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Miami University Marching Band adds new techno sound to performances

10/22/2012

written by Megan Douglas, university communications and marketing intern

Miami's marching band adds technology to sound mix.
Miami's marching band adds technology to sound mix.
photo: Jeff Sabo
At halftime, the band takes the field in a timely manner as usual. But this time, something is different. The audience sees tubas, clarinets, drums and trumpets, followed by a mixing board, battery carts and speakers so big a person could fit inside. They expect a strong drumline introduction, but instead are greeted with Top 40 pop singer Rhianna's voice.

The Miami University Marching Band has combined the excitement of game day with the novelty of chart-topping hits. A grant from the student technology fee program enabled the marching band to buy a series of music mixing and production equipment to bring into their halftime routine.

According to Stephen Lytle, director of Miami University’s athletic bands, the upgrade was necessary.

“There was a whole swath of musical styles that was unattainable to us. I wanted to find a way to organically meld into something contemporary,” he explained.

The band can now do this with the addition of a laptop and software, mixing board, keyboard, drum pad, speakers, batteries and battery cart, and microphones.

“We’re using it to integrate pop but we still treat it like a marching band, and the electronics are like another instrument,” said Scotty McEvoy, graduate student and front ensemble coordinator.

In the video clip, the band practices "Runaway Baby" by Bruno Mars.



And this is no easy instrument to add to the already vast musical mix. Students have been working relentlessly to learn the software, build performance pieces, and the biggest challenge, incorporate the equipment into field logistics. The band has less than 90 seconds to take the field and set up the equipment. Transporting speakers, a mixing board, drum pad and battery carts to power it all on top of the usual challenges tests everyone’s hustling skills.

“It’s a lot of pre-preparation and finding backups to the backup solution,” explained junior Thomas Kottenstette, associate audio engineer.

Any factor can make a difference. The mixing levels may need adjustment due to a new performance venue, an award ceremony at halftime could run long, and just a few drops of rain could do thousands of dollars in damages.

In addition to new musical styles, this new equipment now gives students with different backgrounds the opportunity to work with a live band. Miami sophomore Rob Enzmann used his expertise in sound mixing to become the band’s first audio engineer.

“I’ve always wanted to do something live with [this software]. It’s exciting and fun to do,” he said.

Now, the band can better accommodate the interests of band members and music education students to incorporate their favorite genres, such as pop or even the newest genre dubstep. Students will also develop an understanding of the technology behind the equipment and how to use it creatively.

“I want to use it as an experimental outlet to explore more interests,” Lytle explained. “They are solid performers, and it is an intricate show. If we’re enjoying what we do and having a good time, the crowd, too, will be vibing off the experience,” Lytle said.

Catch the band Saturday, Oct. 27, during Family Weekend when the RedHawks take on Ohio University for a 3:30 p.m. football showdown at Yager Stadium. Other home games include: 1 p.m. Nov. 10 against Kent State and Nov. 23 against Ball State.

Student Technology Fee
Passed by the board of trustees in February 2006, the technology fee funds programs and services that support students in achieving their academic program goals and enhance their life at Miami.
The funds are divided into three pools:
  • Ongoing Student Services - Provides funds to keep technology in classrooms up to date, fund positions dedicated to student support, pay wages for IT Services student staff, and provide maintenance for software in support of student services.
  • Dean's Allocations - This portion is allocated to the Schools, the College and the Libraries for each dean to respond to student technology needs in their division.
  • Competitive Proposal Process - Provides funds for the innovative student-focused technology projects submitted by students, faculty or staff.

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