DOTO: You mentioned the likes of Donnie van Doren and Jim Prime mentoring you and Michael Klesch. As an educator, how do take that next step mentoring the next generation?
MH: I try to make summers memorable & special for kids. We try to make the members as great and as close to perfect as possible, but more importantly they enjoy each other and the experience performing in front of incredible fans.
I guess the answer is, I’m only doing what I’ve been taught. The foundation of what they taught me, not only in terms of a foundation of brass pedagogy, a foundation of ensemble brass playing, they certainly taught me a technique that I have passed on to the next generation of kids. But also a foundation of –doing whatever it takes to be successful at whatever you want to do. So the lessons that are learned in drum corps are lessons that can be applied in life.
Thom Hannum told me one time, if there was a law In America that made every young person do drum corps for a summer, how different our country would be…and he was absolutely right! Just the discipline, the work ethic, putting yourself through situations that not so many people would want to be in. For example, this past week at Crown it was pretty warm outside! But yet they are out there, we are taking care of them, there’s plenty of people there to make sure they are healthy…but they are out there, and they are doing whatever it takes to be as great as they possibly can be.
And for me, it’s come full circle as my son is in Crown this year. Seeing him go through all this, one of the things I always think about is: this is going to help him be successful in whatever he wants to do.
DOTO: How have you developed the brass program through the years, and developed that Crown Sound?
MH: When I get the question about “how do you create that sound?” I think it all goes back to what I said about working with Michael Klesch. It’s how we were taught, where we came from, number one. Number two, it’s Michael’s writing. You mentioned the musical chairs that sometimes goes on in the world of drum corps; I’m not sure if our brass team went somewhere else with a different writer, would we still create that sound? I’m not sure that answer is yes. Or when Michael says, “you know, I’ve had a great career, I’m going to retire” and someone else comes in, but we’re still at Crown…we don’t know what would happen.
Ultimately I think the combination of our fundamental program, the method of which we teach, along with Michaels writing, it’s just a team effort. It’s a lot of people with great expertise that come in and make Crown what it is, it’s not just Michael, it’s not just me…it’s the whole staff, it’s Jim Coates, it’s the Yamaha corporation with the instruments, it’s being set up with our drill, it’s all of that that goes into that Crown sound.
But getting back to the question, our first priority was to get people to come back. When we started with Crown, the goal was to make finals. That was the goal. Then we started trying to go up the ladder, and it was fun doing all of that, but we just wanted to keep getting better than the year before. That became the goal. And ultimately, to build the program we needed kids to come back, instead of going to, say, the Cavaliers. In those early 2000’s the Cavaliers were a very well-known dynasty, and it was a goal for a lot of kids to be a Cavalier, and being from the eastern part of the country, a lot of kids would do a year or two at Crown and then go to the Cavaliers. So we knew things like that would happen, and of course they did, but we wanted to keep as many members in the brass line as possible.
And the more we were able to retain, the faster we were able to build the program. That was certainly a goal of ours, and it took us a while to do that, but then again maybe it didn’t… (laughs) I guess to some it didn’t take us very long to build the program! So that was our goal. And we remember one year, I can’t remember what year it was, but we knew we made a big stride when a kid who had marched Cavaliers came to Crown that year. (laughs) We were like “all right, we’re doing something right!”
And after that, it’s all about continuing to develop players, our fundamental program continues to evolve, and then we ask ourselves, “what’s the next thing we can we do?” “What’s something different that we can do?” That’s where we are now…“what can we do that has never been done before?” We ask ourselves those questions every single year. And honestly, it’s hard.