What was different in GPMB 2011?
GPMB 2011 is finished again, time to look at things that were remarkable in the performances of the participating bands or corps. This year’s participation was smaller in number of bands, some saying due to the Government’s decision to close books for local governments on December 15. That decision should have made it impossible for local governments to financially support participating bands and therefore many bands did not have the funds to come to Jakarta.
I don’t believe this reasoning because that decision was taken somewhere in October while bands should have been preparing for GPMB a long time before.
Although the number of participants was only fifteen the spectators have seen good shows and an increase in overall quality compared to previous years.
The adaptation of the Competition Manual of Drum Corps Europe has been a good choice for GPMB, almost all rules and regulations were adopted except for the time penalties and size of the field.
The size of the field needs no discussion, Istora is about 4 times smaller than the soccer fields DCE is using. Should it be an idea to have GPMB outdoors?
In 2011 DCE has decided to remove all penalties during the performances, corps get a 17 minute slot to do their performance including set up, march in and march off. If their show is only 2 minutes long it’s their own choice, it will certainly not be enough to show any content to the judges and scores will be low.
This year GPMB accepted also a rule that will be discussed heavily amongst instructors and marching enthusiasts, electronics. Many will say that electronics will change the fundamentals of marching band music, others will argue that we cannot stop innovation. Bands of America (BOA) allows electronics since 1993, DCE tried out electronics in 2007 for DCI and since 2009 electronics were allowed in DCI although limited to the front ensemble only. In 2011 DCE decided that all electronic devices could be used on the field, without any limitations. The current European Champions from the United Kingdom named “The Company” showed how effective the use of electronics can be, their show was wonderful and made people cry in the stands. It’s all a question of balance between the normally used instruments, keyboards, voices and other effects. Judges will absolutely not allow that electronic instruments are used to cover up for missing or weakly executed voices in the horn line. The decision to allow electronics in GPMB came late and most bands were not prepared but better a late decision than no decision at all. I think that Sangkakala has shown in GPMB finals how electronics can be a positive addition to a show, excellent job! I’m sure next year many bands will use guitars, keyboards and such to add color to their music, within a couple of years everybody will say that it was a good decision.
Another new thing in GPMB was the “pre-show” from Bontang Pupuk Kaltim, instead of a traditional warming up they performed a nice piece of music and drill. I thought that the quality of PKT’s pre-show was even better than their judged show, you’re leading the way PKT, thanks.
Pre-shows are common practice in DCI because the instructors have learned that a traditional warming up at the field has no added value for stamina or embouchure. They better make a good first impression on the judges and audience by performing a daring show before judging starts.
Some bands in Indonesia are having such a bad warming up on the field that it risks to negatively influence the judges, false chords and weaknesses of some horn lines are made visible even before the show starts. Not very smart of their instructors although judges are ordered to neglect the warming ups their attention will certainly be affected.
For the first time GPMB had a showcase. The winners of the individual and ensemble contest performed during the break after Finals. All these fine musicians did their competition before small audiences and should be honored for their hard work. Now they received the possibility to show their skills before a big audience. Let this be the beginning of encouragement for individual performers and ensembles, they are great and we hope to have more spectators next year. I’m sure that many people regret not to have witnessed the individual and ensemble competition after having seen the showcase. There are many good performers in Indonesian units but they need more exposure, finally they got it.
What was gone was the use of big properties such as moving stages, a development I’m happy with. Those big properties are making the very small floor of Istora even smaller, no space to march and show your visual capabilities to the audience and the judges. I still don’t understand why some bands with 100 members are putting their markers 3 or 4 meters inside the field. Your scores for all visual captions will be affected with you only moving a bit with very small steps! Yes, I know that your practice field is smaller than Istora but please find a solution when you want your visual scores to go up. In the introduction I suggested that GPMB should be organized outside on a football pitch, there you will need to work on bigger displays and a better projecting horn line to be seen and heard. Performing on bigger fields will create new challenges and making the possibility to give your displays more depth. Using big backdrops and stages will not be a problem on a big field.
