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MU marching band implements technology to take its sound 'Uptown'

By Katie Sallach
On November 5, 2012

Fans at the last few Miami University football games were treated to a surprise from the Miami marching band: a new halftime show it calls "A Night Uptown."

The halftime show aims to tell the audience a story and walk them through an evening Uptown, according to the director of the marching band, Stephen Lytle. The band had been considering a Miami-themed show for a while when it decided on an Uptown theme, Lytle said.

"We wanted a show that was very Miami-centric and could be uniquely tied to us, so we looked at what sets Oxford apart and went beyond the classroom to where students hang out outside of class," Lytle said.

After seeing the new halftime show junior Megan Ollier was impressed with the idea for an Uptown theme.

"Going Uptown on weekends is definitely something that is distinctly a Miami tradition, and I really enjoyed seeing what the band did with it," Ollier said.

According to Lytle the band received a grant for $19,424 from the student technology fee program allowing it to purchase some music mixing equipment to use in its new show. The band used the grant money to purchase a laptop, mixing board, drum pad, speakers and microphones which allow them to include live sounds and samples from the actual songs in the show.

The show begins with the sound of someone's phone ringing and then a student talking about his or her plans to go Uptown. It then features a sample of Rihanna singing part of her song "We Found Love," and transitions into the band's performance of the song. Next the band uses the new technology to play the sound of students discussing the next move in its night Uptown and continues into the second number, featuring Bruno Mars' "Runaway Baby."

Right before the last number of the show the voice of a student is heard quoting some of the lyrics to Semisonic's song "Closing Time" to symbolize closing time at the bars Uptown, according to Lytle. The final number features "Closing Time," Coldplay's "Every Teardrop is a Waterfall," and ends with Fun's "We are Young." At the end of the show the band plays a clip of the song "We are Young," which Lytle said was fitting to represent the end of a night Uptown.

According to Lytle the technology provides a lot of new opportunities for the band to explore new styles and genres of music, including the more current songs featured in its Uptown show.

Since the new technology allows the band to use more variety in its music, the band decided to use some more current music that it thought would be more relatable to the audience so that listeners could actually imagine a night Uptown, according to Lytle.

The new technology offers new opportunities for band members and for students outside of the band, Lytle said. While some of the band members are involved with the technology because their instruments are wired into the equipment for live sounds, students outside of the band were asked to act as the audio engineers for the show.

Senior band member, Kristen Bartholomew said she thinks the new technology gives the Miami band a unique style.

"It's definitely a new spin on college band," Bartholomew said. "A lot of bands have their own styles, OU has their dancing style, OSU is a more traditional military style, and I think this technology really helps us stand out from other bands."

The band will perform its new halftime show at the last two home games of the Miami football season.

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