Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

A Live-Blogging Adventure -or- Dispassionate Journalism is Overrated

Four years ago this evening, there was a little tiny competition in Indianapolis. It involved about a dozen groups of musicians who tooted and drummed and flagged and danced. Their whole summer had been full of this activity, and as they say, it all came down to this.

As it happened, I knew personally a few of the folks involved with one particular performing group from North Carolina; and was therefore kinda pullin’ for ’em.

Thanks to the magic of the Internet and technology and such, those of us who were not in Indianapolis still got to experience the evening’s festivities, from group #1 to group #12 and then the announcements of who scored how many points.

My own particular version of the Internet, not being the fastest in the world, didn’t allow me to actually see or hear it. Video streaming was just not happening. But I had a devious method or two up my sleeve. So, wishing to put my erstwhile journalism training to work (well… sorta), I set about becoming the “pool reporter” for this event, on behalf of a number of my friends who didn’t have the fastest version of the Internet either.

The plan was to pass along the scores as they were announced. Y’know, dispassionate chronicler of events.

When I was done, I realized I’d actually broken a sweat. I was pulling for that one group pretty hard; and the intensity of the “big reveal” of Drum Corps International Finals scores at the end of the evening was a lot greater than I was expecting.

So, here’s the 21st-century equivalent, I guess, of tuning in to the radio drama and letting your imagination do the heavy lifting: behold … my Facebook post activity (and a few resultant FB Comments) from the evening of August 10, 2013.

 

The various corps presented their shows…

 

R: “So, I’ve got the official DCI Finals live blog scrolling along in one browser window and FB in another. I think this must be what it was like when all you could do was gather around the family radio.”

 

R: “DCI finals live blog commenter, re: [Santa Clara Vanguard]: ‘tempo seems to be up from the last two nights…’ • …up?!”

 

R: “From the DCI live blog, a royal announcement: ‘Live presentation of the scores will be offered FREE on the homepage DCI.org.’ At which time, the website will do its annual crash.”

 

R: “DCI live blog commenter, ‘tween corps: ‘Hearing the Cadets play Medea is so weird, since Star [of Indiana] used that in 1993, and the Cadets beat them that year. Then again, they also played Malaguena, which I am sure galled the Madison [Scouts] fans.’ … By this logic, Madison fans were angry with: every marching band in America. Hm.”

 

A friend of mine from the UMass Alumni Band days, whose niece was in a particular drum corps that night: “Getting so nervous for [Niece]!!!! Switching over to the tunnel. I just saw you, [Niece]!!!”

R: “In for 4 … out for 4 … in for 4 … out for 8 … in for 4 … out for 16 …”

 

R: “DCI live blog commenter, as [Blue Devils] finishes: ‘This is going to be a bloodbath!!!’ • DCI live blog moderator, as [Carolina] Crown enters: “The chant of ‘Let’s go Crown!’ has started in the crowd.’ • All together now: ‘This… place… is… e-…’”

 

R: “Every so often one of my non-drum-corps-watching friends posts here, … and it’s jarring!”

 

R: “[Carolina] Crown horns play, DCI live blog moderator writes: ‘Wow…that horn run back and forth and the impact of the section following it when they lay it all on the line. I can’t write the phrase I want to really use to explain my reaction to that, as I do like my job.’”

 

R: “DCI live blog moderator: ‘The crowd goes nuts! And for good reasons. Regardless of the outcome, THAT was a championship caliber performance.’ @dcihouseguyhedginghisbets”

 

R: “Hey, [Friend-With-A-Niece]… you OK over there? ;)”

FRIEND WITH A NIECE: “I’m breathing….barely.”

 

As the various corps assembled on the field for the awards retreat…

 

R: “Lemme just say this BEFORE any scores get called: I didn’t actually SEE any corps tonight. If everybody took it up a notch from Thursday night at the movies, –whoa. Good luck to everyone. Everyone’s a winner. It’s all about the audience. If you did your best, that’s all we can ask. … … Okay? Good. … … For the next twenty minutes, I am such a card-carrying member of the Sisterhood of the Purple Pants, it hurts. Get ’em Crown.”