For next year it is suggested that lines and markers will be provided be the organization, spaces between the lines is 5 yards (4,55 meters) No more markers from the bands, now after GPMB the whole floor is full of stickers and even written marks, shame! Why do those bands think that they can write with markers on the expensive wooden floor of Istora, who’s paying when the floor needs to be cleaned? I propose that the bands will receive a penalty in points or even in money when additional markers are used.
More and more bands/corps are using a concept for their show, not only putting a number of isolated songs together but telling a story. That’s a positive development, judges are encouraging this type of shows for a number of reasons. First, telling a story is more interesting for the members and the audience. Second, students will better learn to express the intention of the songs, sad or happy, and that will make them better musicians and performers. Third, telling a real story needs creativity from the design team and the performers. Fourth, it gives the judges a better possibility to see if members are well trained. BCK Riau did a great job in Finals with their Harry Potter show, they where only outperformed by the individual qualities and the musical content of PKT’s show. I’m sure that the members from BCK Riau have had a good time learning their show, loads of fun and good moments makes practice lighter. That’s where our activity is about, education of students but still having a good time.
Looking at lower placed bands we still see that the instructors lack a good understanding of modern show design, thinking that adding many kinds of flags and other props will hide their lack of skills. Again, “less is more” when we talk about flags. Running guard members that need to pick up new flags or to be in position again are very disturbing for your visuals. Please try to use just one type of equipment in a song, don’t change every moment because it does not make any sense. Even worse, some guards changed flags and left the band alone on the field without any visual support. Do your instructors really think that the re-entry of the guard gives that many credits that the judges forgot you left the band “naked” on the field? Many bands start their show with very small props, changing after 4 or 8 measures, what’s the purpose? Your show is disturbed from the very first beginning by changing properties! Those disturbing transitions are caused by improper planning of the design team, they don’t work together in planning a complete show from the start. Most bands start out with songs, later followed by the display and in the end by the color guard moves. How can you make an integrated product if the elements are not planned together, at the same time, before members start learning the show? Remember the 5 P’s; Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performances.
Just choose a concept, what kind of music do want to play? A theme show or classical, jazz, contemporary, original or copied from other competitions? Develop the music with input of the drill designers and the color guard instructors. Music as well as visuals should be “tailor made” for the corps/band, should be challenging and varied.
Make a “story board” about the things you want to express, musically as well as visually.
Plan emotional effects such as a climax or anticlimax, musically and visually, there should be around 20 in a show. Not all of them will work because the judges and/or the audience will not understand when it’s poorly developed and executed.
Make a proper time schedule with deadlines, a target without deadline is only a wish! Show should be ready one month before GPMB in order to have some slack and time for cleaning the details.
Develop schedules for rehearsals and let every instructor sign that he or she agrees. When do you work on basic techniques for music, display and guard? When do you have sectionals? When do you start the first song? When do you start the first display rehearsal? What should the color guard use as equipment? Do not agree to wishes of instructors to make many changes before the story book is finished. Many times visual instructors want to add color and props without thinking how those added elements are going to be brought on and off the field, that’s the reason for all those disturbing transitions! It’s not only their fault, many times they were not involved in the planning of the music and display because everyone works for themselves. When you have your storyboard and planning ready you will know far ahead that you’re lacking time.
