AZ Academy Ex. Dir. Mark Richardson Interview
At the Newbury Park, CA, DCInternational show last July, one fan, at the end of Arizona Academy's stupendous performance, yelled, "Line up now for your rings!" From the edge of my seat, I wrote then that the fan was indeed predicting correctly…Yes, Arizona Academy members did earn rings as the Division II champs in Madison last August.
I wondered that July weekend, just who is this Mark Richardson? With the experienced help of Rick Odello, Blue Devils B director, and a host of others, Executive Director Richardson has provided the Phoenix area, specifically Tempe, with a superb corps. I sought him out in Atlanta during the DCI meeting in late January as a prime target for an interview.
Cozy Baker: Talk to me about that fantastic show last year.
Mark Richardson: We chose music to tell the story about ourselves. The year before, we told a story with classical music. In 2006, going to Madison, we wanted to bring music of our own region, the Southwest, Mexico and Latin America. "Danzon."
The first year, we had not traveled many miles. Last year, it was a new experience with our staff and volunteers. It was the first time many audiences had seen us.
We've been developing a pedagogy since 2001. The "Breathing Gym," a workbook system, our staff developed. Many knew about us first in 2004, but we had been working on that (pedagogy) for several years.
DII champs enter Div. I fray
CB: From Division II champs, you'll be stepping up to Division I. From several knowledgeable experts, I've heard that you have a cautious approach. (See finance interview in DCWorld's March issue by Mike Ferlazzo.) Please explain.
MR: A perfect example, in our second year, Denver is close to home, but it was only our second year. We didn't know if, in 2006, we could go to Madison. If we had gone to Denver in 2005, then not been able to got to Madison in '06, then we would have lost that momentum. We dangled the carrot.
CB: What's up in 2007?
MR: We don't have a title yet. We have the opener and a ballad. Since it is original compositions, we're waiting to get it set. We don't want to announce it too early.
We have some of our compositions. We mostly have the same staff, a new percussion arranger. Our goal is to do something different each year. Some may expect more latin music, but they will see new music. And next year will be totally different.
'Over 300 kids showed up' ~ Richardson
Over 300 kids showed up at two auditions. We had a lot of kids from other states, which is nice, but we want to service the Arizona communities first. We had over 20 kids from Texas, which was a shock for us. We had fewer from California, which surprised us. Now that we've had two weekend rehearsals, we've pretty much decided who we want to hold onto. There were 96 returning members. (We had) by far the largest brass membership; for the first time, it was larger than the percussion numbers. 38 were (from) out-of-state. 210 were new members. Actually, a total of 306.
CB: Pasadena should help you. What are your tour plans?
MR: We're not going to have to travel as many miles as even last year. It costs $5- 6,000 a day; so, we are fortunate.
CB: What would you like to add?
MR: We are the Arizona Academy of the Performing Arts. We have youth bands, youth color guard. We're starting a dance organization. We want a facility that can house multiple arts organizations.
3 generations of band/corps directors
My grandfather was a music educator. My father was. I was in the Blue Devils in 1996. (One of this scribe's favorite BD years.) Blue Devils has activities beyond drum corps — A twirling corps, different music organizations.
With the music educators, we try to keep an open dialogue. A lot of our staff are from Arizona. Now, our kids are going off to teach in Arizona. We are impacting the area beyond our own activity.