Among all of the fine institutions at the University of Michigan, the Michigan Marching band is one of the most prestigious and rich in heritage. For over a century, from the traditional songs “Temptation” and “War Chant” to the exquisitely glowing PixMob show of last week, (by the way if you haven’t seen it yet, check it out here!) the thousands of students that have walked through the program have contributed to the prestigious reputation of the MMB. Being a member of the flag line of the Michigan Marching Band, I can say that this reputation didn’t come easily; it was established with much hard work and dedication. A complex and sometimes ruthless sorting system, much related to Menand’s first theory of education, is the way in which the MMB selects it’s halftime performers for each week.
Each week, all members of the MMB partake in a marching challenge, which consists of marching a small portion of the pre-game show, while being judged by a GSI of the class. 10 members go at once, all marching the same style, playing the same music, and judged on the same scale. Flags, in addition to this challenge, participate in a spinning challenge as well. This is where 10 of us at a time are judged by GSI’s while we spin a song that we all learned from the previous week. From there, our marching scores and spinning scores are combined, and the top 24 competitors make the halftime performance block. This process is highly competitive; there are 40 flag girls, 24 spots, and 23 returning members.
While the returning veterans do have a slight advantage over the freshman, through this rigorous process, the most qualified girls are sorted from the pack, regardless of age. The directors of the MMB are applying Menand’s first theory of education in this situation; they are making the most of their human resources by selecting and sorting their best members. This process, like Menand’s first theory, is one that is focused on selectivity and not concerned with inclusion. This type of filtering, like Menand describes, is the best possible way to make the most of the talent that the MMB has. However, the members that do not qualify for performance block are assigned to the “reserve block,” where they can continue to work on their fundamentals, so at the end of the week when the sorting process occurs all over again.
While I am among the many freshman flag members who have yet to make a halftime performance block, my spirits are still high and I have kept my attitude optimistic! I am trusting the MMB staff and have faith that their usage of Menand’s first theory will produce the finest performances. I support my flag girls on both performance and reserve fields; GO BLUE!