Suggestion: Get students involved in the drum cheers. An advantage to the new location of the band is the students can now hear the drumline cheers. Coming up with unified chants/motions to accompany these drum cheers, which many sections in the band already do, could easily spread throughout the student section.
(This didn't happen at all, but that's not the point of this post. It was nice to still have the drumline "featured" at the end of the first quarter, but it did nothing to unify the students. I had to listen to the drums to identify most of the songs; this means they should've been used more.)
This is indicative of a problem that emerged this year: The students can't hear the band. Some were quite turned off by this, as evidenced by these MGoBlog comments from Matt K:
Putting the band in the student section was a great big middle finger to the students. With the band opposite the students, the entire north end was loud and intimidating. I remember when the band pointed at the MSU huddle in OT in 04 and played the Victors continuously through a timeout. That was f-ing AWESOME. 2 other band related complaints: They're playing the Victors more slowly under the new director. And they're not nearly playing loud enough. I was sitting not that far behind the band on Saturday and I couldn't hear them even a little bit. OSU's band sounded like it was playing 4 inches from my face. It's not the band's fault as I understand it, but it's got to change. In terms of improving game-day atmosphere the band fell far short this year.Not good: The students beyond row 50 can't hear the band. Unfortunately the decision to move the band was out of the band's control, and comes from the fact that the seats across the stadium sell for more than seats in the student section. Their PR answer was "student unity," and letting the southern half of the stadium hear the band better, but what good does that do? They didn't cheer any louder. The students need to hear the band as much as possible. His comments also suggest that the changes to the tempo and volume of the performances, Victors included, are drastic enough that "outsiders" are piping up about it.
On Tempo: I disagree that the Victors needs to change back to its Nix-inspired tempos. His unbridled enthusiasm affected the tempo at which the fight song was played, so not only was it very fast, but it fluctuated depending on the excitement of the play that inspired it. Some see this simply as his wielding of the Victors as a weapon to be used how he pleases. That's understandable. However, I think it should be rigorously maintained at the same tempo, and that tempo should be something close to the current one. The Victors should be above modifications to fit the needs of the crowd.
It's possible the students may just want a faster tempo because they can't hear the current one, which inevitably ends with them rushing three or four full beats ahead of the tune by its conclusion, and assuming they are correct. When they can hear it, they stay with it. This is why the band should be facing the student section in the stands, instead of facing away from them.
On Volume: Dynamic contrasts are important to the general effect of a show. A band that can perform a broad range of styles and intensities benefits from such versatility, which is essential for marching bands on the competitive circuit. Michigan football, however, is not the competitive circuit. It is 110,000 people who are probably not paying attention to the band. From what I've heard from shows this year, as well as comments left on this blog, is that the sound is being explicitly suppressed in the interest of such contrasts and "quiet sections." Again, this has its place; that place is not halftime in Michigan Stadium.
There is a simple fix for all of these problems: Play louder. We know it is possible; it's not like all the volume graduated last year. Playing louder would allow more of the students to hear the band, let them stay together on the Victors, and allow everyone to enjoy more of the halftime performances. The MMB did sound more balanced and rounder this year but it was at a significant and noticeable expense of volume. Row 80 does not care about legatos and mezzo pianos. Row 80 only cares about why their faces aren't being peeled off by the first note of M Fanfare.
George Cavender said it best: MORE DAMN SOUND.