Drum Major Meghan Coughlin (right) receives her iPad on Aug. 11. Photo by Michael Reinmiller.
Story by Kathe Andersen, Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts
Known as “The Pride of All Nebraska,” members of the Cornhusker Marching Band will be issued iPads this Fall to help streamline and enhance the teaching process.
“Most of the materials that we provide for the students are done electronically anyway,” said Senior Lecturer and Associate Director of Bands Tony Falcone. “So this enhances the experience. For instance, the formations that they learn on the field are charted, and we get them to the students electronically. The software allows us to animate the formations and highlight each individual member, so somebody can watch exactly what it is that they do and how it fits in with everybody else. It really gives us the opportunity to enhance the learning process.”
Thanks to funding from the Nebraska Athletic Department, 320 iPad Mini 4’s have been leased for three years. Band members will also be issued protective cases.
“Leasing helps us to lower the annual and total cost and makes them easier to replace in three years,” said David Bagby, Information Technology Services Manager for the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts.
Bagby worked with UNL Apple Enterprise Administrator Phil Redfern and Johnathon Ross of the UNL Information Technology Services Enterprise Desktop Services group to secure the order.
“As former employees with Hixson-Lied Information Technology Services, both are intimately aware of the needs of the project,” Bagby said.
The iPads will be issued to students in the band in stages. Band leadership, which includes about 60 section leaders and rank leaders, received their iPads on Aug. 11. The rest of the band will receive theirs later in the season.
“As the season progresses, and we get our sea legs, we’ll roll them out to the rest of the band,” Falcone said. “And when we feel like the time is right, we’ll rely on them 100 percent for the last few performances.”
Falcone first started researching using iPads for the band about two years ago. The Ohio State University adopted them in 2014, and a few other bands have started using them since, including the University of Oklahoma in the Big 12 Conference.
“Ohio State was kind of the forerunners in that, so we talked to them a good bit,” Falcone said. “Some of our former conference mates from the Big 12, like Oklahoma, started using them last year. We’re friends in the band director community with all of those people, so it was easy to have conversations with them. That’s been very helpful. They’re able to tell us, okay, here’s what we didn’t expect, here’s how we solved it. You can look forward to doing this. I would suggest this.”
The drill software that Assistant Director of Bands Doug Bush uses to create the formations is called Pyware.
“I am excited because when fully implemented, students will have the ability to watch the design animate on the iPads,” Bush said. “It will help them visualize the different pictures on the field as they are learning. It will also help them understand their exact pathway when moving between locations on the field. Rather than looking at static printouts of pictures or coordinates on paper, they will see how they are to move as a group. I would equate it to the difference between having a series of written instructions of how to drive to a specific location and using a GPS system complete with traffic updates.”
Drum Major Meghan Coughlin, a criminology and criminal justice major with a theatre minor from Omaha, Neb., is excited to use the iPads.
“I’m excited to see what they can do to step up our drill game,” she said. “Seeing the animation will help a lot.”
Falcone said the music software they plan to use will allow students to mark it, and the software bundle also includes other musical tools such as a metronome and a tuner. They are also planning to use some video software from Hudl.
“It lets you take video of student actions and then slow it down and highlight it,” Falcone said. “For instance, for our high step or our strut, we can film a student doing that, put it in slow motion and then look at exactly where the leg is at any given time and figure that out. For the color guard, that’s huge because you can film them doing flag work and see exactly how the pole is, at what angle, at what time, what the off hand is doing, and you can check basic posture. So again, it is ways to really enhance the learning and the feedback that students get.”
Falcone said using the latest technology is important for the learning process of the marching band.
“Most public schools now do a lot of teaching on devices, so it just makes sense to take advantage of technology to enhance the learning,” he said. “The quicker and more efficiently we can learn, then the more we can polish and the better we can get. It’s really cool that we’re able to be on this cutting edge and do these things to make our students’ experience better.”