Monday, November 26, 2018

Q&A With Scott Hillock From the Bandroom

The Next Step
Q & A with Scott Hillock, Jenks HS Director of Bands

Scott Hillock Following the Jenks Trojan Marching Band's amazing season, culminating in an awesome performance in the 2018 Bands of America Grand National Finals, PMC's AAron Bryan interviewed Scott Hillock on the methods and successes of the Jenks band program.

The First Step: Show Design

When do you begin designing your show?

Usually in December. People from the design team bring different ideas/concepts to the table. These ideas are then presented to the Jenks staff. After that, it is usually narrowed down to one or two ideas/concepts. We usually make a final decision in January and begin crafting the show.

What is your process? Do you begin with show concept and find music that fits, or are the ideas musically driven?

The process has happened both ways. Most of the time it has started with a concept and the music has been developed around it, but there have been years where the music came first and the hook was developed after that. The process is basically the same each year, but manifests itself a little differently each time as each show is unique with its twists and turns.

Do you maintain a design schedule?

Music is usually done in late April or early May. Numbers for drill writer are established at the end of May. Designs for theme, uniforms, costumes, silks and props are being developed during this time as well. Any printed materials (silks, props, etc.) and costumes are ordered in late May early or early June.

Year to Year

Was there anything you did differently this year that propelled your group to a higher level?

We made some changes with our design team. That made a difference. This team seems to fit our philosophy and approach better. Second, we addressed our goals. To make finals at Grand Nationals is a worthy goal, but incredibly difficult to achieve. We had to find middle ground when aiming for that goal and not just let making finals define our success as a group. We knew if we kept aiming for it, sooner or later we would get there, but there are many other things happening in the season as well that determined a successful year.

Another thing that we knew as a staff, once our kids got a taste of success at the next level and began to truly believe they could do it, they would take off. That finally happened this year as well. We kept pointing out the smaller steps of achievement to encourage our students and it made a difference in their attitude and work ethic.

What are some things you make sure to do every year?

One thing we do every year is introduce new/incoming band members to our warm up and body routines. This gets them exciting about the upcoming marching season and puts them at ease as they get to learn these new skills in an environment that is not intimidating.

Day to Day

What do your regular daily rehearsals look like? Are fundamentals a part ofyour daily routine?

We do fundamentals just about every day. A two hour rehearsal will typically have around 15-20 minutes of fundamentals which include the physical components (stretching and body elements), marching components (FM, BM, strides, slides, direction changes, etc.). Each group is separated -- brass & woodwinds, battery, front ensemble, color guard. Early in the season the visual and musical fundamentals are separated and more time is allotted for them. As the season progresses, those elements are combined. Some people just include the fundamentals while learning drill - we approach it with the idea that if they have the fundamentals down, they can apply it to all situations. It works pretty well for us. It feels like it takes more time at first, but the benefits come around later in the season.

We almost always include a full run of the learned show at some point in the rehearsal. Provides some continuity and allows the students to assess where they are in the learning process.

Setting Drill

With band directors I visit, I've noticed two very different schools of thought in regard to setting drill: 1. Get the show on the field quickly 2. Set more drill when what's currently learned is "performance ready."

As soon as we can perform drill on the field we do. The detailed cleaning will come later. The more reps, the better. The more chances to perform, the better.

How do you approach setting drill with your students?

We have the students use charts to learn drill. Some people like to use coordinate sheets. We want them to see and understand not only their spot, but the overall picture as well.

By the time school starts, how much of the show do you hope to have on the field? At what point do you hope to have the full show on the field?

By the time school starts, we usually have parts 1 and 2 on the field -- that's the end of August. Part 3 comes quickly after that and the closer is usually ready by the end of September when contests start to roll around.

Student Leadership

What responsibilities do you place on your student-leaders?

They lead by example. With regard to their peers - they are responsible for sharing and modeling excellence, attitude, work ethic, and traditions. They are to be encouraging and motivating. They are to be good listeners and show value to everyone in their section/their band. They problem solve. They can call out students when they are doing something wrong or not doing as well as they should. They do communicate with directors. They take initiative in meeting the needs of the band -- that could include the dirty work or could include something glamorous.

They aren't allowed to record grades, give out disciplinary action, run rehearsals, or receive any type of special treatment. (They don't get to be first in line just because they are an upperclassmen or student leader -- they get to be first in line if they get there first).

As this approach has developed, we have seen more students be willing to do the extra and/or dirty stuff, and not just the student leaders. We continue to tell our students that a great attitude and work ethic cannot be compartmentalized. It affects every aspect of the band program.

Any other thoughts?

As a head director, it is important that autonomy and trust is given to each staff member in their area. Consistent attention and listening to their input communicates value and importance. Regardless of a tough/final decision, respect will be shared throughout the staff when this takes place. Students will not come together as a group if they don't see their directors doing the same.

Scott Hillock began his tenure as Head Director in 2006. Current duties include overseeing the entire band program, directing the Wind Symphony and the Trojan Pride Marching Band, as well as assisting with the middle school bands. Before coming to Jenks, Mr. Hillock served as Head Director for Blanchard Public Schools for fourteen years where his bands consistently earned the highest marks in both concert and marching bands. A 1985 graduate of Elk City High School, Mr. Hillock holds a Bachelor of Music Education Degree from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and a Master of Music Education from Southern Methodist University, where he was selected as the Outstanding Graduate Student for the Meadows School of the Arts.
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From the Bandroom - Cooper MS
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