 

FRIEND FROM THE BU BAND DAYS: “And the DCI page has crashed!!”

R: “They should have gotten the DoD tech guys involved.)”

BU BAND FRIEND: “I blame Snowden.”

R: “<*spit-take*>

 

R: “As the DCI website has apparently just crashed … *shocker* … I stand ready to reprise my role from last year as the guy with the tin can and string, posting scores from the live blog. My journalism degree, at work.”

DRUM MAJOR ACADEMY STAFF FRIEND: “I’m counting on you Dr. Rob!”

R: “I feel like I need to limber up. Arm circles!”

 

R: “No scores yet, but the Live Blog guys are taking a beating for the connectivity issues. (I know noth-ink!)”

FRIEND FROM THE UMASS ALUMNI BAND DAYS: “Ahhh! SO frustrating! I’m yelling at my computer right now… but it’s not helping!”

R: “My little fingers are hovering over the keys.”

BU BAND FRIEND: “At least the live blog is up.”

R: “I will defend that open browser window with my life.”

FRIEND FROM THE UMASS ALUMNI BAND DAYS #2: “You’re our link to the inside!”

 

Well, scoring these competitions is a complex business. Takes time. …

 

R: “If it makes anyone feel better, the Live Blog guys are blathering on inanely just the same as [DCI broadcast announcers] Rondinaro and DeLucia probably are. … ‘They’re clapping. They’re still clapping. Lots of clapping.’ … ‘Oh look, corps are marching on.’ ‘More clapping.’ … (I paraphrase.)”

 

R: “Stand by. Control-C, Control-V. Control-C, Control-V. Control-C, Control-V. Control-C, Control-V. …”

 

R: “In 13th place: ‘America the Beautiful.’ … Oh. Sorry.”

 

R: “Now [in the stadium] they’re showing a video, apparently. … … They do this on purpose, you know. #frakkers”

 

FRIEND FROM THE UMASS BAND DAYS #1: [re: what the DCI live bloggers are posting links about while the scores aren’t being announced yet] “aardvarks…. … and barn swallows.”

R: “OMG.”

 

And, at long last, here we go… blood pressure gently rising… as scores are announced approximately 30 seconds apart…

 

R: “11th, 86.40 Spirit of Atlanta”

 

R: “10th, 87.75 Blue Knights.”

 

R: “Caption awards: George Zingali Award for Best Color Guard to Blue Devils.”

 

R: “9th, 90.10 Madison Scouts”

 

R: “The top nine are 90+. Whoa.”

 

R: “John Brazale Best Visual Performance to Crown.”

 

R: “8th place, 90.40 Boston Crusaders. … Nearly caught the Cavs.”

 

DMA STAFF FRIEND #2: “Rob Hammerton is about 10 seconds ahead of [the DCI Finals “Entrance Tunnel” YouTube channel] … refresh refresh refresh” (8/10/2013)

 

R: “Jim Ott Award for Best Brass Performance to Carolina Crown. No … kidding.”

 

R: “7th place, 90.50 The Cavaliers.”

 

R: “Best Percussion Performance (Sanford Award) The Cadets”

 

R: “6th place, 93.25 Bluecoats”

 

R: “Don Angelica Best Overall GE Carolina Crown”

 

R: “5th place, 93.35 Bluecoats”

 

R: “4th place, 96.85 SCV … A 3 point spread.”

 

R: “3rd place, 96.95 The Cadets … My God, that only gets them 3rd place.”

FRIEND FROM UMASS ALUMNI BAND DAYS #3: “.1 over SCV? Scoring is crazazazy!”

 

R: “2nd place … … 98.05 Blue Devils”

R: “And Indy LOSES ITS MIND.”

R: “1st place, 98.30 Carolina Crown”

 

R: “Hey, [Friend-With-A-Niece], you can go to bed now.”

FRIEND FROM THE UMASS BAND DAYS #1: “She’s still screaming…”

 

R: “Yay performance. Yay instruction. Yay support. Not to forget, though: not for nothing are Messrs. Michael Klesch and Thom Hannum [Crown’s brass- and percussion-arrangers] in the Hall of Fame.”

