While I proclaimed myself to be the 40 year-old WGI virgin, I’m really not new to the whole scene. I’ve been a member of several marching organizations, both winter and summer, since 1991. I’ve also had the privilege of working on the instructional staff of a few groups. One thing a new instructor can do correctly out-of-the-gate is being prepared. Here is what is in my bag that I bring to every rehearsal. There are some extras that you can include for summer drum corps & marching band as well.
The Latin Percussion Jam Block Medium (Red) is the gold standard of all things pageantry.
You’re going to need something to hit said gock block. I picked up a pair of marching snare sticks at a drum corps show. They’re much beefier than a normal snare stick and you can tape them with electrical tape for even more durability.
Some people say they can’t hear all the detail with earplugs in. It’s probably time for an upgrade. I have a set of Earasers and they’re amazing. Yes, they’re $50 and they’re worth it. Also, if you loose one, you can buy the missing side for $25. Personally I can hear more detail with them in as it filters out a lot of the background noise and echo.
If $50 is too steep, at least get a free pair of the foam plugs offered at literally every music venue. It will save your eardrums from all that gock-blocking you’ll be doing.
3-ring binder with drill and music score
I’ve tried electronic drill books on e-readers and tablets, but a printed score and drill sheets never run out of battery. Also, they’re visible in bright light and you can easily annotate them with changes. Sometimes old school is the way to go. Even if it’s not your preferred choice, it’s a great back-up. I put my pages in sheet protectors and always print double-sided to keep the weight (and waste) to a minimum.
For making annotations, duh. Also good to have if your members forget one – and they will.
Being on staff, you probably have a badge to get into shows. They don’t give out replacements, so always put it back into your bag so you have it on contest days.
This is more of a courtesy to brass players. Yes it’s their responsibility to oil their own valves. But inevitably someone will need something in the warm-up arc before a contest, when their case is a million miles away. I bring this to warm-up at the contest as extra insurance.
This is for Dr. Beat. Love him or hate him, the doctor is in the house, and he’s here to stay. If you are a percussionist, you probably already have a Dr. Beat – if not, get one. If you’re everyone else that relies on someone bringing a Dr. Beat, do them a solid and bring an extra 9v battery for it. That thing can go through a 9v like nobody’s business.
Pro-tip: instead of clicking “stop” on your Dr. Beat at the end of your rep, get in the habit of pressing the power button for extra battery savings.
Here are my favorite apps:
Peterson iStrobosoft – Best, easiest to read, stand-alone tuner app. Period. Yes, it’s expensive at $10. Best $10 tuner you’ll ever buy.
TonalEnergy Tuner – Wicked awesome app. Fantastic tone generator for getting your drone on. Great for members as well – put it on a tablet and start practicing and it will tell you what is out of tune.
Metronome – lots of choices here. I’m currently using Frozen Ape’s Tempo.
Competition Suite – A service for judges tapes. Make sure you’re set up with the right permissions before you go to your first competition.
Voice Recording – whatever voice recorder app is included is fine. Useful for making rudimentary recordings or even doing a mock judges tape.
Spotify – Or something else to play music if you want to do a visual warm-up to music (or just jam out in general).
Notes – An app to make notes for things you’d like to fix (and how) and ideas for next rehearsal. I like Simplenote.
Drillbook Next – I prefer printed charts, but that’s me. If you’re going all-in with paperless make sure everyone is on board.
Headphones & Adapter
Bring your headphones if you want to listen to judges tapes before critique. If you’ve got an iPhone, don’t forget the 3.5mm dongle adapter in case you want to plug it into a sound system and blast to some tunes.
Useful for listening to judges tapes aloud with staff or for sharing them with the members.
I’m old school. I love DCT for keeping lips working. I keep it in my winter bag because it can be very dry, even indoors. A must for summer – bonus that it has sun protection built-in.
These are things I add to my bag when summer rolls around. Most of this is for weather – in particular the sun.
Must have – keep that sun off of your face.
There are some dummies out there that are still looking to work on their tan. Skin cancer is real. If you’re planning on marching or teaching for multiple summer seasons and you want to have a normal lifespan, put some damn sunscreen on, and do it on the regular. I consider SPF-50 to be the minimum, 30 if there’s absolutely nothing else available. If I can, I go for SPF 70-100 broad spectrum.
While you’re at it, protect those baby blues.
These are the best inventions ever. Put on a t-shirt, then put on your sun sleeves. Columbia has these wicked Freezer Zero sleeves that have a cooling sensation when they get wet (from sweat). Fantastic, 💯, A+, would wear again.
This doesn’t have to be fancy, just something that will keep you dry. Ideally it can roll up and be stashed in your bag without taking too much space.
For when it’s rainy. Never underestimate how miserable you’ll feel with wet feet. Fresh, dry socks are the answer to a rainy day’s misery.
Did I forget something? A small first aid kit comes to mind, but I bet there’s more. Let me know in the comments what you consider essential.
It’s been a while since I’ve written about any urban design stuff. Part of it is because I’ve realized that real change is never sweeping, it is incremental, which can be incredibly frustrating. But I’ve learned to to have patience, as long as things look like they’re heading in the right direction. Also, as part of Fridley’s Environmental Quality and Energy Commission (EQEC), I’ve seen several of the cities’ initiatives first hand, and and I feel like they are generally heading in the right direction.
I wrote about the idea of a road diet on Mississippi St. over 6 years ago. I told myself that if it ever happened, I had done my job. And as it stands, here we are:
So, I should just sit back and be happy that it’s happening, right?
Yes indeed, but there are still things some things our government agencies could be doing better, let’s take a look…
Mississippi St. doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It has two major intersections at Highway 65 and University Ave (MN-47). Yet there was zero treatment done to Mississippi St. at those intersections in the design. From the layout that was presented, I created this composite of the major intersections and the middle:
When I look at this from left-to-right I think: Huh? Yay! Huh?
Feature Request: Acknowledgement
I get that 65 and 47 are state roads and Mississippi is a county road. And remember that I understand that change is not sweeping, in fact I believe it’s better to be incremental. What I crave is simply acknowledgement from all agencies that they actually communicate with each other. There was a representative from MnDOT at the Mississippi St. meeting. He seemed extremely unaware of the Highway 65 and 47 workshops (and their output) that happened in 2019. The biggest complaint I heard at those meetings were about how difficult it is to cross 65 and 47 on Mississippi no matter what the conveyance: in a car, on a bike, on foot. The other was the recognition that we don’t need two north-south trunk highways one mile apart.
So while I get it that the intersections won’t change immediately, it would be nice for the people of Fridley to know that their county and state government agencies actually talk to each other. It would have been awesome for the drawings to include a “future MnDOT” inset with a 202X version of those intersections, or at least something stating that these will get changed once the output from those workshops are put into design ideas.
So I’m happy that something is happening for the better, I’m just left wanting more.