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Composers First Thoughts – In the Arena

Original music by Steve Martin and Aaron Hines of GPG Publications

Composers First Thoughts
Original music by Steve Martin and Aaron Hines of GPG Publications

“This year’s show design process for the Wyandotte Marching Chiefs of Roosevelt HS was a circuitous path to the final product. The original concept was built around the “In the Arena” quotes and was supposed to support a gladiator theme and storyline. One of the challenges for me was to leave musical space for the quotations without tearing the “dramatic fabric.” This happens several times through out the show.

The opening musical statement evokes the drama and suspense of a grand stage. Specifically for this show concept, the image of the coliseum was infused into the score because it is one of the world’s most famous stages for mortal combat. The next segment is intended to portray the strategy and art of battle, culminating with the victor raising his hands in celebration over his slain opponent.

At this stage in the compositional process, the design team took a “hard left turn”. The show stage shifted from being set in an actual arena and moved to the “arena” that is the football – or marching band – field. The show theme morphed into the journey that a marching band takes each year and the related tribulations and victories. Subsequently, the next segment of the show was particularly challenging and unique. The storyline was a rehearsal – an “on-field” rehearsal. In it’s simplest form, the supporting musical idea was to repeat a passage 3 times in order to facilitate a visual representation of “cleaning” the drill and music. As a composer, I was forced to put on my visual designer hat and think practically; we needed some sort of “turn-around” so that marchers could reset to the initial form, but it had to be interesting and engaging. If I failed to keep the interest, this section would get very cliché – and sink from a GE perspective. Hopefully, we changed it up enough each time and the audience will benefit from both the repetition of the main phrase and the novelty in variations on the turn-around.

As a general rule, I have a “deep breath” section in each of my field shows. The next segment is the reflection of the day, as well as a hint of a love story. It evokes visions of dinner breaks at band camp, where the sun is low but still keeping things warm, band members are chatting, there’s a few “band romances” blossoming and everyone feels good about a hard day’s work. This is a chance for the audience to drop their shoulders and relax, just as the band would during their off-time.
The closing two segments are connected and the first is performed by the percussion. Programmatically, this segment represents the band deep in mental focus and preparation for their performance. Practically, the design team agreed that we needed to feature Roosevelt’s fabulous percussion section with some musical and melodic mallet and leg-drum work. We weren’t going for a “drum solo” here. Instead we wanted the percussion section to play by themselves and show off their musicality with vast dynamic range and melodic patterns. Plus, giving the winds a chop-break before the finale is always a good idea! The final segment is a reprise of the music from the earlier rehearsal segment. It’s my hope that the visual team will present this as a snapshot of the band’s performance of the same segment the audience saw earlier in the show. The music is slightly abbreviated and concludes with a triumphant resolution representing a successful endeavor for the band members.

This show has significant depth. The design team at Roosevelt has been growing together for a few years and it’s an absolute blast when we can work together on this project and provide a high level of sophistication to the overall design. In fact, it’s almost a microcosm of the shows concept, but lived out by the design team! I look forward to watching this concept/program evolve over the coming months, as well as Roosevelt’s high level of performance to bring it to life. I am very excited to have the opportunity to clinic Roosevelt’s band this fall. It will be the first time I will have ever met any of these others involved in this design. What a crazy world!

About GPG Music
Gary P. Gilroy Publications, Inc. is the premiere source for award-winning pageantry music and design for marching band. Over 40 years of competition-level experience are amassed to bring you maximum quality at maximum value. We are dedicated to providing reasonably-priced, custom compositions for all ability levels. Our balanced creative/educational focus will allow your band to reach its fullest potential based on the specific strengths of your ensemble.”

Steve Martin (ASCAP) has over 15 years of experience as a designer for marching band and drum corps, both visually and musically. He is Vice-President of Gary P. Gilroy Publications and coordinates the business and sales operations for the company. He is currently very active as a composer, drill designer, and clinician for high-school and college marching band, drum corps, winter percussion and winter guard.

Aaron Hines (ASCAP) has taught, arranged and designed for schools ranging from the middle school to collegiate level, as well as winter percussion and drum corps across the country. He is an active clinician throughout California, Nevada and Arizona. Aaron has music published through Gary P. Gilroy Publications, Center X Productions & Creative Solutions. Aaron also serves as Director and Percussion Caption Head for eNVision Performing Arts (Reno, NV), he is the Percussion Caption Head at McQueen High School (Reno, NV – 2009 State Percussion & Overall Band Champions) and is a percussion arranger and consultant for the University of Nevada, Reno. He is also an endorsed Pearl/Adams, Innovative Percussion, Evans & Sabian Artist”