Keith Anderson, AMEA Techology Chair

Improving Show Design with Virtual Collaboration

As we begin to look toward the end of the spring semester, you might be beginning to put some thoughts together concerning your fall marching show. Whether you’re still in the brainstorming stage, or your concept is already decided and it’s time to get started with the actual creation of the show elements, there’s a good chance that regardless of the size of your program, there’s at least one other person that will have some role to play in bringing that show to life on the field besides you, the director. Whether you’ve got a staff member for every section in your band (don’t we wish!) or it’s just you and a college buddy, you’re going to have to collaborate with them to make sure everyone is on the same page, working to achieve your goals for your band.

Thankfully, technology makes collaborating more efficient whether it’s between two people or twenty people. The Google suite of online products is a great way to get started with some basic collaborative tools to help you communicate with your staff and make sure your show achieves its design potential. Try these suggestions with your group to help streamline the design process and keep communication flowing smoothly throughout the season.

Create a Google doc and make sure all stakeholders in the design and/or instructional process have access to it and can edit it. Start with using it as a virtual poster board to which everyone can add their ideas. If you’ve got a concept in mind, put that at the top and let everyone contribute music ideas that come to mind and encourage them to post links to the arrangements that can be purchased or even to YouTube videos if you plan to have it arranged for you. Let your auxiliary instructor(s) paste links to uniform ideas that they think support the theme. If a separate drill writer is being hired, include

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him or her on the document as well so visual ideas can be included from the early stages.

Once you have music selected, use Google sheets to “storyboard” your show. Whether your show intends to tell a story, or it’s just great music with a common theme, put your ideas down for what you see happening in each song and maybe even from moment to moment in your show. Do you want the band standing still from measures 24-32? Are you thinking about inserting a 16 count pit transition between these two songs?


equipment ideas do you or your guard instructor have for this song? All of these parts of show design are what we do every year regardless of style of show; getting everyone on the same design page at each step of the process can be a lifesaver when trying to put together all the moving parts in the most effective way possible.

And don’t forget the input from your students! Google forms make it easy to collect data when needing to ask students almost anything. Are you planning to have a featured soloist or small ensemble during the show? Use a Google form to collect names of those who might be interested in auditioning. And while maybe outside the scope of show design, using Google forms for things like meal choices at the concession stand you plan to support at an away game, shirt sizes for those show shirt orders, or nominating representatives for competition award ceremonies can be a big time saver. Post a linked QR code around your band room and the students can scan on their smartphones and fill it out in a manner of minutes.

Once the design process is done and your rehearsal, performance, and competition season begins, use a Google doc or sheet to keep everyone informed about your

upcoming rehearsal plans, especially those after-school rehearsals when that might be the only time additional staff can be there to assist. You can even share that rehearsal plan with your students!

And speaking of sharing with your students, create a Google classroom to use as a resource throughout the season. Post videos of rehearsals and/or performances and include a Google form for each student to fill out with areas they think sound/look good and areas that need improvement. Assign video pass- offs that can be uploaded from a smartphone and graded quickly.

Just like the band programs across our state, there is not a “one size fits all” technology tool that works for everyone. If you have a system that works for you and your program, by all means, keep it up, and be sure to share that with other directors! But hopefully, all of us are continually reflecting on our teaching practices and searching for ways to improve, whether that be how to get our clarinets to get those throat tones to sound better, or how to make sure we stay “on task” with our goal of a cohesive theme in our fall productions. Hopefully, these suggestions will help everyone find a way to make their jobs a little easier, which is always a good thing no matter what season we find ourselves in.

Keith Anderson serves as AMEA Technology Chair. He is Director of Bands at James Clemens High School.


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