spanned the five years from 2001 to 2006, I was a judge for the Michigan Competing Band Association. Until 2005, the organization held the state championship in the Pontiac Silverdome. As a judge, I got to attend the championship for free and watch the bands from the press box while eating a free catered meal.* It made for a really fun afternoon and evening that I enjoyed immensely, especially since I was treated like a V.I.P. but didn't have to work. That was the life.
*My students know that there is no such thing as a free lunch. I had paid for it metaphorically by my service during the season, while the MCBA paid for it literally through the ticket receipts of the paid spectators at the championship. Eventually, the bill came due. From 2006 on, the championships were held at Ford Field, which nearly bankrupted the association the first year of the move. Later that same year, I left judging, a decision that ended up being good for my mental health. By 2007, I stopped looking back.
I may no longer judge, and I haven't gone to a band show since I quit, but still have some sentimental attachment to the activity and wish it well.* While I think it deserves attention, I certainly didn't want it in the context of a crime story! I'd rather have it as good news, such as Plymouth-Canton's band marching in the Macy's Parade.

*I also haven't watched a drum corps show live since 2008. I'm not as optimistic about that activity's survival as I am about competitive marching bands', as I wrote in Christmas in July.
I fully expect Peak Oil, economic decline, and social upheaval to end the national touring model, which has been around since 1971, by 2020. I started mourning in 2008, when I quit writing for Drum Corps World and stopped going to shows. This will be the fourth year I haven't seen a corps live.


  1. I've only been to one show since 2002. I didn't like the product on the field. It felt sterile and had no connection to the audience. It was like "we're putting this on no matter what you think of it."

    1. The competitive bands aren't there for any audience other than the parents and the judges, and only the judges really matter. If you're talking about drum corps, then some might care about the audience, but only as a way to influence the judges. Then there are the Blue Devils. The past few years, it's all about the judges.