By Matthew Smith
Seattle Cascades
Anyone who has ever been in a high school or college marching band knows how much attention goes to getting the fine details "money." Marching in drum corps this past summer really helped me out in more than enough ways to better understand how to get the details in my own personal playing fine tuned, as well as band programs that I work with.

Matt Smith
One of my major issues with band is that minimal attention is given to tuning and or tone quality both on the individual and ensemble performance level. Sure there are those programs like Marian Catholic HS (Ill.), Lassiter (Ga.), L.D. Bell (Texas), and Lawrence Central (Ind.), to name a few, that really display this maximum level of tone production and symphonic sound at the high school level. But the truth of the matter is, not enough groups are there yet. I myself am guilty of rushing my own rehearsals to try to get the music done, but I am finding out, it's not worth the struggle it causes in the end, when the kids realize they can't play in tune, or listen throughout the ensemble. Coming back from tour, I was given the chance to listen to some high school groups, and my ears were ringing and my face almost turned over. It wasn't until then that I realized how much drum corps improved my listening skills. The hours spent on long tone and Remington exercises really improved aural skills; and other things that you just might not learn in your average ear training/sight-singing classes. I'm not even sure if I can adjust fully to the quality that some of the groups give, but wow! There is a distinct difference in the approach. While I listened to these various bands, I thought to myself, "What if they spent the extra 30 minutes working on fundamentals instead of playing a pep or show tune?" From then, I decided that I would add this to the list of things to do as a future music educator. While learning show music, and pep tunes is fun, if you can't play in tune, or in "tone" as an individual or ensemble, you really haven't met the full requirement. Drum corps has made me more of a "perfectionist" than I already am; I'm so anal retentive to the point, I will start a piece over when the small details such as tone start to take their toll. I appreciate the hard work and effort that my brass caption head, Steve Menefee, went through with us this past summer, to make sure that our tone quality had improved. It wasn't just benefiting me, it has also helped the other members. I would hope that those who are aspiring music educators are bringing back what they learned and improved on this summer, and sharing that with their kids as well. This in return will help the corps, as well as raise the bar on our music programs in schools. The important thing is to spend time working on basics, don't rush to play the music. It isn't until you understand the basic fundamentals, until you are ready to play the good stuff ... MUSIC!