The TUMB is hiring for our Drumline Instructor/Operations Manager position

So i’ve neglected this personal space and some of my personal projects for a while now because I was rather suddenly promoted from being the Drumline Instructor/Operations Manager to being the Assistant Director of Bands and have become much more crazy busy than i anticipated i would be.  A separate blog entry about how that’s been going is coming soon, but I thought i’d plug the position here and talk in a little bit more depth about what the job position is about for those that are interested.

To see the listing and a basic job description (and to also apply for the job), go to http://tulane.edu/jobs/ and do a search for “drumline”.

The more detailed version of the job goes like this:

marching drum solos

so i’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming and designing of the TUMB’s Les Miserablés drum solo based very loosely on “Attack on Rue Plumet”, and i thought it would be worthwhile to talk about a small but significant mental shift regarding its compositional conception because of the context of the TUMB.

The general philosophy of the TUMB creative design is to find a way to make it both simultaneously fulfilling for the membership (most of which are not music majors) and to provide spirit and entertainment for the athletic crowds who go to Tulane football games. Resultantly, the shows fall somewhere between the big-10 philosophy of “easy different show each week” versus where i came from which was “learn two field shows that strive to be drum corps level and use them all season.” Typically we do three or four shows a season that try to maximize effect, deliberately choosing effect over doing anything too artsy or challenging. Not that we don’t want to push the membership, but there’s a limit of how far we can reach given that Tulane is a very demanding academic school of which the TUMB, while a one-credit course, is still considered primarily extra-curricular. We expect them to memorize all of their music and be responsible for their role in the TUMB, but our shows tend to be five-six minutes long, involve maybe 20 drill sets, and may have a challenging moment here and there but is otherwise meant to only gradually push the challenge of the individual players musically.

Les Miserablés is one of the more “Marching bandy” kinds of shows that we’re putting together and so when i was first thinking about the drum solo, i was very much thinking of it in those terms – while a drum solo that has section features is a little retro these days, i still like the idea of features and started writing a snare feature – a four and a half measure deal that could push the kids the right amount for their chops and developmental growth, something that the drumline is getting better at but still has a lot of room to grow.

The problem is, a snare feature that long is something that comes more from the realm of what a WGI show would do. Part of the GE that comes from a long feature in that particular medium is that most of the audience of that medium have at least some idea of how difficult it is to play certain licks and represent a wide range of expertise of what it means to sound clean. So when MCM or Rhythm X have an extended snare feature or tenor feature that can last 15+ seconds with little else going on, it has all of that pre-ceonceived expectation to help maximize its effect.

By contrast, the Tulane crowd generally couldn’t tell you the difference between a flam drag and a paradiddle, wouldn’t be able to have that innate understanding of what a hard lick is versus an easy one or how clean something truly is. So to write some sort of extended section feature of any sort designed to showcase how well a section is pulling off something difficult has very little GE to our audience, and if it pushes too far off the edge of what the line is comfortable with, the work has negative return – if the line can’t play it well, then the immediate audience doesn’t appreciate it any more than they would something simpler that has more effect, and the long-term audience of YouTube viewers and potential future recruits who may have a more scrutinizing ear will be hyper critical of their execution and think that it sucks.

So long features don’t fit our group – things that push the ability of the line that are exposed in a drum solo also doesn’t fit our group. In a strange way, putting the more difficult music in the background is better for us because it gives the kids a chance to grow and develop their advanced chops in a context where that lack of high exposure relieves the pressure of having to execute at a high level other than from a big picture ensemble perspective.

This year, there’s one kink in that philosophy in that we’re trying to put more effort into going to at least one local marching band festival per year of which one of the motivators is recruitment. In order to make the TUMB appeal to them as potential members, they have to be engaged with what the marching band is about overall and what their potential section is about more specifically – for the drumline this again has to do with balance – if the music is too easy, they may feel like they wouldn’t be challenged as a member. if the music is too difficult for the line to execute successfully, they won’t want to be a part of a group that plays that poorly.

All of this is running through my brain as i retailor this drum solo not only to fit within the time constraints given to me, but what the drum solo should achieve on multiple levels. Features overall aren’t out of the picture, but it doesn’t make sense for them to be longer than 2 or 3 measures at most, and the overall composition needs to have a level of effect for the football crowd that has less to do with choppy complexity and more to do with musical and emotional impact.

Branding the TUMB logo distinctly from TU?…

One of the roles that i’ve developed for myself over the past few years working for the Tulane University Marching Band is helping to develop and strengthen its brand. This has mainly been external, as in creating and attempting to unify all of our social media presence, helping guide the feel of our new website as well as the content. I’ve made some small efforts in creating internal branding (some office vocabulary, unification of internal manual styles, &c), but those have been lower priority. And of course there’s aspects of the brand that i don’t create but the organization creates itself, such as “the band does crazy dances to our drum cadences during mardi gras”, something that bore fruit for the first time this past mardi gras season as people along the route saw us, recognized us for that, and actually anticipated it.

A couple of years ago, there was some discussion about potentially changing our TUMB logo, which right now is this:

There were a couple of different reasons for this. One was that a circular logo is very awkward to put into print because it takes up a lot of visual space if you want the “Tulane University Marching Band” text to be visible in a small form. Second was that the main logo portion, the graphic shield with the TU in it, is the Tulane University shield and therefore their brand. As a result, glancing at the logo has a TU association with it but not necessarily a TUMB association with it.

The issue was explored but then eventually dropped as low priority. Even though i think it’s somewhat problematic, it’s actually not too terrible because the shield logo is featured prominently on our uniforms and sousaphone covers without the accompanying circular TUMB text:

This is becoming relevant again because we’re in initial talks of trying to design and roll out a new uniform in a couple of years when the new Tulane Community Stadium gets built, and in that talk, we’re putting serious consideration into replacing the shield with a different logo or symbol or removing a logo from the front of the uniform altogether. Given that that shield will no longer have prominence, i rebroached the subject of potentially changing our logo, an argument that we want to either have something distinct from the TU shield as our brand so there’s no potential brand recognition confusion, or (as a compromise to my boss who does not want to change the logo at all) to modify or characterize the shield in a subtle way that makes it more TUMB specific so that the association from the university isn’t lost, but it can still feel like our own.

To experiment with the latter, i messed with creating TUMB image overlays to fill up the green area of the shield to see what it would look like:

If you can’t tell, right now there are three image overlays – one of a baritone player and his horn, three snare drums and some sticks, and some color guard flags.  The idea is that the entire green shield portion of the logo would have overlays of some sort.

I’m not convinced that it’s working, but it could be that i just need to choose my images differently or instead opt for one single large image (such as a trumpet overlay). There’s still a potential problem that if the logo is too small, the character within the green shield would look “dirty” and look more like a mistake rather than something deliberate and purposeful which would weaken rather than strengthen our brand, and it still doesn’t address the issue of the circular text.

So i’m putting questions out there for those who have more informed opinions than me about the subject:

1. Is the logo fine the way it is?

2. Whether it stays the same or changes, how important is it for a sub-organization of a brand, particularly a marching band who is strongly tied to the university community, to have a distinct logo to create brand independence?

3. If it’s important enough to warrant a change, would it be better to a) create a logo that is a modification of the shield to retain strong relation to the primary University brand, b) create a logo that uses some other distinct representative symbol associated with the university (such as the Gumby or Riptide), or c) create a logo independent of all of those things?