Wednesday, April 04, 2007

An uninformed analysis of MMB director candidates

The search for the next Michigan Marching Band director has been narrowed down to three finalists. Below is the text of the e-mail describing the candidates and the dates of their 'audition' in front of the students, as sent by Prof. Haithcock to students on 3/27.
Monday, April 9: Isaiah Odajima is currently assistant director of the Michigan State Marching Band. When you look past the color green and the MSU connection, you will remember his drill designs (think Homer's head). Numerous video submissions of marching shows from other applicants utilized his designs and he is viewed as one of the most creative experts in drill writing in the country. He knows the expectations and potential of major college athletic bands, including the MMB. Rivalry aside, MSU is a great collegiate marching band. Mr. Odajima went to MSU to work as an assistant director while working on his doctorate (which you can't do at UM). He is too smart to mingle traditions or make changes that you should fear. He is an excellent musician whom I have known for a decade as he studied with me while obtaining his masters degree at Baylor University. His personality is warm and engaging. He is married and has a four year old son.

Thursday, April 12: Scott Boerma is currently director of bands at Eastern Michigan University. Mr. Boerma is as nationally known in arranging as Prof. Nix and his arrangements were as equally present in the submissions of other applicants as Mr. Odajima's drill writing. He taught high school for many years and his work with the Madison Scouts was behind much of their musical success. He is a Michigan native who is known by every high school band director in the state. While EMU is in the MAC, the quality of his work both on that campus and through his national visibility makes him a strong candidate. Composition is something Mr. Boerma is increasingly interested in as he expands his creative horizons. If you have met him at an MMB rehearsal, you know he is very gregarious and outgoing. He and his wife Amy already live near Ann Arbor.

Monday, April 16: Craig Cornish is director of the marching band at Middle Tennessee State University, a position he has held since 2002. Prior to locating at MTSU, Mr. Cornish conducted the marching band at Nebraska for four years. Moving from Nebraska to MTSU appears an odd transition until you realize that Mr. Cornish left Nebraska of his own accord due the pitiful salary afforded him by the athletic department at that institution. One reference at Nebraska told me "our athletic director at the time paid Craig less than he paid the kids who pick up the towels the players drop." This is not an issue at UM as the salary for this position is both an endowed chair and supervised by the Dean of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance. Mr. Cornish taught public school music in Kentucky for fifteen years and his ensembles had outstanding success. He has won university wide teaching awards at both Nebraska and MTSU. His references suggest, "students will love his warmth and enthusiasm, plus he really knows how to motivate students to do better than their best." His resume shows the quality of his work in both drill design and arranging. In addition, the size and quality of the MTSU marching band is major even if the athletic conference is minor. Mr. Cornish would view this job as a "destination" job.
The candidates will be subjected to a rigorous interview process. This includes a "leadership forum" meeting with drum major, rank and section leader candidates, a teaching session with available students, an open forum for all students to ask questions, a time to fill out evaluations, and individual or small group meeting times. Additionally, each candidate will have to meet with the search committee, the dean of the School of Music, two meetings with Prof. Haithcock, several with the MMB staff, and a presentation to music students.

[edit: content deleted, 1984 big-brother style, because it's not worth having it up.]

But there we have it. Directors from MSU via Texas, MTSU via Nebraska, and EMU via Novi. A decision will be announced at the beginning of June.


Anonymous said...

Go Bo-erma! ;)

The only problem I see with Dr. Odie: that goatee looks airbrushed. Duder better shave.

scott said...

OK, but what is Odijama's buyout? Who is going to front the cash?

It's nice to see the kids in the band are more involved in the process than we were when I was in band.

Jeremy said...

How did it work then, Scott?

scott said...

I was there in the late 90's, and when Dr. Tapia became director, the powers that be just hired him as director. I liked Tapia, but there was no interview process in front of the band. Or if there was, I certainly don't remember it.

Sanjay said...

After following the link to Dr. Odajima's profile on the MSU website, and then to the Spartan Marching Band's website, I've been reminded just how pitiful and behind the times Michigan Marching Band is.

There has been talk for a few years now on totally recreating the MMB website, but nothing yet. I wonder if the new director (whichever it is) will finally make that happen?

Anonymous said...

Word from Spartyville is that Odijima plays favorites heavily (worse than someone who's name starts with a "JL" and rhymes with "Nix") and runs rehearsals very disorderly.
Among current MMB members, the common perception (right or wrong) is that the job is already Boerma's, and the interviews are a formality.

Anonymous said...

I think the job is Boerma's to lose. He was hanging out with the Michigan guys all weekend at the CBDNA conference last weekend. If you read the email very closely, it seems as if Prof. Haithcock is pretty much selling us on Boerma while giving the rest of the candidates their due.

And, to be perfectly honest, he's the best hire out of the three. The Haithcock (as he refers to himself, perhaps mistakenly, at one point in the email) would be making a foolish choice not to give him the job.

But we'll see how the interviews go. It wouldn't be the first time the obviously more qualified candidate didn't get an MMB job despite being more impressive at the student interviews.

Jeremy said...

Interesting, anon.

My concern with Boerma is that his shows never included bass trombone parts. I'd be cool with him if I got some reassurance he wasn't going to change the instrumentation of the band around by phasing out my humble instrument.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they could march some extra piccs in the bass bone spots.

Anonymous said...

Having known Boerma since he started arranging for the band in the mid-90's, and having marched in Scouts under his music direction, I would say he's had his eye on this job for a long time. The problem was that he didn't have the collegiate teaching credentials for it until now, which is probably why he took the job at EMU. It's the reason Sedatole got the job instead of Jeff Grogan. Grogan hadn't taught at the collegiate level, yet he was a much better fit as the MMB director. I see Boerma's career path aimed specifically for this position, and would be happy to see him get it.