Concert Band Percussionists Develop New Educational Outreach Strategies
By Master Sgt. Brooke Emery
/ Published June 30, 2017
Washington, D.C. -- Now entering its fourth year, the United States Air Force Band's Advancing Innovation Through Music (AIM) program has brought premier bandsmen into direct contact with thousands of young musicians from all across the country. As the program has grown, members of the band have experimented with improvements to the program, but none so much as Concert Band percussionists Master Sergeants Marc Dinitz and Adam Green, who created a custom performance/presentation that immerses young musicians in the many facets of military music.
Master Sgt. Green began to feel there was a better way to use the valuable time with music students. "After doing a few AIM clinics on tour, it became clear to us that many of the hosts of our AIM event did not know exactly what they wanted from us," he said. "I noticed that most of the time, one of us ended up taking the lead working with their percussion sections. Sometimes, we would work on their music with them, or we would just talk about the AF Band. Other times, when we were on tour, we would actually prepare a chamber piece and perform for the students. This was always a challenge because we would always be reliant on their percussion equipment and we rarely had time to set up given our time constraints on tour. I wanted to develop a 'product' that was versatile, meaningful, specific, original to the AF Band and, most importantly, beneficial to the students."
The product took the shape of a play-a-long track to pre-recorded music that included the percussion section's 'greatest hits.' The clinic fits into a 40-55 minute class period and focuses on the genres of music the Air Force Band plays the most, including transcriptions, commissions, original works, marches and patriotic music. Throughout the clinic, the musicians talk about what they are doing and how the band fits into the Air Force as a whole. At the end of the presentation/performance, the Air Force musicians invite the students to collaborate in playing side-by-side on several pieces.
Master Sgt. Green continued, "One of the unique aspects of this clinic is that it can be performed with one or all of the members of our section. Since all of the excerpts are from our recordings, if only one of us is doing the clinic, the other parts will be heard on the recording. If all of us are present for the clinic, then the audience will simply hear more parts being performed live."
Since instrument availability and setup time are a concern for AIM clinics, the new presentation was designed to be versatile, only requiring mallets and a small speaker. All of the excerpts use standard percussion instruments most schools already have. To get parts and tracks ordered properly, members of the library team spent hours collecting parts, editing excerpts and collating them into seven books. Other members of the production team assisted in editing the tracks, adding clicks and organizing them into playlists that match the excerpts.
Master Sgt. Marc Dinitz recently tested the presentation with collegiate-level students. "I used this clinic at the Emory Percussion Symposium and it was very well received. The attendees expressed that the clinic was not only very informative regarding the Air Force Band, but also very interesting in how the clinic demonstrated the many styles of music we perform, as well as the techniques necessary to accomplish the job. In the class at Emory, I brought up 5 students during several pieces to help fill out the parts that I could not cover (after giving them parts and recordings in advance to prepare). This was a great experience for the students, not only to play along with the recordings and receive instruction on what/how they were playing, but also for those in the audience who could watch their classmates taking part."
Master Sgt. Green is pleased with the results. "The net gain is that we can send one or all of us into a school and put our best foot forward doing what we do best - our music! Plus, this offers people a peek into what we do, how we do it and how our job fits into the bigger picture of the Air Force as a whole. Hopefully, this restructured way of presenting to students will not only educate, but inspire an understanding of what it means to serve in a military band."