Bands and Acoustic Music…are they a thing of the past?

Today, there are billions of people across the world partying and having a good time listening to music. Whether it’s a Concert, DJ, iPod, or YouTube playlist, they are playing the latest pop hits, and the majority of this “hit” music is electronic based. This music is created with electronic sound modules; computer based “virtual instruments,” electric guitars, and has “processed” vocals. So is there still a place in the world for concert bands, and other forms of acoustic music? To explore this question, I went to see the Glendale Summer Band Perform.

Established in 1966, the Glendale Summer Band has been performing for 46 years! From high school students, to full time moms, to lawyers, it is a volunteer band whose members are as diverse as the community. The current Conductor, 77-year-old “John C. Faris” has directed the band for 19 years, and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. He said they average about 200 performers across the summer. On the night of June 14th, 2012 I did a ruff head count and came up with 126 people on the stage:

  • 10 Low Brass (Tubas), 15 Trombones
  • 23 Trumpets, 9 French Horns
  • 6 Alto Sax, 4 Tenor Sax, 2 Baritone Sax
  • 15 Flutes
  • 23 Bb Clarinets, 7 Bass Clarinets
  • 1 Timpani Player, 1 Bass Drum Player, 3 Snare Drum Players, 1 Cymbal Player, 3 Idiophone Players (Bells, Xylophones, percussion)
  • 1 Vocal Soloist, 1 Conductor, 1 Announcer

Glendale Summer Band - 2012

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With no amplification, this was more than enough people to provide a comfortable listening volume. According to the soundman, Alex Cozza, he used no microphones on the band. He just had a basic PA setup for the vocalist. The cement construction of the amphitheatre and the positioning of the performers was the only thing needed to project the sound to the audience. I verified this with a SPL meter as I walked around the site. I got from 82 to 103 db’s.  I was impressed, that with no electronics, they could still get loud enough to be heard from past the back row. It wasn’t a pop concert, but it was loud, and all of the seats were full. I also had a great time, and enjoyed the music. But is this enough to make it relevant to young listeners?

 

When I asked some of the people, in attendance, this is the response I got:

Me: “Do you think acoustic music is relevant today, or is it dying out”

 Lorene (16 year old flute player): Band music is definitely dying out; she said her friends would probably not come and watch a show like this.

 IO (16 year old trombone player): Yes [it’s relevant], but it is dying out. The more main street stuff is coming more into the light, pushing this kind of music back. It’s kind of sad, but that’s the age we live in.

 Samantha McLaughlin  (18 year old Clarinet Player): Yes, acoustic music does have a place in this world. Acoustic music allows her to express her emotions in the music that she plays.

Robert Rudy (Middle Aged – Clarinet Player / Band Director for Littleton School District): It [Band/acoustic music] has a place, but it’s getting harder to keep it in the school curriculum. If it doesn’t stay in school, it will die.

 Whether or not people find band music relevant, I do agree with Mr Rudy that it will die if it is removed from the school curriculum. The great thinkers of the ages considered music an important part of building character in a person. They trained their children in Art, Music, Math, Science, and Language. In 2008, psychologists at Vanderbilt University found that musicians are better at divergent thinking, and tend to have better IQ’s than non-musicians. They use both sides of their brain, and think differently than other people. This is supported by the young musicians that I interviewed: Samantha McLaughlin is in college studying to be a lawyer, IO want to be a lawyer, and Lorene wants to be a neonatal nurse. One of our greatest thinkers, Albert Einstein played the violin. So if we as a community do no support bands like this, and music programs in our schools, we will loose something of great value.

 

Complete Audio Recordings of Interviews

Robert Rudy – 1st Clarinet

Samantha McLaughlin – Bb Clarinet

IO – Trombone, Lorene – Flute

Alex Cozza – Sound Man

John C. Faris -Conductor

Josh – Alto Sax, Dominique – Trumpet, Megan – Trumpet

Audience Participation

Star Spangled Banner

 

 

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