Friday, August 26, 2005

Tommy Lee in Marching Band?!?!?!


Ok, I admit it, in the brief time I have been out of school, I have been watching the VH1 Celebreality show Tommy Lee Goes to College. In the show, Tommy Lee (of Motley Crue) attends the University of Nebraska attends classes, participates in various extracurricular activities, and various downtime antics. I admit most of the show is banal, overedited, and misrepresents most of the college experience. That said, I think it is funny, well-scripted, and entertaining, if you just let yourself enjoy it.

One of the favorite parts I've seen is where Tommy joins the marching band. Tommy Lee plays the quad-toms (or the "quads"), a holster of four drums of various sizes that are worn by the drummer.

[GEEK NOTE: The drums that the drum line were playing were probably "quints," because there were 1-2 extra tiny drums inside the frame.]

Multi-toms are probably the hardest of all the battery percussion instruments to play. Why? Because you're not just striking one drum with your drumsticks, you have to hit four drums on beat, and in tempo. There is no rubato, there is no interpretation, and you have to do it exactly at the same time as the rest of your squadron.

I'm glad VH1 included this subplot. It's really important for people to understand, especially young people, that music is made through sweat, practice, and training. While I acknowledge there is innate musical talent in some people, it is the manner in which it is harnessed that matters most to me. Although my experience in marching band was grueling, often-overly repetitive, and often-uninspired, I'm glad I did it in high school and college. I'd like to think that any sort of group activity like this ultimately makes one a better contributor. Why? By working out your own talents in a group context, you can actually see how your efforts make a large-scale difference. You know where you screw up, and so can everybody else. But it's not all about you, it's about the team.

In this week's episode, Tommy has to pass an audition to march with the rest of the band on Saturday during the football game. He has to know all of the music, and be able to play it. Drummers have to memorize their music, and play it in tempo while executing complicated drill patterns on (often very muddy) football fields. Well, Tommy, to his credit, stepped up to the challenge and practiced. He practiced the cadences, the half-time show, and all the other licks that get played during the game. He performed "up-to-snuff" at Friday's band rehearsal and marched during the game. I'm glad he got to experience the exhiliration that goes into preparing and pulling off a half-time show performance, particularly in a competitive band. My college band was disciplined, but a lot more laid-back than my high school band (which competed). I have to admit that I was one of those band kids that got carried away sometimes because of all the competition. It was one of the most important things in my life back then. And I think it taught me an important lesson, that passion and practice often make you better--whether it's as a musician, a teacher, a manager, a coach, or a librarian.

Anyways, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has their own web page about the experience, check it out. Hopefully this will help the campaign for music education nationwide. I'll be back to link some more to this post later.


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