Pulaski High School marching band goes high-tech

iPads help musicians remember routines

Contributed Photo

From left, Jacob Wittman, William Murphy and Benjamin Thomas use iPads to learn their field routine during this year’s band camp, which consisted of four long days of practice culminated by a public performance of the band’s 2017 field show.

You could excuse those passing by Saputo Stadium last week if they were confused by Pulaski High School marching band members holding iPads in front of them while they marched instead of their musical instruments.

But that’s just another example of technology being used in a new way to teach. During the PHS marching band’s annual summer camp, members used an iPad app, Pyware 3D, to learn this year’s Billy Joel-themed field routine that will be performed during halftime of PHS football games and at marching band competitions.

PHS director of bands Thomas Busch said previously students would have drill-charts on paper and each drill chart would represent a single set or image of the show.

“Typically, we would have between 40-50 sets per show, which means the students would have to learn 40-50 movement patterns that are associated with the music,” he said.

Along with the drill-charts — to which only the section leaders were issued — coordinate charts for each individual marcher were used.

“These coordinate charts would tell, with very specific detail, where a particular marcher was to be situated on the field at a very specific moment in the music,” Busch added.

Now, everything band members need is located in the app, including several options for viewing the show — above, from the front, from the side or back of the field; second-by-second (or beat-by-beat) information to where the marcher is on the field; and the ability of the marcher to watch the drill unfold in real time versus static hard-copy of the conclusion of the drill.

“Without the app, Pyware 3D Viewer, the student marcher would have to imagine how one formation would transpire into the next,” Busch said. “With the app, they can see exactly how the sets transition into one another along with the opportunity to be informed to the exact location of each beat of the music and their specific location at that moment in time.”

Students performed the routine for the first time publicly Thursday night at Saputo Stadium.

Evan Steeno, sophomore trumpet player, thinks the Pyware app is useful, because people who weren’t section leaders were able to see the whole picture the band was trying to create.

“Last year as an incoming freshman I had to use my coordinate chart to find my spot with numbers corresponding to places on the field,” Steeno said, “but now with the press of a button I could see exactly where I was supposed to be and where everyone else would be.”

Megan Schwoerer, senior bari saxophone player, agreed.

“I think the app made learning the show a lot easier since it visually showed how the new pictures or shapes were formed and how students could get from point A to point B,” she said.

Senior alto saxophone player Jaclyn Willems used the paper drill charts the past three field shows, and this year with the iPads helping, she could see the difference.

“Different students learn in varying ways,” she said, “so watching the drills move on the screen was very helpful by making the drill understandable for more people.”