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Aug 14 , 2019

MUSIC IS ALIVE IN VAN WERT! Friday Night Fever With Director Bob Sloan

Faces Behind the Music

An Interview with Director Bob Sloan

by Tafi Stober

It's that distinctive time of year when summer meets fall, shoulders go pad to pad and cymbals crash. Directors with a mission and musicians with a common vision come together in the simmering summer heat to grind out practices in preparation for the glorious Friday-night-lights-performances that beckon us to be part. Community is built on Friday nights in the Fall when athletes and musicians walk onto a football field to give their very all as part of something bigger than themselves. They stand on the field and look into an ocean of faces. These faces represent a myriad of life supporters - Grandparents, Parents, Teachers, Friends - all there to revel in the experience of physical prowess, game strategy and musical mastery. Athleticism and the Arts have complimented one another since the beginning of time. We applaud the fine pursuits of our Friday night warriors and take a moment to catch up with a Director leading the charge, Bob Sloan.

Q. What's the general feel of the students as you prepare for Marching Band Season? 

A. At this point we are ready to go! We've rehearsed more than 50 hours and they are ready to perform. The performance is likened to an iceberg. What you see, the performance, is only 10%. What lies beneath, the other 90% is the preparation. We've put in the time and they are ready to perform.

Q. How do you keep spirits high during the grueling nature of summer preparations? 

A. The first thing, honestly, is hydration. It is the life fuel of the body and it is paramount for keeping the mind at work. Beyond the physical needs, my general teaching style is sarcastic humor. This pretty much keeps everyones attention. We stop and have a laugh from time to time. We are intentional about varying the pace of practice and location to keep musicians engaged. We start with the end in mind so the expectations are set. They are not learning in the dark. Our students know the end product and that keeps them motivated. Digital animations of drills along with recorded versions of the music are introduced to set the stage. In the past, I write the music and the drills to the shows. I felt that our students were outperforming and under challenged visually so this season we have reached out to enhance our drills and provide greater challenge. The VWHS Marching Band is artistic and the heart of our performance is to make an emotional connection with the audience. Our visual designs make a statement. Friday nights should deliver on that purpose. 

Q. The VWHS Marching Band is a key source of pride in the community. How do you continue to bring edge and interest in your musical program?

A. A program is a reflection of the Director. We are always trying different things and want to tackle challenging music. Our shows are designed for intellectual and emotional connection with the audience. This drives interest and participation and helps us maintain an intensity and edge. Our students want to be here. They believe in the purpose behind the practice. The performance is the icing.

Q.  Will you share with us any of your band show names this year or is that top secret? 

A. We keep no secrets. The shows are revealed in May. Our central theme this year is "The Right Side of Now." It's derived from the power of the choices we make every day and how that battles the darkness that in our world seems overwhelming. Our message is that we individually can make one choice that can have a ripple effect that goes beyond our own daily life. We can choose to say something nice. We can choose to help. Our choices matter and will put us on the "right" side of now. Robert Frost's inspired poem The Road Not Taken is woven through the season. Show 1: The Road Show  2: The Journey  3. The Right Side Of Now

Q. What do Friday nights mean to you? 

A. Friday nights represent two core values for us. We are spirit. The Fight Songs and Spirit Anthems that we play keep the crowd engaged and carry on traditions. School Spirit is a major part of our mission. The other part is half time. That is our time to express the ideals that build the theme of our VWHS Marching Band culture. It is a dichotomous night. Musical mastery with a bit of mayhem. Mozart mixed with something a little more motley, all with the purpose of making connections and delivering an experience for the fans on a football Friday night.

Steve Jobs said it best, "The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

We applaud the VWHS Marching Band under the leadership and influence of a proven director. May we all be crazy enough to change the world and if we are fortunate, use music to get us there.

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