Chops Quarantine Q&A: Greenfield-Central HS Percussion Director Sean Widmer

Welcome back to the Chops blog. We know marching season is upon us, and there are a lot of questions about how groups are keeping their kids informed and prepared for the upcoming season. I would like to thank Sean for taking the time to answer a few questions about how things are currently going at Greenfield-Central. For more information on Sean, you can check out his bio here.

How have your kids gotten over the sting of indoor season ending prematurely? It’s been understandably difficult. It was even difficult to fully understand the impact in the following days. In these moments, it’s so important for people in jobs like mine to educate and remember that your students are watching you, AND watching you react. There are life lessons to be learned through this… Not taking things for granted. Not waiting to take care of something. Giving it your all every rehearsal. I hope more than anything our students at Greenfield-Central are ready to flip the script and turn a tough time in life into a better version of themselves, ready to tackle whatever is next in life because they won’t take it for granted.

Marching band drumline auditions would be beginning around this time, so how are you going about your audition process, and what about the virtual process makes this difficult? It’s important to recognize that students are usually very excited for the marching season, and probably have a big desire to get going. We have already started to creep into the start of the season by handing out a parade tune to learn and will be continuing by releasing their percussion packets. We will make ourselves available for online lessons and even create goals to keep students practicing. There are certainly difficulties, specifically in time available to see and hear students in person. However, there are going to be programs all across the country make it work and make it work well. What is most important is to keep them playing and to keep the feedback coming.

How has this time out of school impacted the recruiting process for the upcoming marching season? It is so much easier to convince a kid to come try something when you see them every day in class. We are always under the mindset of, “come try it and you’ll probably love it”. We just want to get the kids in the door because it’s a contagious group to be involved with and we know our upperclassmen will surround our new students with the fun and joy that makes them want to come back. We are anticipating similar numbers this year, but may need to exercise some more flexibility for the kids on the fence.

What do you have your kids doing at home to make sure they’re prepared when marching band season is allowed to start up? Our staff meets weekly to talk about challenges like this. Just today we were discussing ways to get them moving at home a bit to be more ready for the physical aspect of marching band. We rely heavily on our student leaders to set examples and even encourage kids in their sections, so they may be involved in developing a workout routine for everyone in the band!

Are you doing anything online with the visual side of things for your incoming rookies? I would think that would be the most difficult part of the process. It is going to be a very difficult part of this season! I would like to see us set everyone up with a great foundation before day 1 of in person rehearsals. This is how to stand, this is how to approach your instrument, this is how to mark time, etc. That way we can refine those skills quickly and take that really good foundation into marching fundamentals.

In what way will this downtime impact how you arrange for the group? I know the battery kids can practice on drums or pads, but this will be difficult for the front ensemble performers. Another good questions is “What can mallet players practice at home?” And the answer is LOTS! You can’t drive a corvette without an engine and a front ensembles engine is their chops. Four mallet drills on the floor and check patterns on practice pads go a long ways to be ready for what our marching band book will demand of them. Of course, we will never want to present our students with an unattainable book, but we will ALWAYS want to challenge them and push them to become better. I’m a firm believer in kids rising to the occasion and I know that as long as we keep working as individuals on our skills now, our 2020 marching band group will accomplish everything they want to this Fall! Maybe that means the first few weeks look different than in years past…but instructors should think about their students and what they can improve on now so they can get to other things later.

Thank you for your time, Sean. Be well and stay safe! Thank you to Derek, Chops Percussion, and Paige’s Music for all of your support of the Greenfield-Central Band! Stay healthy and stay positive everyone.

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