Peacocks Marching World Feature with Old Dominion University Director of Athletic Bands Alexander Trevino
History: When did your group/you first start your activity and how has your group/you continued to participate?
The first Monarch Marching Band was formed in 2008 after one year of preparation (instrument ordering, uniform design, recruiting) and one year prior to the official debut date of September 5th, 2009. I decided to start one year early for two reasons: to make sure that we could, when the time came, field a working marching band with all of the necessary instrumentation to be successful, and to make recruiting much easier. It’s
much easier to show people what you are planning on having than just telling them. And if we were going to have problems with having enough students, I didn’t want the first time to acknowledge this problem to be two weeks before our official debut.
So taking one year prior to the first football game gave me time to assess and tweak what we were going to do once our first official season started—from practice schedule, to travel, to recruiting, to even music selection—and the time to do it without the pressure of having to be “ready fro prime-time” right out of the gate.
Out of an expected 150 member group in that test year, we started with 88. However, the 88 members who started the band were the best type of student we could have wished for—they all had extensive experience from high school, LOVED marching band, and were slightly adventurous. Many of them were attracted to the idea of laying the groundwork for what was sure to be a long-standing tradition at Old Dominion, and their freedom to help craft the image of the band and to set the standard from day one energized them. In the converse, many students stayed away from that first year because they didn’t know what to expect. One of our snares told me during the first week of camp that his dorm roommate he was assigned was also a snare drummer in high school band, but didn’t want to join the band “in case they sucked”. Students with that type of mentality we rarely pursue, even today. It’s the difference between someone riding a bus and someone driving—one is just happy to be along for the ride, and the other is not happy unless they can help decide the direction of the journey. We want the “drivers”.
Not surprisingly, after the bands first public performance at an event held for incoming freshman the Friday before classes began, close to 50 students came up to us (including the roommate from above) and asked if it was too late to join. Because I had set the requirement before camp that membership was contingent on attending the two-week camp, and because letting people join after the hard work had already been done wouldn’t be fair to those who put the work in to have such a great performance—good enough to attract 50 people to want to join!—I thanked them and let them know when auditions for
2009 would be held, and that we had already set the band for the year.
That was really then when I set the standard of “If not better, then not bigger”. I’ll take 88 hard-working, risk-taking, loyal and dedicated students before 200 students if it means not sacrificing quality, and in that I include attitude, loyalty, and dedication, in addition to great playing and marching skills. Joining when it’s easy doesn’t count as much as joining when it’s hard. I joke with the students that we are “Forged in the Crucible of August and tempered in the Cold of November,” not only in our marching, playing, and discipline training but in our camaraderie and bonding as a family. In some ways, it makes what we do special. Holding that standard is what, I think, has kept our band steadily growing in quality (and size) to its current size of 185.
Traditions: What traditions are you working to create and carry on within the music programs you work with?
Having just finished our 7th season since 2008, we are still building traditions as best one can “build” tradition. In my experience here, tradition as it’s understood by the students or the administration is what we have been able to do on a consistent basis and that they like. It’s really hard to say what is tradition when, as most directors and bands know, most of what we do is just standard operating procedure, but if the crowd likes it, and
then you don’t do it and people complain, more than likely it’s become a tradition whether you realize it or not!
For us, it’s things like playing certain songs to accompany the game situation on the field, like for sacks, first-downs, touchdowns, etc.), sending a small pep band around the stadium to play in between plays (and even serenading lucky/unlucky Port-a-John users—the very fist time I took a band around the stadium to teach the Drum Majors what I wanted (they do it exclusively now) I surprised someone coming out of the Port-a-John, and he loved it, and the DM’s have been doing it ever since—no complaints yet!).
I think overall traditions should be fun, appropriate of course, and involve anyone who wants to be a part—at the end of our fight song we have an 8 count drum break where you can spell MONARCHS, and every year that moment becomes louder as more people realize that that is what you do there, and everyone else is doing it, and that it’s our tradition.
Overall, I want one of our prime traditions to be to have fun—keep the crowd entertained, have fun doing it, and do it well. If we hit those things, then everything that stems from that is just a bonus.
Leadership: What kind of Leadership opportunities are you providing for your participants? Were your provided these opportunities as a participant or student?
I always tell applicants to leadership positions that if they think there is glory and reward for becoming a leader, they shouldn’t apply. Being a leader, I believe, means being a servant first. Everything a leader does should be in service of their charges, whether that is teaching them marching drill, rehearsing them in sectionals, or simply listening to them if they are having a bad day. There are no trophies for being a good leader except the knowledge that you are helping others become stronger, whether through encouragement, teaching, or any form of support. I learned that early on as a Baritone Section Leader in the University of Texas Longhorn Band (BM ’95) and strive to work in the very same way in my current position as Director of Athletic Bands. Student success is the marker of my own success, and it doesn’t work the other way around.
We have many opportunities for our students to take a leadership role within the program, and not just with titles that say as much. Our student staff includes Uniform, Equipment, Library, Recruiting, and Instrument staff positions, which all take the same mettle and dedication that a section leader positions requires. Students in these staff positions routinely work in an administrative capacity with fellow students to make sure everyone has the equipment and tools they need to be successful. They devise procedures for checking-out, maintaining, and checking-in instruments, uniforms, etc. and employ those procedures with little oversight from me—I trust these students implicitly to get the job done, and in a friendly and engaging way. They become a model for students of what contributing to the program can look like, and hopefully will encourage others to take a staff position in the future.
Community: How are you and/or your students representing the community (or institution) through performances? Are there any particular events that stand out?
Everywhere the band goes, we are ambassadors of the university—there is no hiding the fact when we are in uniform, because as I designed it, there is no direction we can face that hides where we are from and who we represent. When we travel, I am very clear what the expectations are for their representation of our program, our university, and themselves. I take great pride in speaking with hotel or restaurant staff who wish to let us know that they enjoyed having the band stay with them, how polite and well mannered they are, etc. I know a lot of that I can’t take credit for (their families have more claim to that than I!) but it makes me proud to know that we have those types of students in our group—models of citizenship that confound expectations for how most people believe “college kids” behave.
When we perform at away games, in front of fans who have no idea who we are, we always make an impression on the event staff, security, and the home fans, who have regularly come up to us during or after the game to shake my hand, or thank students directly for their performance. We don’t respond to taunts or other statements made towards us, except to smile and say “Enjoy the game”, and I think not being what people expect or have experienced from other visiting bands is what prompts so many of them to come and talk to us. After one such game, as the band was loading, a Sheriff’s Deputy walked towards me and I began to panic a little—had there been an altercation, did one of my guys do something bad—and then he asked “ Are you the band director?” at which time I began to panic a LOT. “Yes, I am” I responded, and he put out his hand to shake mine and said “You have a terrific band—I played trumpet in high school and I really enjoyed watching them having fun and playing in the stands.” I told him I was a little scared when he walked up and asked if I was the director and he said “We didn’t have any problems with your band tonight, which I can’t say for some other bands”. I’ll take that!
What would you like people to know about your work or your students’ work?
I’d like them to know about the great things that the students have been able to do at Old Dominion in a very short amount of time, and that the development of the program is still ongoing. If someone is excited about a chance to continue in the creation of the program and to have a unique experience in doing so, I hope we hear from them. We are different in a lot of ways from the typical college marching band—mainly we have a lot of
freedom to be who we want—if one show we want to do a DCI-type show and the next we want to play Bruno Mars and Pharell Williams, we will, and they way we do it doesn’t have to be dictated by anything other than “will it be good?” and “will it be entertaining
to the crowd”.
Those first 88 students from 2008, and the students who joined for the first official band in 2009, we call “Plank Owners”. We live in a Navy town, and anyone with a Navy background is familiar with the term. A “Plank Owner” is any member of a naval
vessel’s first crew and comes from the days of sail, when the decks of boats were made of wooden planks. In those days, sending a new ship to sea was an uncertain prospect— weather, leaks, unseen shoals, and other hazards could easily make a first voyage a final voyage, and crew members took a large amount of risk being the first to sail on a new boat. However, when the ship was decommissioned after years of service, each crew member was allowed to take one of the planks of the deck as a memento and as thanks
for “writing the book” on the boat, especially if it was the first in its class.
For us, those students who took the risk of joining the band despite it not even existing yet, and “wrote the book” on who were are and what we could do, are very much an owner of this program and its history, no matter how long history will be. And while there are no “planks” for them to claim, I have told them all that one day (hopefully soon!), when we have a band hall built for us, there will be one wall dedicated to the Plank Owners, made from planks of wood, with each of their names and years
listed individually on each plank. I owe much to those students, and I think that would be a fitting tribute to what they were able to do, against many odds, to help get our program off the ground and in the best possible way.
How can someone get involved with your band?
Students wishing to join the band or find out more information can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.odu.edu/mmb for more information. Students must pass a playing audition to attain membership, and scholarships are available for exceptional auditions. Scholarships range from $500.00 to $1500 for incoming students and increase yearly for continuing student membership. The Monarch Basketball Band also has auditioned spots that pay an additional $500.00 for the spring semester. The band is traveling to Ireland in 2016 to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin and many students are using their scholarship awards to pay for their trip!
Why do you do this?
I’ve been doing marching band since August of 1985, when I first learned to march and play at the same time at Burbank High School in San Antonio, Texas. There I learned the joys of marching and being a family, of working together towards one goal. When I arrived at the University of Texas as a member of the Longhorn Band, it seemed like everything increased exponentially—the fun, the camaraderie, the experience of performing, and I think it was then that I was hooked. There was no doubt that I wanted to keep doing this as long as I could. When I graduated, I taught at Midway High School in Hewitt Texas for 7 years, and was then lucky enough to be accepted as a graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where I was able to work with the Pride of the Southland Marching Band, which was my first experience with the “behind the scenes” of a college marching band program. By the time I completed my time as a Graduate Assistant Director at the University of Washington, I had two things: a Ph.D. and a pretty good idea about how to lead a college marching band—what works, what doesn’t, what was indispensable, and what the ultimate role of a college marching band is for the university. When I was offered the chance to create a marching band where none ever existed before, I knew I could do it. Terrifying? Yes. Stressful? That word doesn’t even come close to describing how it was. Rewarding? ABSOLUTELY.
I don’t know if I was in the right place at the right time, lucky, or both, but this has been a once-in-a lifetime chance for someone in my line of work, and a chance that many have told me they would have never taken because of the level of uncertainty that came with the position. It was and still is hard, there is so much more to do, so much possibility to explore, and while the work might tire me out by the end of the day, it’s the excitement of new possibilities and potential that get me out of bed again in the morning. When I hear the crowd roar for the band, and see the looks of joy on my student’s faces as they receive their ovations, I know we’re on the right track, and I want to see what we can do to keep bringing the students to that moment again and again.
Is there a website or link you would like people to go to?
Our official site is www.odu.edu/mmb where one can join our prospective member database so we can keep them up-to-date with news from our season, performance announcements, or television appearances, or to view videos of our current and past seasons, as well as visit our Facebook page and to follow us on Twitter. Links can be found on each page for the respective social media account of web service.