TUMB Banquet Awards Process

I thought it might be a good idea to document the process we use for the TUMB Banquet Awards in an effort to promote transparency and an understanding of how awards are chosen.  The process is something that evolved over the first few years of the banquet but has held steady for the past several years.  The process is subject to future tweaks if I feel it’s necessary, but i’m pretty comfortable with the system that we have set in place.

Full Service Awards are awarded to members that will have completed eight semesters in the TUMB by the end of that academic year.

Extended Service Awards are awarded to members that will have completed over eight semesters in the TUMB by the end of that academic year.

Outstanding Section Member Awards: The student leadership (section leaders and drum majors) are given a list of the TUMB membership minus themselves broken down by section.  They all vote independently against that list, and the majority votes win for each section.

KKY Awards: The entire KKY Rho Chapter discusses the potential candidates and decides via committee who receives the awards; for the senior award, all seniors in KKY are excluded from the discussion.

Outstanding First Year Member, Section of the Year, and Spirit Award:

The TUMB staff (including the Shockwave and Color Guard contractors) individually picks two Section of the Year nominees and three Outstanding First Year Member and Spirit Award nominees to be considered for the award.  Those get compiled into a new poll where the staff then votes independently on their first and second choice for all awards.

Any first choice vote earns 5 points and any second choice vote earns 3 points.  The highest point total wins the award.  This process has created at times a rare result where an individual with no first place votes has won the award (when the first place choices are diverse but the second place choices are very narrow).

Director Award: The Director of Bands requests from the TUMB staff a list of up to three nominees for the Director Award.  From that list, he handpicks the award recipient.

The context of National Anthem protesting in marching band

I have a tendency to keep my personal political beliefs out of my online life when it comes to mainstream topics such as our current presidential election, black lives matter, etc. etc.  I do this primarily because I feel like my opinions on those mainstream topics, despite sometimes being nonmainstream, are represented easily enough by my actions and personality and echoed well enough in our currently connected society that my voice doesn’t add significant impact or meaning at the social media platform level.  If i do post something of a political nature, it tends to be about something niche or something that I’m particularly passionate about and/or invested in.

I never intended to make any commentary about the national anthem protests that started happening as a result of Kaepernick, but recently the ripple effect of this has bled into my profession in the marching band arena. (For those not aware of what i’m talking about, members of the ECU marching band and the SMU marching band have recently created headlines due to individual members deciding not to play and/or kneeling during the national anthem.)  Because of that, I feel a responsibility to voice my opinion in that context as a representative and potential influential voice for band directors, members, athletic fans, and marching band fans.  I preface this with the caveat that this is not meant to disrespect views contrary to my own beliefs on the matter; I respect any organization’s choices for how they run themselves.

In the Interest of full disclosure…

Year One of New Beginnings

I’ve neglected this personal space more than normal this past academic year mainly because i feel like i’ve been running a mile a minute ever since last August.  The job has always had a measure of crazy-busy-all-of-the-time, but this year was different – this year I was promoted and became the Assistant Director of Bands, and it all happened rather suddenly in the closing part of last summer.

I remember very clearly a conversation that Mark and I had sometime in june where he said, “I guess I’m here for another year”, and then suddenly there was a job prospect for Amanda that turned around in an insanely short amount of time – between the time that she found out about the job and her saying, “yes, i’ll take the job” was about three weeks.  There was some bleed-over of responsibility that Mark had regarding music and visual design, but I started the new role as assistant director basically at band camp.

In addition to adjusting to that new position, I also became an active participant as a composer and performer in the contemporary music collective Versipel, and, with the help of my strengthened relationship with one of the newer composition professors at Tulane University Max Dulaney, I also expanded my once-a-year nineteForte contemporary music concert into a three-day contemporary music festival.

Yeah.  It was a busy year.

