Music, Dreams, and Coming of Age in the Heartland

As part of its ongoing series on the Great Recession in Elkhart, Indiana, NPR offered up some notes of praise for three venerable music instrument manufacturers, Gemeinhardt, Conn-Selmer, and E.K. Blessing – especially E.K. Blessing, which has decided to buck a decades-long trend of moving production to China or Korea. The company has committed to manufacturing music instruments in Elkhart, a step that may one day make the city, once again, the “band instrument capital of the world.” NPR reporters also visited the Concord band room and spoke to Concord music director Gay Burton. The segment aired on “All Things Considered” on March 11, 2010. Listen to it here.


On the floor of the RCA Dome: The Concord Marching Minutemen enter the field at the 2004 state finals.

Hokey pokey: Having a little fun with drill. (And that’s what it’s all about...)

Your feet: A short, nightmarish take on marching basics.

Credits: If American Band was a film, these credits would roll at the end....


Concord Marching Minutemen. Keep up with the band behind the book.

Indiana State Fair Band Day, held on the first day of the fair, is arguably the longest-running band contest in the country. The parade-style contest takes place on a dirt track in front of an always  full grandstand.

Indiana field bands perform their maneuvers on a football field. Over a competitive season, about 200 bands are winnowed to ten in each of four size classes. Finalists compete in the RCA Dome in front of an audience of more than 40,000. The website (run by the same Indiana band director who compiles the State Fair Band Day site) profiles dozens of Indiana bands.

Indiana Marching is just what its name says: a site for Indiana band geeks, by Indiana band geeks, with geeky analysis, video, and discussion—all of it done, and done well, on a shoestring. tries to do for the country what Indiana Marching does for one state. The marching band site can’t cover every contest or every state, but it gives a reasonable overview of marching bands in many parts of the country.

Bands of America has been in the marching-band business for more than 30 years; in 2006, the company became part of the Music for All non-profit. BOA’s national championships are held every year in Indianapolis, and  many workshops and regional competitions have drummed up new interest in marching bands across the country.

Drum Corps International calls itself “marching music’s major leagues.” The mostly college-age musicians go through an audition process and, if they make it, a summer competition season, that can make playing for the pros seem like the easier choice. Drum corps events are held all over the country between May and August and culminate in a “World Championship” in mid-August.

Support Music stands out among the many sites devoted to stopping budget and staff cuts in music programs because of its detailed, systematic, and effective tips for music advocates. Start here if you want to know how to support your local music programs.

Of the many sites that try to address issues in music education, Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation is perhaps the best example of an organization that has tightly defined its mission—donating new and refurbished instruments to students in school districts that can’t otherwise afford them. The non-profit has donated $4.7 million in instruments, often with a flourish worthy of its namesake.


All text copyright Kristen Laine 2007. Permission required to reprint.
Website design by Gabe Evans, maintenance by Rinky Dink Ink.
Photos on the site copyright Jeff Longenbaugh and Darrel Yoder /Tanglewood Photography 2007. Contact the photographers for reprint rights and permissions.
Audio and video by Dave Dufour Creative Services 2007 .