Q&A: Jonathan Hinkle, CMU marching band director
Jonathan Hinkle is in his second year directing the Maverick Stampede, also known as the Colorado Mesa University marching band. The program began last fall but students didn’t march in the traditional sense.
Now, in Year Two, the game has changed, and the Maverick Stampede will have an increased presence this fall.
In advance of the season, Hinkle, who marched at Florida State University, talked about the Maverick Stampede and how difficult it is to build a marching band program from scratch.
The Maverick Stampede was in rehearsals all week, learning the drills for the upcoming football season — CMU’s first home football game is Sept. 7 — and music for its performance of pop hit “Some Nights” with the Grand Junction Rockestra during a free, outdoor show Saturday, Aug. 17, at CMU.
Melinda Mawdsley: What was last year, the first year of marching band, like?
Jonathan Hinkle: Last year was what I called “Diet Marching Band.” We had only about 50 to 55 students. We did not march and play at the same time. We were in uniform, but we were small and basically put together everything we performed in very few rehearsal days and times. We had about three, hour-long rehearsals, period, which is nothing in the marching band world. It was a compact season to get out there and show people we are getting started.
Mawdsley: This year?
Hinkle: This year is very different. We are now an official class course students register for. They can get kinesiology credits for it, or they can register for a zero credit option. We rehearse once schools starts Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 6–8 p.m. on the football practice field, which will be a significantly greater amount of practice time to put together both a pregame and halftime show.
Mawdsley: Talk about those shows.
Hinkle: The pregame show, including all the details like announcements, is about 12 minutes long. The halftime show is about 10 minutes long. Those are jam-packed seconds. It takes a lot of time to do what a marching band does even if it’s only for 10 minutes, and I think a lot of people don’t appreciate the intricacies of what a band has to do to put on a performance like that. Basically, the entire football field is set up like a piece of graph paper and every student has a spot, or coordinate, on that graph paper. They have to memorize that spot that’s not marked and coordinate how to get there to music.
Mawdsley: You spent the summer planning the shows?
Hinkle: They have been charted. The drill has been written.
Mawdsley: Do you have quite a few returning members from last year’s “Diet Marching Band?”
Hinkle: We tried to get a preliminary number of students confirmed last spring. We’re expecting maybe 110 to 115 students this year, (with) 85 or 95 percent of students this year returning (from last year.)
Mawdsley: Outside field performances, the band will perform with the GJ Rockestra. Did you have the chance at Florida State to play alongside a rock band/symphony?
Hinkle: Not really. The Marching Chiefs was 430 people. We did a performance indoors in December as part of a concert called Prism Concert and that was not related to a football game. In part of the concert, the marching band came in and played with a sit-down concert band. There was no Rockestra type group in Tallahassee, Fla.
Mawdsley: Did you have to do special arrangements to mix a marching band in with a rock band and symphony for “Some Nights?”
Hinkle: We’ve had to do some arranging to put the music with strings and traditional rock ‘n’ roll instruments. Wind and percussion instruments don’t necessarily play in a lot of the same keys and styles that a rock band, or even an orchestra play in, so you have to do some arranging to make it work for both.
Mawdsley: Has it been more difficult to build a marching band program from scratch than you thought?
Hinkle: Yes and it’s because of the commitment from students. Marching band has so much more planning opposed to what I call a “sit-down band,” like a concert band or rock band or choir that sings in a church. They don’t move. In those types of groups, since there is no visual moving aspect, the planning can happen a week, two weeks, maybe a month in advance.
A marching band show, the drill, has to be written for each individual student specifically and that has to happen months in advance. To do all that and put it all together, is a lot of time commitment for each student. We have eight performances, 3 1/2 days of band camp (Aug. 13–16), and Monday, Wednesday, Friday rehearsals pretty much all fall. That’s proving to be too much for a lot of students, so it’s been tough.
When I went to school, you went to school. Now, students are going to school and working part-time jobs and are having to choose part-time jobs or marching band, so it’s tough.
Mawdsley: Well, it sounds like you are expecting nearly double what you had last year in terms of numbers and will get to march for the first time with an increased presence on campus. I’m sure you’re ready for Year Two.
Hinkle: We’re excited about the season. (In addition to games and the Rockestra show) we’ll also perform at a tailgate party on campus at the corner of 12th (Street) and North (Avenue) approximately one hour before each game.