Diamond Marching Band’s success fueled by innovative tech use
Temple University’s Diamond Marching Band is experiencing a run of great PR. Since September 2013, the band has marched on the set of Good Morning America, been praised in USA Today and Rolling Stone, appeared in Hollywood movies, and earned shout-outs from recording artists whose songs it covers.
The hot streak continued this October when The Philadelphia Inquirer published "Temple's Marching Band Makes Noise Nationally," complete with a photo gallery and video.
What brought the Inquirer to Main Campus to observe a rehearsal wasn't all the media buzz—it was the band's cutting-edge use of technology to learn the complex drills and musical arrangements that have become the ensemble's trademark.
Observers of the Diamond Marching Band (DMB) practicing this fall at the track behind Pearson and McGonigle Halls may have noticed members marching with iPads and smartphones in addition to instruments. Under the direction of Matthew Brunner, an assistant professor in Temple's Boyer College of Music and Dance and director of athletic bands, the DMB has been using an app called Drillbook Next that animates the movements of each individual down to the square foot, color-coded by instrumental section. They also use an app called forScore to share, annotate and record music, and a camera app to share images and videos for self-evaluation.
For an ensemble with 217 members—the largest in DMB’s 89-year history—that has to prepare a new halftime program from scratch in only six rehearsal sessions, every edge helps.
"The iPads have exponentially increased the speed at which we can learn a drill," said DMB drum major Kevin Rothenberger, Class of 2015. "They help us drum majors because now we can have the full score right in front of us instead of having to print out what could be a 10- or 11-page score."
With the help of the apps, the DMB can edit even the trickiest routines on the fly. While rehearsing a formation depicting hammers striking a stylized head (to the tune of Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer"), Brunner realized that eyebrows would make the face more expressive. He made a change using the app, and groups of students forming eyebrows were added only days before the show.
Brunner, who acquired iPads for drum majors and section leaders with the help of a technology grant from Temple Computer Services, says that students are having fun with the tech—but it's not a gimmick.
"Our goal at Boyer is to do everything we can to improve the teaching, learning and performance experiences," Brunner said. "Many people don't realize that the Diamond Marching Band is a for-credit class that includes students from every school and college on campus. The students work hard and have high standards. This technology helps them learn creative new things and perfect them quickly. With the number of people who see the DMB every year, it is important that we represent the university with a positive and memorable show."
The band's next performance will be at this Friday evening's home football game against Memphis at Lincoln Financial Field. The DMB also will perform a free indoor concert at the Temple Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Nov. 8, at 1 p.m.
Want to help make the band larger and louder? Funds are being raised to purchase five new mellophones for the brass section. Read more and contribute at giving.temple.edu/DMBmellophones.