Contract your instructors and put penalties in their contracts, many instructors in Indonesia work for several units and run out of time when GPMB is nearing. Result: show not ready and everybody stressed! Better is even to have exclusive contracts with instructors, forbidding them to work with other units. I know I will not make many friends amongst the Indonesian instructors with my statement but it’s the only way forward. For supporters a band/corps can lose the competition, for me only instructors can lose. The students in the bands never lose, if they place lower than expected it’s the instructor’s and organization’s fault. Students are only executing what they have learned from the instructors. When a band wins it’s the students that won, not the instructors. Why some bands always do good and others always less than expected? Do people think that the successful bands have only talented students and others only “dummies”? Impossible, in general the students from lower placed units are as talented as the students from successful ones. The difference is that the successful bands are better organized and are better trained. A big role is also expected from parents and schoolteachers, nowadays many parents are too protective and think that school results will be affected by that many rehearsals and though discipline. It’s a proven fact that students marching in a well organized and instructed band do better in class than those not marching! The students marching will develop social skills that others are lacking, working in groups, leadership, music, dance, body control, communication and showmanship. As the Indonesian school system is pointed towards academic knowledge only that part of the brain is developed in school. Our students need more than that, they need guts to perform in public, stamina to go after targets, leadership and knowledge of arts such as music, dance and colors. That will make them better people and more ready to face the world when they start their career.
Having said that, the complete judging team was surprised to see that all performances in Finals were better than in Preliminaries. The big question is why? I think the answer is a lack of mental preparation. The students are stressed after a long rehearsal period where they had to finish their show. They are not yet confident their show will be well received by the judges, the students are shy to perform in front of so many people. Most of them did not get enough sleep after try-out rehearsals in Istora. In short: lack of proper preparation.
Why not performing the show at home before all fans and parents that stay home? Makes the students more confident. Why not participating in local or regional contests in order to train the students to perform before judges? Why doing so many rehearsals in Istora, if your show is ready you don’t need to make your students tired. Building confidence for the students is done during the complete season, when the band is ready to perform the students will feel at ease and do a better job.
Please don’t forget that you are playing before an audience that pays fairly high ticket prices, making an event as GPMB financially possible. Imagine how good your show in Finals could have been when your students were performing better in Preliminaries.
Competition in Asia is different from Europe and the States, here the bands come to a Championship with a show never tried out before a judging team. In Western countries the corps do many judged shows, receiving input of the judges and are able to adjust their performance. During the 2011 season all DCI corps changed their shows during the season, some of them for more than 50%
If we want to improve the quality of the Indonesian bands we should think about a circuit where bands are meeting the judges several times before coming into GPMB. They will have the time to improve their show, add new displays and build confidence for the students.
I estimate that the top five units from GPMB can break into DCE finals in Europe and the top 2 can perform in the Open Class Finals of DCI. World Class standards are still far away and will probably not be possible in the future. That’s not a shame, World Class corps are completely different organizations as those in Asia. Top 12 corps do auditions, only the most talented students will make the corps. Most of them come from entirely different places all over the world, they travel together during 2 months and practice 12 hours a day to improve their skills and show. That level will never be acheived by European and Asian units due to a different holiday schedule, lack of competition and possibilities for fund raising. Students marching in top 12 corps in DCI pay between 2,000 and 2,300 US$ tour fees, besides all costs of travelling for winter camps, housing and pocket money. Some parents hire private teachers to teach their kids music during the off season.
Looking at the South East Asian bands the Indonesians will be amongst the best together with the Thais, Malaysia is still trailing but catching up rapidly. It should be interesting to see how Sultanah Asma, the Malaysian champions, will do in GPMB. The Thais are highly skilled but lack creativity and musicianship, they copy too much from DCI and a copy is never as good as the original.
Nevertheless in the more than 20 years that I have been involved in the Indonesian marching activity we have come a long way. The activity has changed, more and faster drills, more difficult music, more dance, better equipment handling and more creativity have been leading to better shows.
Judging has changed from critical to positive, all comments meant to encourage improvement and higher quality. Almost all judges followed training by experienced DCE and DCI judges, the first training was done in Malaysia and all candidates paid their own fees and tickets, talking about dedication! I’m happy to see that the judging is better than before but there is still plenty of room for further improvement. The judging team is already evaluating their performances and planning to have meetings with instructors and corps directors to discuss openly about the judging system and the organization of programs. New Judges Colleges to train other judges are planned, don’t underestimate the heavy training aspirant judges have to follow. If we want to bring the activity to new standards we have to work together. Judges are not enemies that look at mistakes, they have to be teachers and counselors giving suggestions how to make better performances.
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