The Importance Of Preparation And Going Places For School Gigs

This past week we had both the Grove City College Wolverine Marching Band (almost 200) and The Grove City College “Disney” Jazz Ensemble (Big Band of 19) perform at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL.   One thing that can be learned by the professional staff at Disney is that “Things go smoothly when advanced preparation and constant communications are implemented”.  

Almost two months in advance we sent the Jazz Ensembles’s play list to Disney.  They looked it over, sent us a stage plot and we had numerous conversations in the weeks in between with regard to setup, traveling, and overall integration.  Many band directors (especially band marching band and jazz directors) don’t take the time to needed to detail out the non-musical needs of their concerts and consequently find themselves in a “tizzy” the day of OR a day or two before the concert which leads to anxiety and quite likely… a lesser level of performance. 

I try as much as possible, to have lighting, sound, and performance lists available to everyone who may need it a least a week prior to the concerts we perform…sometimes even months.  Our Jazz concerts are so complicated, technically, that we have multiple meetings prior to the show to make sure that everyone is “on the same page”.  In years, past I’ve had to be the Technical Director, Stage Manager, and Music Director of the G.C.C. Jazz Ensembles, fortunately that has changed in the past few years, but the experiences have impressed on me the basic fact that those involved in the technical areas (or fringe areas) of a show need to have proper communication and data in order for the show to go off “without a hitch” or at least with only a few hitches…

This year was the first year that I was able to plan Jazz Ensemble, Stage Band, and “Disney” Jazz ensembles programs before the start of the year in their entirety and, WOW, has it made a difference in my ability to spend more time on the “right” literature in the rehearsals.   I’m not saying that I didn’t plan the programs out in years gone past, but this year I had the time to completely decide on all the show aspects (including the music) before the first day of school.  I haven’t had that luxury in the past due to my hectic schedules at the college and abroad.  This year was different and surely for the better. 

I had sent my stage plot to Disney about 7 weeks prior to the show and they were able to provide us with almost everything we needed to perform, including amps, keyboard, direct boxes, microphones, and music stands.  We literally showed up for the “gig”, jacked in, and GROOVED out!.   We had a great time at the Galaxy Palace Theater and so did those in attendance (Hey, I actually did see some of you there!  Thanks for coming and talking with me at the shows).

Our second jazz show, at Disney, was at the Grand Floridian in one of their famous “Ball Rooms”.   For this show we had to bring all the “gear”, but we had efficiently packed all of it in one section of the first bus and were able to setup up in under 25 minutes, everyone new what do do and what went where, etc.   Wow, is that place gorgeous!   This show was also a smashing success.

Our jazz show at the both places was about 30 minutes (we had some “cheesy fillers” at the Grand Floridian as well) and focused around 7 tunes, with a distinct Disney flavor:

  1. My Favorite Things
  2. Orange Colored Sky (Vocal)
  3. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!
  4. Hello Again (Vocal)
  5. Frind Like Me
  6. Colors of the Wind (Vocal)
  7. Woodchopper’s Ball (With horn swings, etc..)

At both venues, the band was greeted with standing ovations at the end.  The students had a great time and in the end the “importance of getting out” and doing things was noted by all (see this article by me).   It was all very “magical” and the kids are now “re-energized” with enthusiasm which will no-doubt, carry us for a long while!

The marching band did what the do best, march and play loud!  We played three tunes, National Emblem, The Olympic Spirit, and, naturally, the MICKEY MOUSE CLUB MARCH. For a number of the students, it was the first experience at a venue this “great” and they were overwhelmed with emotion and excitement…some even told me they had tears as they rounded the great circle by Cinderella’s Castle. 

There are very few places where you can march such a small distance and be seen by tens-and-tens-of-thousands of captive audience members.  It was great.  This was also the first time for me at Disney to hear my name with the incredibly, hard earned letters D and R (Dr.) announced prior to the band appearing at the various sections of the Magic Kingdom over the loudspeakers.  Very cool and very exciting for me personally! :)

I’m going to post a number of Flickr Photos tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

        

Joseph M. Pisano, Ph.D. is the creator of many education websites, a lecturer, clinician, trumpeter, and conductor. He is currently the Associate Chair of Music and Director of Bands in the Calderwood School of Arts at Grove City College in PA. He been named a TI:ME Teacher of the Year, received the JEN Jazz Educator Award and the PA Citation of Excellence. He is a past Vice President of the Technology Institute for Music Educators and the current Vice-President of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association. He also writes for DCI Magazine, Teaching Music Magazine, and is the Educational Editor for In-Tune Monthly Magazine; he has contributed hundreds of articles to various publications. Find out more at his website jpisano.com.
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