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A Miami Moment with ... Stephen Lytle

10/04/2012

Stephen Lytle conducts the Miami University Marching Band.
Stephen Lytle conducts the Miami University Marching Band.
Stephen Lytle thinks in minutes when it comes time to plan for a major performance. Director of Miami University's athletic bands, including the marching band, Lytle took his musicians to New York last year for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year, he heads to Carnegie Hall with more than 426 Miami students, faculty and staff as he prepares the logistics one minute at a time.

Q: As you work with Dean Jim Lentini, conductors and the ensembles for the Sunday (Oct. 7) performance, what are your responsibilities as trip coordinator?

A: I am responsible for making sure all students get to New York, that their instruments follow them there in one piece, and that they have adequate housing, transportation, rehearsal time, and a little sightseeing time. Seven ensembles, 419 students, 8 buses, luggage, and of course, the instruments must be packed.

Q: How do you get the instruments to New York?

A: A climate-controlled semi. Many instruments, particularly stringed instruments, need special temperature control conditions so the instrument is not damaged. When a student's cello can cost upwards of around $10,000 and a harp three times as much, you need to take steps in order to protect the investment. In fact, the basses get their own seats on buses. They would have traveled in the truck but for the fact that we do not have hard cases to protect them.

Q: How do you keep all the logistics straight in your head, for instance like moving seven ensembles on and off a stage?

A: I break everything down into distinct elements and events. Our music education students have heard me preach, "Who-what-where-when-how?" I apply that model to each element of the trip and try to answer the questions as they apply to all aspects. From this, I am finally able to build the master schedule. For Sunday's rehearsal and concert, I timed everything to the minute for a couple of reasons. One, we all need to have a true sense of the evolution of the program and with that, that any one individual or ensemble has the bigger picture in mind. In my mind, the trip is not a linear model but a three-dimensional web of related operations. The best you can do is create a plan for how you think/hope it will work and at the same time know what you can adjust if "Plan B" happens.

Q: Do you save time for the “unexpected?”

A: There is a certain amount of cushion built into the schedule but not much. It is not so much about saving time for the unexpected as having great colleagues who can leap into action when needed and "make it happen." On that, I am extremely confident. We are all very committed to making this a fantastic experience for all involved and at the end of the day; we have a concert that is going to happen in one of the world's greatest performance spaces.

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