Contemporary Accessibility

The Design Answer for Any Audience

By Chris Caldwell

When Scott and I decided to start Lean Forward Marching Design, we knew we wanted to do something different for high school bands: to design shows that thrilled the audience, whether it be at a home football game, or a BOA regional. At the same time, we understood the competitive drive and need to engage adjudicators, leading us to the question of how to design a show that appeals to all demographics?

An oft-repeated phrase among band directors we speak with is: “That band was great…but does anyone know what the show was about?” We are in the golden age of marching band, with instruction, design, and technology allowing the creation of productions no one could have dreamed of even ten years ago. Why then, is it so hard to find a show that wins in 2016, but is still comprehensible to your band parents?

I once had a discussion with a designer who explained their strategy for indoor drum line. He said they try to design something so far “out there,” the judges would figure it was over their heads and give them intellectual credit anyways. Not surprisingly, they made WGI finals multiple times! Unfortunately, this design philosophy permeates much of competitive marching band because adjudicators continue to give credit and directors continue to feel as though this is the only type of design that can win at a certain level.
Is “Obfuscation by Design” what it takes to be successful now in marching band?

At Lean Forward, we don’t believe so. We think there is another path, and it is called Contemporary Accessibility.

Contemporary Accessibility is the concept of designing shows that appeal on multiple levels to multiple audiences. Contemporary is making the show, effects, scoring, staging—the entire package—appeal to today’s adjudicators. Contemporary is being Box 5 is all your areas of design. Our goal to give you a winning product from the beginning so all you have to worry about is the achievement side of the box.

Accessible is where we connect those contemporary concepts into an accessible show, where people in the stands (99% of your audience) and your students will understand it from the very first note. These are shows that make sense to everyone, regardless of venue. This should not be a novel concept, but unfortunately, too many groups feel the only way to be successful is to appeal to a scant 5–10 people in the press box as opposed to the overwhelming MAJORITY of consumers: the general audience. You don’t need to confuse to get credit and you don’t need acclaim through smoke and mirrors. We will craft Lean Forward moments that will both engage your audience and get a reaction from the press box your band deserves.

This isn’t to say that adjudication is bad or anything of the sort. It is a vital tool through which you gauge the band’s achievement and map out avenues for improvement. However, too often designers to simply go through an adjudication rubric and essentially create a “paint by numbers” Box 5 band program. It is no surprise that most of these programs are the ones that are completely incomprehensible to everyone (including those judges who put them in Box 5). With Lean Forward, we want to bridge the cutting edge ideas and effects of today with the entertaining, cool, and exciting concepts that made marching band so much fun to us growing up!

Contemporary Accessibility is the answer you and your staff have been searching for. It’s the way to create a show guaranteed to excite, engage, and be FUN. We design shows because we remember what it felt like to love marching band. Don’t your students deserve the same experience?

Contact us today to see how Contemporary Accessibility can translate into success for your band!