Band Director Sets High Expectations

Beat it The drumline lays down a beat as the Washburn University Marching Blues practice their halftime show during band camp. The camp went from Aug. 16-20.

Brian Dulle

Getting involved, supporting other students and colleagues and getting educated is all part of the college experience according to Mark Norman, who is about to go into his third year as the director of bands at Washburn University.

Norman’s primary job is to oversee all of the different bands at Washburn.

The main purpose of the marching band and the pep band is to support the athletic department.

“These two groups are there to support the teams, to provide great entertainment to the crowd and to help rally forces, a lot of cheerleading in other words,” said Norman.

Marching band is in the fall and is open to anybody at the university, pep band at the other hand is smaller and a person has to audition to be in the pep band along with the 30 other people in the band.  The pep band plays at all of the basketball games, in between the games as well, which equals out to 30 to 40 performances a year.

Marching band already has over 100 students, making it larger than last year and Norman is hoping to continue having both music and non music majors involved as well as bringing back the color guard program that dissolved four to five years back.

“The future of the band looks really good”, said Norman.

Norman said the other thing that the marching band is doing differently is playing a different show at every game so that there is different music for people to listen to.

“It’s going to be a very entertaining group,” said Norman.

The concert bands are different compared to the marching and pep bands.  They are primarily sit down groups that play cutting edge literature.  The Wind Ensemble is an audition group and is open for anyone to audition for it.  According to Norman it is supposed to represent the best Washburn University has.

“We have been recognized nationally for having the best, said Norman, This group is an award winning and very serious group.  We bring in lots of composers, we premiere pieces, we perform pieces and it is really the cutting edge of music.”

Norman said the biggest plan they have as of all the bands this year is their Wind Ensemble which was selected to perform at the College Band Directors National Association South West Conference.

“There were 23 ensembles that applied, they only took seven and we happened to be one of the seven and were the only group from Kansas that was selected, so we are traveling to San Antonio, Texas in March to play that concert,” said Norman.

Norman said that the music is about the student.

“Our first consideration is the education of the student,” said Norman.

The university band is in the spring and is open to all students and requires no audition to be in the group.

“If you’ve ever played an instrument and you want to continue playing, then you can join,” said Norman.

Norman said the biggest change this year in the bands is how they organize the faculty and the staff for the bands.

“Now being the director of bands I will oversee all those bands and make sure that they are consistently organized.

Instead of hiring a new athletic band director, after Keith Mallory was no longer with the university due to an incident back in January, they have hired an assistant director of bands, who will be overseeing the marching band and pep band but also will be conducting some concert bands as well.

Sarah Labovitz will be the first and new assistant director of bands.  Labovitz taught as an adjunct professor last year and is getting her doctorate degree at the University of Kansas.

“Sarah is really a terrific director and will be leading all the on field rehearsals for the marching band, said Norman, it’s really the organization from the faculty point that has changed.”

Norman said the bands first goal is to sound great and have fun sounding great and that it stays true for all the bands but especially the marching band.

“I think the audience at football games this year will be real excited at what is planned and again the music will change pretty much at every game, said Norman.  There will be a lot of variety and I think the audience will have a lot of fun watching and listening to the band.”

People may often ask the question, “why is music important?”  Norman said that the answer to that question lies in a line by Wynton Marsalis who said “music is important because it makes you a better person.”

“I can’t think of anything more that is true about that line because it really does make you a better person, said Norman.  To be involved in music and becoming educated but also using that education all at the same time.”

Norman said that from a music major point of view, these are the things that will help train that person to be able to do what they need to do when they leave college.

“It’s one thing to play solos and play music by yourself, said Norman.  Making music with other people is where you get some of the greatest awards and there is just something very special when a group of people come together to produce this type of product.”

Norman said that for the college students that are not music majors and for those that are, it is part of the college experience.  To get involved in the school, get involved in its programs and get out there and support fellow students, colleagues, and to use the gifts that have been acquired or built over time and to use it for the school but at the same time it is just fun.

“Live in all these opportunities because once you leave college, unfortunately a lot of these opportunities will be a lot harder to find.”