 

R: “Okay, here’s a (not-) trivia question for DCI historians: Offhand, can you think of any other team of brass and percussion arrangers who have won world championships together … with two different corps? … in two different decades?”

 

R: “Hey, UMassers – this is what all the fuss was about.” [To this post, I attached My-Friend-With-A-Niece’s photo of Her Niece, who was a percussionist with Carolina Crown, along with a superimposed graphic of her corps’s final score, with a caption: “That’s my niece on the left, crying because she is a DCI WORLD CHAMPION!!!!!!!!!!”]

 

Granted, I didn’t put in the kind of physical and mental effort that any of the actual musicians did, that night … not remotely close … but I did sleep soundly.

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August 10, 2017 Posted by | drum corps, Facebook, Internet, journalism, social media, technology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You’ll Pardon Me If I Look Unsurprised

About a year and a half ago, I published an item here which noted some of the people whom I consider influences on my musical life – teaching, performing and arranging.  Somehow, I didn’t spend much time on one of them, and now seems like a moment to adjust that, a bit.

In that post, I described the day on which I first heard a college band play an arrangement of mine in public, in performance, in uniform. It was UMass, and the band’s primary musical arranger was standing next to me. “How’s it feel to write for UMass?” he asked. How did it feel? … “You have no idea,” I said cheerily. “Oh wait, right … you do.” Because the gentleman to whom I was speaking, and this was twenty-two years ago now, had already experienced that feeling, many many times over – in association with that college band, and in association with a number of fine (national-competition-grade) high school bands, and particularly in association with a little group called the Garfield Cadets.

He had come to UMass as the marching band graduate assistant during my junior year (this would be 1986), and although I myself was hardly connected to the drum corps world, I knew that he had already been drum major for one world-championship edition of the Cadets, and brass arranger and caption head for one other. And the more arrangements he cranked out for us, the more clear two things became: [1] he could really write; and [2] as a burgeoning musical arranger hopeful, I needed to get inside his head!

One afternoon we happened to arrive in the same room in Old Chapel, then the home of the band, at the same time. I waved a piece of staff paper at him … yes, this was in the days when we wrote band tunes by hand on actual paper, what about it? … and said, “question. How do you deal with low brass?”

Before he had a chance to provide the obvious snarky answer that came with intentional misunderstanding of my question, I continued, “I came from a high school band that didn’t have much low brass, and I’m a woodwind guy, so I’m not really sure about how to write good notes for low brass.”

He put down whatever he was doing, and said, “okay. Go to the piano. Play three notes that make a chord you like but which don’t make a muddy sound. Put those notes on the trombone 1, 2, and baritone staves. Add a tuba bass line. If it sounds decent on the piano, it’ll be OK in the brass. That’s it, pretty much.”

Simple as that. Except: boy, did I dissect a lot of his handwritten band scores – and saw chords that looked logical enough, and which followed that rule, and which looked pretty innocent (B flat, F, B flat, D … B flat major … OK, got that) … but somehow, bands that played those relatively innocuous-looking chords and such … sounded disproportionately great. There was some other element to his work that tended to transcend merely writing the right notes.

Throughout my time as a band person – playing, conducting, arranging, instructing – I have undertaken this process an awful lot:

Step one: listen to a score by this gentleman played by a decent band or corps.

Step two: smile and admire.

Step three: wish I could claim to have written it myself.  I mean!– Silverado, Jupiter … Phantom, Henry V … Pirates … and that’s before we get over into the drum corps world, about which I need say only one thing: Appalachian Flippin’ Spring!

Here are a few other examples of this gentleman’s fine work: as performed by the UMass Minuteman Marching Band, or the Garfield Cadets of Bergen County (well, he wrote for them for a long while!), or Carolina Crown … just to name a few of the groups that have benefited from his writing and whatever it is that he does in order to teach an ensemble to make such sounds! Heck, he even wrote an arrangement that made me enjoy Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” — and there’s a tune I don’t care for at all.

Today, came the announcement: Michael Klesch will be inducted into the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame this summer.

Not a shock, exactly.

Bravo, sir.

April 18, 2012 Posted by | arranging, band, drum corps, drum major, marching band, music, teachers, UMMB | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment