The off-season is one of the most stressful times to be a Marching Virginian, but in the best way. It’s a time we often devote to our face and hand muscles, our patience (and our parents’ patience), and our focus.
Though the audition process is often described as intimidating and extremely competitive, our efforts to practice and strive for that almost perfect pitch and form is what makes each of us creative and talented individuals. So, yes… adding one more practice run through scales or one more routine with the flag increases your individual talent as a marcher and your potential spot in one of Virginia’s greatest college marching bands.
Something I always try to keep in mind when I practice is that if I’m not enjoying or identifying with at least one piece or one run that I’ve played through, I need to incorporate something that brings my attention to the session. Sitting in a room for an hour memorizing your chromatic scale or sheet music isn’t enough to keep your brain actively engaged and your fingers attuned to the music in front of you, especially as a clarinet player.
Playing your instrument or spinning the flag is one thing, but motivating yourself to really get up and at it is another. I often find that when I want to practice the least, is when I need to the most. One solution I’ve found is to always bring my instrument with me on vacation as a reminder: There’s no wrong time to play. Notably when you want to keep those chop muscles in check for playing on the field.
Another solution is to get creative when you have a break, whether it be from work, school or chores. Sometimes just messing around can be extremely relaxing as well as a low-key practice session. Getting your muscles moving and creative juices flowing definitely helps you become a proficient performer.
In light of that, even getting out of the house to go on a walk or heading to the gym helps the band in huge proportions.
“Something like going to Zumba class might not seem like practicing to most people, but gaining strength and flexibility in a fun new way can help improve your marching and help us look better on the field!”
-Ashlyn McDonald, Drum Major
Even something that seems as minor as helping another student with their instrument or taking the time to show your younger sibling how to play your instrument can reinforce good playing techniques.
Sometimes, what seems like the smallest attempt at improvement, can go a long way!
“Even though the summer is packed, even looking at the music without your instrument can help.”
One final thing, practice doesn’t make perfect, but it certainly does make you unique in a competitive audition process.