A Working Vacation

I know.  I hear you. I understand. But let’s face reality ladies and gentlemen–this broad does not know HOW to slow down!  I have two speeds—full out and off.  There really is no in between for me.  Sort of like a puppy–go, go, go, go, CRASH!  Frankly I wouldn’t have it any other way either.  I could have spent my holiday break sitting around, watching Netflix, puttering around the house, etc.  But why do that when you spend 10 days on the road with some of the most incredibly special people in this business called music education?!  So off I went.

First stop:  New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl

I am not a stranger to this particular event–I have been an assistant director on and off for it since the late 1990’s.  The “off” years were for silly things like two Tournament of Roses Parades, one “tiny” trip to Ireland, and my very first ever vacation to Trinidad/Tobago.  They all were pretty good reasons to skip out of “bowling.”  🙂

This year my return to the the land of Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street was slightly different.  It was my debut as at the helm as the halftime massed band director and guest conductor.  Time to put on my big girl panties and drive the boat!  Now what this all entails is simply to understand if one is familiar with Band Day at the University of Delaware.  13-16 high school bands + 100 or so dancers = 1500-2000 performers on the field in the Superdome.  The only things different are 1) two 3-hour rehearsals instead of one 90-minute rehearsal, and 2) UD isn’t staged in a grid to hold it all together.  Success depends up on the preparation of the high school bands, and this year THEY ROCKED IT!

I got to “hang” with some pretty special people those 4 days—


  •   Jeremy Earnhart
  •   Peter Wolfe
  •   James Thomas
  •   (me)
  •   Lauren Heller

We ate lots, laughed more and had a fantastic time working with some truly wonderful bands. It was over before we blinked but a great time was had by all.

Second stop:  Miami and the BCS National Title Game

The morning after the conclusion of the Sugar Bowl (can you say HOLY LOUISVILLE?!) while everyone else headed home I took a side trip to Miami to catch up another group of wild and crazy folk to do something the same, but different.  I was again, heading up the massed halftime finale but this was the second part to a larger component of the week.  Bowl Games of America decided to create a new event within the structure of their already successful bowl game programs: the All-Star Invitational Marching Band.  This was a select group of high school students who were put together as an honor band.  Their role: a 4 minute PREGAME show!  Music AND drill.  This group was led by Dr. Ken Dye (Notre Dame—he had quite a bit to do this week!), Barry Bernhardt (FIU), Jim Hudson (ASU), Norm Ruebling (former U. Missouri), and Wes Cartwright (Broken Arrow HS / SCV).

The first 2 days were all about the All-Star group getting ready for their inaugural performance.  On day 3 I got to come out a play!  We put the All-Star band together with Lancaster High School (from Virginia) to create a band of approximately 350 with dancers.  While this is tiny compared to what we had at the Sugar Bowl it was not a concern…..because we added the Miami Sound Machine to the mix!


Two rehearsals with the combined group (3 hours on day 1 and 2 hours on day 2) and we were set to go!

The weather has finally started to clear out….I hope the drizzle stays away from game time but it is Florida and one never knows what Mother Nature will do.  I’ll be heading over to the Sun Life Stadium with the crew below in a few hours and we’ll get to see one of the most hyped games of the year!


(left to right:  Norm Ruebling, Jim Hudson, Wes Cartwright, me, Doug Green (our boss), Barry Bernhardt)

A special shout out to Doug Green and all the folks at WorldStrides Heritage Performance and Bowl Games of America!  I’ve worked with many organizations around this country and this is, by far, the most organized, most hospitable, most caring, and most professional group I’ve ever been honored to be part of.  I am looking forward to a long and wonderfully exciting future with them!

****The All-Star Invitational Marching Band is already booked for the 2014 Orange Bowl—-band directors, nominate your best students and get them out there with us!  It is a phenomenal experience and one that will change their lives as musicians AND people!!!*****