On Monday, members of the Rotary Club of Jasper heard from the man who is responsible for the change — band director Curtis Burttram.
Burttram, who came to Walker High School three years ago, said there are two schools of thought among band directors.
The first, Bands of America, stresses precision and sophistication. Marching bands who follow this approach usually play melodies that are both complex and unfamiliar to the majority of their audience.
In contrast, Burttram said he believes in the importance of entertaining.
“There’s nothing better than to perform, to pour your heart out and give your best effort and then to get something back,” he said.
Burttram said his goal is for his band students to receive more than polite applause at the end of a performance; he wants them to hear the crowd roar.
The WHS marching band’s halftime show has increased in popularity each year that it has been under Burttram’s direction.
This year’s show has a road trip theme. Some of the tunes included are “Free Ride,” “Life is a Highway” and “Greased Lightning.”
One Rotarian asked Burttram if his students are at a disadvantage in competitions because judges are more likely to prefer the Bands of America approach.
Burttram said that it can hurt the band’s chances of taking home top honors in some cases.
However, he said some judges do recognize the hard work that goes into Walker’s shows, and he made no apologies for asking his students to play music that will connect with their audience.
“I want to give these kids a chance to be recognized as the best in their class at competitions, but I also want us to care about our hometown crowds that we perform for throughout the season,” Burttram said.
Burttram added that although he loves teaching music, he also wants his students to learn lessons that will benefit them throughout their life, such as teamwork and the importance of being prepared.
“The reality is that very few bands are full of musically-gifted kids. High school marching bands are made up of a lot of really good kids who are willing to work at things,” Burttram said.