The last time I felt as stressed out as I did this past year was probably grad school at Oregon over a decade earlier.  A lot of that came down to the fact that we elected not to hire a full-time replacement for my old position until the end of this academic year, so while we had someone in front of the drumline for rehearsals, I was still doing the Operations Manager part of my job in addition to the Assistant Director job.  My boss Barry took some of that slack, but not a whole lot because there’s a lot of my job that he doesn’t know how to do.  So there ended up being so much new stuff that was constantly being thrown into my face between dealing with logistics regarding the new football stadium, the running of rehearsals and coordinating the staff, taking over the Green Wave Brass Band, and a myriad of new administrative responsibilities – just to name a few new things –  on top of most of my old responsibilities, and it put me in a state of stress where i always felt behind and could never catch up.

Particularly in the fall season it was incredibly exhausting and at times very frustrating.  I was very earnest about trying to do my best for the band and had to dig my heels in and work and work and work in order to get even halfway to where I wanted to be. I came out of many of my work days late into the evening and feeling so tired but yet when i got home i couldn’t shut my brain off because I felt like I had to plan out the next one or two days to feel truly prepared.  Add the other new external projects and pursuits, particularly with nienteForte, and I had very little time for rest and detox in my waking hours.  What break time i had i devoted mostly to cooking, trying my best to stay in touch with friends both local and remote, and the occasional board game, video game, or poker game as a means of unwinding and trying to shut my brain off.

It’s hard for me to be truly objective about how well I achieved at all of these new responsibilities.  As it relates to my role as the Assistant Director, I personally look back and say to myself, “you dd a good job but not a great one.”  Not that I think that I’m incapable of doing a great job with the band, I think I have that potential, but I feel like I need two or three more years under my belt to learn, improve, and resultantly have a better handle on how to steer the program in a way that I feel is right for the members and for the organization.  I have weaknesses in how i teach, how i administer, how i plan, etc. that need fixing, and to me those stuck out like a sore thumb this past year.

I still think that that opinion has validity, but that’s counterbalanced by a Thing that Happened at the end of the fall season that completely floored me and forced me to acknowledge to the students and to myself that I did a better job than I thought.  The story is a bit uncomfortable for me to relate to in print because it feels too self-indulgent, but suffice it to say that i severely underestimated the impact that I had on my students at an individual level until the Thing Happened.  It was very disorienting at first, but once i came to terms with it, the mentality I came away with afterwards was – and still is – “Now I have to do great.  I have no choice.  I need to be on my best game all of the time so that I can be great for my kids.”

As it related to the stuff I did with nienteForte, I have to say that I am pretty amazed that the festival was as successful as it was and I’m happy that I was able to have a hand in its success.  The mission of the entire nF project was to expose and excite people about contemporary music, and this year because of Max’s instrumental contribution and drive, it grew into a place that is so much bigger than me and its humble origins.

With all of the new stuff that I had to juggle, some part of my productive life had to take a hit – that hit ended up being my personal compositional pursuits. I had already planned on shelving my LEAP Motion project for a year or two down the line, but I was also supposed to write a wind ensemble piece for a high school out in California, and i had to postpone that indefinitely in addition to two other pieces that I promised people  On the one hand, dropping those projects and breaking my internal rule/goal of writing at least one new piece of music a year was frustrating, but on the other hand, I needed to make sure that I could achieve life balance between my professional and personal goals and what little social life i could squeeze in.

In the past month and a half or so as the school year was coming to a close, I started to reset myself for this upcoming academic year and the goals that I have for myself and for the program in year two.  We finally hired a replacement drumline instructor/operations manager, so once he gets trained and gets into the groove of what’s going on in the office some of my burden here will ease up and i’ll go from an “always-feeling-behind-panic busy” to a mere “insanely busy”. My professional compositional pursuits will gain more prominence again, both creatively and administratively. The featured guest ensemble for nienteForte 2016 is going to bring in ECCE and i’m going to be writing them a piece of music for the festival.  In my head I already know what the piece is going to be about as well as the title – comma you know comma – and i hope to write most of that over the summer so that fall can be devoted to revision.  If i can get that in a good space and stay on top of the music and drill for Tulane, the next creative project will likely be the brass quintet/sextet that i promised Catherine Wilcoxson over a year ago because I suspect that will be relatively easy to churn out once i have a firm idea of the big picture concept in my head.

We’ll see what year two brings.  It’ll definitely be exciting.