Marching Band Knows No “Off-season”

If you’re from Central New York, you know how the saying goes: “There are only two seasons here – winter, and construction” (anyone who has tried to drive on 81-North lately will completely agree). Personally, I also know only two seasons: marching band season, and getting-ready-for-marching-band season.

While my dinkles sit in my closet, quietly gathering dust during what some may call “the off-season,” my brain is constantly in marching band-mode. As a second-year drum major for the SUMB, I use the summer to get a jump start on everything we’ll be doing this Fall 2010 season, from band camp teaching techniques to music for our Earth, Wind and Fire halftime show.

My mom and I during one of the SUMB's 2009 Quad Show performances.

This fall, I’ll be a senior music education major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, and I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to augment my education by actually arranging music for the SUMB. Last summer, I arranged our Fall 2009 Brazilian Show, which we performed with  Samba Laranja, Syracuse University’s own Brazilian Ensemble. This year, I’m stretching my arranging capabilities in another direction by writing the Earth, Wind and Fire halftime show (which we’ll be performing on September 18th and 25th). The show opens with In the Stone, followed by September. We close with my favorite – Boogie Wonderland – which I’m just finishing up now (Trumpets- you guys like to play really high notes, right?).

Aside from my personal role as part-time arranger, I’m also working with the other drum majors this summer on material for the SUMB Band Camp. Every year around July, Section Leaders receive the official SUMB Leadership Handbook, which contains procedures for teaching every marching fundamental, as well as instruction on how to efficiently read and set drill, communicate with other Section Leaders, and more. It’s the drum majors who write and revise this handbook. This year, we are emphasizing assessment procedure – what to look for when assessing rookies’ mastery of a marching fundamental, and how to correct any errors that are observed.

We’ve also been brainstorming ideas for the schedule and content of Leadership Camp (the two days preceding Band Camp, where we essentially teach the Section Leaders how to teach rookies). These ideas will be finalized when we meet with the marching band staff the week prior to Leadership Camp. I’ve also been teaching Sam and Mary (our two new drum majors!) some of the traditional choreography we use when conducting the pre-game show, and as soon as scores and MIDI-files of our halftime shows are finished, we will begin the arduous process of analyzing, conducting and memorizing each show.

Recently, I’ve also been helping to put together the SUMBlog, and am thrilled to write one of the first student posts! I am looking forward to another season of all the SUMB has to offer: high quality musicianship, precise marching maneuvers and that intangible sense of camaraderie that makes the SUMB distinct from any other organization on campus. I have no doubt that Fall 2010 will be a bittersweet semester, as I conduct my last games as a drum major and prepare to say good-bye to the organization that has become an inextricable piece of my college experience. Until then, however, I still have plenty of work to do to ensure that 2010 will see the best SUMB yet!


Ashley L Smith
Drum Major, 2009 – 2010

Ashley can be reached via email at


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