The FSU Marching Chiefs Have Gone Green

By Vivian El-Salawy on September 19, 2017

The world-renowned Florida State University Marching Chiefs are made up of approximately 420 members, and between providing both drill charts and musical parts for their performers, it has taken about 200,000 sheets of paper to supply the members with what they need.

This year, Dr. Dunnigan, Professor of Music and Director of Bands, has chosen to go digital. You may be asking yourself how a marching band could possibly go digital, but you would be surprised with the types of innovative technologies that are being introduced. The Marching Chiefs have turned their attention to a new application for smartphones and tablets called the “Ultimate Drill Book.”

How does the marching band access their drill digitally?

Ultimate Drill Book (or UDB) products have been used by some of the world’s most elite marching ensembles. UDB provides that the Bluecoats, Carolina Crown, Santa Clara Vanguard, Phantom Regiment, Boston Crusaders, Blue Stars, Madison Scouts, Genesis, and so on, have all used their products in preparation for their spectacular shows. Additionally, a few college and university marching bands have utilized their products, now including the Marching Chiefs. 

UDBapp and Pyware have integrated with one another to create the ultimate application to be used by marching bands all over the country. Pyware is used by many bands to create and view drill through a digital, yet accurate medium. Combined with UDBapp, it allows for band directors and staff to create animations, sync music with it, provide path information, create production notes, and more.

Image via UDB Products

“The new drill app is incredible! With paper drill, we could see how the formations looked set by set, but now with UDBapp, the performers can see live animations of the drill. This animation allows us to be more precise in our marching and have greater clarity in our forms,” head drum major Aaron Meitz said.

How does the marching band go paperless in terms of sheet music?

In regards to the thousands of pages of sheet music that the Marching Chiefs once printed, they have gone digital with that as well. PDF files of the music are stored on a digital cloud that is accessed by the performers within the Marching Chiefs. With that, they can view their individual musical parts on their phones, tablets, and other devices. This makes accessibility to music more efficient, as misplacement is no longer a factor. Nobody has to worry about soggy sheet music from rained out rehearsals or the natural wear and tear from humid practices.

Image via Dr. Dunnigan

How do the performers play their instruments and hold their devices at the same time?

Traditionally, sheet music used for rehearsals and performances is attached to marching band instruments through two pieces: a lyre and a flip folder. However, because of the diversity of marching band instruments, various instruments have differently shaped lyres, while others may not have lyres to begin with. The lyre is a small, metal piece that fits into a designated area on a marching horn, and the flip folder, which is a small book that contains the sheet music for the performances, attaches to said lyre.

With the incorporation of smartphones and tablets, Tonal Innovation, LLC has created the “flip-folder for the 21st century:” the eFlip. According to Tonal Innovation, the eFlip is a device that allows musicians to attach their phones and tablets to the same lyres that they have used for sheet music and flip folders.

Image via FSU College of Music

One hundred eFlips were provided for by the “Green Fund” from the Sustainable Campus department at Florida State University. According to Sustainable Campus:

“The Green Fund is intended to provide students hands-on experience with the development and management of projects in support of efficiency, conservation, and sustainability efforts that reduce FSU’s energy costs, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and waste.”

Has going digital presented any challenges?

The transition to paperless is incredibly exciting; however naturally, with the incorporation of any new technology, challenges are often presented.

“We’ve hit a few roadblocks along the way, such as the music being too small and not every section having the capabilities to use the eFlip,” Meitz said. “These roadblocks aside, paperless music allows us to be more efficient in our music learning process.”

“There are obviously some growing pains with the transition to digital, but I believe that in the next few years we will be more efficient with paperless drill and music, while also helping the environment,” he added.

These challenges do allow opportunities for the band to learn through experience and growth. For instance, a creative solution has already been designed for flute players to be able to use their phones despite the initial challenge of the design of the eFlip.

Image via Dr. Dunnigan

The Marching Chiefs have only taken their first few steps into environmentally friendly transition. The College of Music reports that an estimated 85-90 percent of paper consumption is being eliminated from the Marching Chiefs usage in this upcoming 2017 season alone.

Chelsea Blomberg, who contributed to the proposal for the “Green Fund” and who has been working alongside the Marching Chiefs, has provided a statement regarding the Marching Chiefs future plans on “going green.”

“We also plan to incorporate more sustainable practices in the future for Chiefs, such as Tyvec waterproof paper, for instances in which we cannot avoid using paper, and refillable water bottles during football games, rather than disposable ones,” Blomberg said.

All in all, perhaps the Marching Chiefs’ steps towards promoting sustainability will inspire those at other universities to take the same step towards an environmentally friendly, sustainable future.

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