Lucky for me, before heading up to bed last night I hit the guide button on the DVR one last time and noticed that ESPN2 was broadcasting the Drum Corps International (DCI) championship recorded last month at the Rose Bowl. The 2 hour program featured highlights of the top 12 corps from around the country, including the Toledo Glassmen, just down the road from me.
I remember watching DCI on PBS back in the mid 70's when it was broadcast live for about 4 hours. I think it's one of the reasons I became a band director. The music, the rhythm, the visuals were all so amazing and exciting even back then. I think I even have a record album of some of my favorite corps some place.
I had not seen a DCI championship on TV in several years. I used to record it and show it to my own marching band students. As a matter of fact, my former school actually hosted an overnight stay for one of the corps featured on TV, the Colts, when they competed in Toledo several years ago.
If you have never seen DCI, you've got to check out their website, http://www.dci.org/ and also a new site that will be premiering this fall, http://www.onq.org/ . Even better, see if ESPN2 will be airing the championship again some time.
I could probably take the time to draw all kinds of comparisons to what these 16-21 year old students are doing and Daniel Pink's Whole New Mind (and maybe I will in a future post), but instead I want to reflect on how complex the music and marching drills have become since the 1970's due in great part to the availability of computer software. I only had a marching band of about 30 or so students, so I never invested in the drill writing software, but I played around with a demo version enough to realize how powerful it was. It is possible to animate formations not only for the entire band, but also for individual marchers. You could change the perspective of the animation to see what the drill looked like from lower or higher bleachers. What a great teaching/visualization tool!
My point in saying all of this is that the band directors and corps directors who decided to use this software made a financial and personal investment that was no doubt daunting at first. There were a lot of computer crashes and lost files and hours and hours of time spent in front of the computer screen. But the end result is an art form that has opened up new possibilities that weren't "humanly" possible before the software came along. There are band directors who still do their charting the old fashioned way and do great things with their students. But the most awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, wow-inducing marching drills are created in the "2.0" mode of drill design.
The same can be said for a lot of the new technology tools available to today's classroom teachers. Lots of hours spent figuring the things out, maybe some lost files or computer crashes, maybe even a financial commitment to new hardware or peripherals. There are plenty of excellent teachers who have decided not to pursue any of these new tools for those very reasons. But the ones who have decided to push the envelope with their students will reap the rewards just as the drum corps have. There are so many more possibilities that weren't humanly possible just a few years ago.