Brief introduction: I played bass trombone in the MMB from 2002-2006 and was in the hockey pep band each year as well. While I can't take full credit for it, because it was a collaborative effort, I was instrumental in getting the Monty Python show on the field and wrote some of the script for it. My contributions here will probably be band-related; I do closely follow the sports, but I don't know enough of the nitty gritty that can't already be found all over the interwebs. (Band-related and biased, because what kind of Michigan fan would I be if I weren't arrogant and dismissive? For starters, script Ohio is boring, and "Eat Em Up" is a high school cheer.) Now it's time for content with dramatic hyperbole in the title:
THE UNPREDICTABLE FUTURE OF THE MICHIGAN MARCHING BAND:
Shoes To Fill For 2007!
Even though it's the off-season, the Michigan Marching Band staff are busy conducting a job search of their own. A few weeks ago director Jamie Nix announced that he will be pursuing his doctoral studies at the University of Miami. Part of the reason for his departure is that his wife is in her medical school residency down there. She was last year, too, but he said they would "try things out for a year."
Before Nix, both of the previous directors were only around for two years, so the program was plagued by instability since the early 90s. Nix brought a youthful vitality -- he was 29 -- to the position seemingly unmatched by his predecessors. While he had no(t much?) directorial experience, he had enough raw talent to compensate. He wrote shows that covered the whole spectrum, from crowd-pleasing songs that catered to the students and alumni to an appropriate mix of classical shows to upstage opposing bands. And of course, he had the courage to attempt a skit show for the first time in 20 years (which I must say was an astounding success).
The job was posted and applications were accepted until last week. Director of Bands Prof. Michael Haithcock will be reviewing the candidates and narrowing the field. Two years ago when they hired a new assistant director, they had an open session in Revelli Hall where he conducted a small ensemble from the music school and then had a Q&A session with whoever wanted to attend. It sounded like this process will be similar.
What will the new director be like? Haithcock said they're searching for someone with connections to the program, who has either marched in the band or been on staff at some point. They want a Michigan Man (or woman!) who will keep the fine traditions and not come in and change things around to fit their own goals.
I can't fault Nix at all for leaving. He clearly loved his job here, but it's a decision he had to make in the interest of his family. I do hope they find someone who leads with a similar style. Even if he's not as young, the students enjoyed having an approachable figure in front of them, and could easily be put off by a stodgy older person.
Of course, the band is bigger than one man. Even if 2007 proves to be a difficult year of transition and adjustment for the members, the end product will be the same excellence we have all come to expect. The members will produce nothing less. It doesn't matter who is on the ladder; I just hope he conducts The Victors at a more reasonable tempo.