Photo by Ken Martinson/Marching.com
As one of the recipients of the 2013 Sudler Shield, the Blue Springs (Mo.) High School band has a strong history and foundation to be proud of.
The Blue Springs (Mo.) High School band is no stranger to success. It’s won countless awards as well as marched two Macy’s parades, two Tournament of Roses parades and President Obama’s first inaugural parade. But this year, the Blue Springs Golden Regiment might have actually hit gold—it was awarded the 2013 Sudler Shield.
Director of Bands Dr. Tim Allshouse says that the band’s success really boils down to one secret: respecting and understanding the process.
Halftime: What is your background?
Allshouse: I did my undergraduate work at Indiana University, Bloomington, and taught for two years in west Texas. When I was in west Texas, one of my directors at Indiana became one of the directors at the University of Missouri and offered me a TA [teaching assistant] shift, so I went to the University of Missouri to get my master’s and then … got my doctorate at the University of Kansas.
Getting to Blue Springs was actually kind of strange. I was doing some practice interviews in the spring at the University of Missouri, and I went by the booth where Blue Springs was. They didn’t have any music openings at that time, but I went in and interviewed for English or math or something because I just wanted some practice interviewing. Lo and behold two weeks later, an opening came up, … and they called me. It was for a middle school position and assistant at the high school, back in 1996 to 1997, and then in 2000 I was promoted to director of bands at the high school.
Halftime: How did you turn Blue Springs into the program it is today?
Allshouse: My predecessor, Doug Watts, did a fantastic job. I had a chance to work side by side with him, and he did a lot of great things, giving us a great foundation to work with. I really just wanted to make sure I didn’t mess things up!
It has been fun watching the program evolve over the years. We started doing the Bands of America (BOA) circuit in 2006. It really ended up being a positive catalyst and a great opportunity for the kids to go and see some of the finest bands in the country. I think it really gave them the motivation to get better and get stronger and to rehearse better.
One of the things I do with the staff is every other year we go and visit other programs. We went to Cobb County (Ga.) two years ago; we’ve been down to San Antonio and Dallas and down to Broken Arrow (Okla.) and the Tulsa area. Great ideas have already been born somewhere else, so we figure let’s check them out and see how we can apply them here at Blue Springs.
Halftime: How do you keep students engaged in a world where arts and music education is quickly disappearing?
Allshouse: We’re fortunate to have a community that really does value the arts and music. It’s definitely a band town— they love their band! We had a Thursday night rehearsal the other day, and we probably had 1,000 people there. Not that we get those kinds of numbers every practice, but there really is support for us.
We’ve been fortunate to have some success over the years. We’ve done the Macy’s parade twice, Tournament of Roses twice, we did the inaugural parade for President Obama’s first term and have done Grand Nationals and BOA circuit stuff, so the community has obviously supported us financially when we’ve gone and done those events.
And as far as the kids go, we try to make sure it’s not just about the marching band. Our concert band and wind symphony have performed at the state convention seven times since 2000; our jazz group has performed at two different national events as well as the state convention. So we try to find different avenues for the kids to stay connected.
Halftime: What does winning the Sudler Shield mean to your program?
Allshouse: There are a few times in my life when I’ve been speechless: my wedding, the birth of my children and then the Sudler Shield! I got the phone call, and my jaw just hit the desk. It was really just an honor to have been nominated alongside all the other bands that they consider for the award. The neat thing about that award is that it’s not just about one year, but about multiple years, so it’s not just on one group of students, but the entire program over a period of time.
Halftime: What advice would you give to aspiring band directors?
Allshouse: First of all, teaching music is an amazing way to spend your life. I don’t feel like I’m going to work. I feel like I’m going somewhere where I have a great time and a chance to positively shape the direction of some kids’ futures. But also, on the more technical side of things, just to be patient. I think we see and have ideas in our heads of what we want our programs to be, but all that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a really long process. I think the programs that have been successful have people that stick around and give it time.
Halftime: What’s next for Blue Springs?
Allshouse: I’m like a lot of band directors in that we don’t set out trying to win this award or that award. It’s more about the daily perseverance and wanting the band to be better than it was the previous year. We want to do a good job with the process and with the teaching, so that when the kids look back on their time with the band, they’re really proud. One of our phrases that we use a lot at Blue Springs is to “Finish the race that you started,” and not only that, but to be proud of how you finished it—to run across the finish line, not to walk across the finish line.
Every year is a new year and a special year. So I don’t think it’s so much about setting your goal at XYZ, but that we’re just proud of the product that we produced and the process by which we got there.
About the Author
Mitchell King is a senior majoring in communication at the University of Southern California (USC). He marched alto saxophone for two years before becoming drum major for two years at Campbell High School in Smyrna, Ga. He currently marches alto saxophone for the USC Trojan Marching Band. He aspires to one day open his own public relations firm in Atlanta.