January 1, 2019

Marching bands are extreme


I just watched "Marching Orders," a documentary about the Bethune-Cookman Marching Wildcats, on Netflix. If you want an inspiring show about kids with the passion to try harder, this is it.

Marching bands, like step dancing, are a big deal at historically black colleges. Several movies have been made about them or include them. "Drumline" and "Head of State" come to mind. None of these movies are blockbusters, though. They made a modest of money but not enough to demand serious support from Hollywood.

Netflix is introducing marching bands to a much wider, mainstream audience. And that's a good thing. Black culture deserves recognition and support from America as a whole. Black marching bands have been around for a century, but ESPN did not begin broadcasting their events, mainly Battle of the Bands, until just recently.

"Now, wait a minute," you say, "marching bands have been recognized for eons. Just look at the band programs at the University of Texas and University of Michigan."

Sure, bands have been on the field almost as long as football. But there is a huge difference between the traditional, corps-style bands at predominantly white colleges and the marching bands of historically black colleges.

That difference comes down to showmanship. Black bands have pushed the genre's limits, creating a higher level of musicianship, athleticism, and artistry.

Marching bands and copywriting

Marching bands and writing have nothing in common, right?

I sit on my arse all day, clicking the keyboard. I'm not lugging a 50-lb tuba (more accurately, a sousaphone) in the sweltering heat, high-stepping to precision choreography. I'm not doing splits in a sexy outfit with the 14Karat dance squad. And there is no way I could spin a flag well enough to be on the color guard.

No, I am an overaged, overweight white lady who, as Riley Smiley says,  would leave my seat during halftime to get nachos. And use the bathroom. Heck, I wouldn't even go to a football game in the first place.

But yeah, I get it. The Bethune-Cookman Marching Wildcats consistently outdo other marching bands because they consistently put in more effort. Talent is just the starting point. Winning competitive band events comes down to having the drive and passion to outwork everyone else.

Bethune-Cookman's band director, Donovan Wells, defined it: "Being the best is doing what no one else is willing to do."

So yes, I spend 80% of my time either copywriting or learning about copywriting. The other 20% I spend watching Netflix and YouTube videos.

Thank you, Bethune-Cookman, for inspiring me. To use your school catchphrase, "Hail Wildcats."

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