Richard Miles conducting Brightspark's massed band during the 2015 Outback Bowl halftime show.
We spoke with Dr. Richard B. Miles, the principal conductor of the Outback Bowl’s massed band halftime show, about the advantages of this national event, tips for excelling as a music educator and more.
“When it was time to enter the field, the University of Wisconsin band was exiting off the sideline and still playing their fight song. We still had around 200 folks on the front sideline who were not quite in place to enter but we had to start entering the field anyway. Fortunately all made it to their place in time. There is nothing like trying to get 3,000 folks in place within 30 seconds and with absolutely no way to communicate except for one “whistle” that says – let’s go! We made it work and it was one of the most exciting and superb performances of the Outback Bowl Massed Band in the past 20 years.” — Dr. Richard B. Miles
What advantages do national events like this have over local festivals?
Students gain a deeper appreciation and respect for other performing groups. In addition, hearing, seeing, and performing with some of our nation’s finest bands is motivational and encouraging.
I have always been a strong advocate of using some form of student travel and performing venue opportunity as a recruiting and retention tool … More students are likely to [join] or remain in your band program knowing that there are exceptional performing and exotic travel opportunities coming up. Groups develop lasting friendships and bonding – a real sense of the team with spirit, loyalty and dedication.
What advice would you give to directors who plan on attending an event like this?
Prepare students to enjoy “performing and giving of themselves” when performing in public. This may be the most important lesson in developing and promoting an appreciation of and participation in “music.”
What are some highlights of this national marching band festival?
Bands may choose to participate in … adjudicated [competitions] and special educational clinics that are provided by some of the most respected authorities in the field of music education. The concert bands perform in an exceptional auditorium with very fine acoustics. The night parade venue in Ybor City with thousands of band fans applauding is spectacular ... And the opportunity to perform for 60,000 fans along with 3,000 performers is an experience of a lifetime.
Coming back from a spectacular event like this, what is your response to sportscaster Jim Rome calling marching bands, “dorks running around with their instruments”?
Our goal as music teachers is to teach every day the love of, appreciation of, and enjoyment and performing of “music.” Unfortunately, we cannot change perceptions of others but we can certainly give of ourselves in performance with the hope of providing an enjoyable experience for others. Some folks just don’t get it – so that is a sample of life – but because someone does not like or care for our performances or talent, this should never hold us back or distract.
Richard Miles during massed band rehearsal at the Outback Bowl.
Richard Miles has served as the Director of Bands and Professor of Music at Morehead State University in Morehead, KY since 1985. The esteemed music educator is the editor, compiler and co-principal author of the internationally renowned Teaching Music through Performance in Band Series, and has conducted concerts and clinics in a variety of international and domestic locations.