Always be a Musician, and Always be an Athlete


Marching and playing is a key element to marching band and drum corps. For brass and woodwind players, achieving the same musical level you do standing still while on the move is something that can take a long time to master. Here are a few thoughts to help achieve sounding as good on the move as you do standing still.

• When you’re in music rehearsal, never forgot you will eventually be in visual rehearsal, and then again in ensemble putting everything together. So, when in music rehearsal, focus on separating your upper and lower bodies, so when you eventually add the drill (lower body), your upper body feels the same and you can achieve the same high level musicianship. When you’re in visual rehearsal, always BE a musician. Don’t hold your breath, constantly move your head, or allow the upper body to “sag”. The more you’re a musician when you’re in visual rehearsal, the easier it will be to put them together.

• Remember to fill-up the instrument with air, LOTS of air. The more you can stabilize the instrument when on the move, the truer the sound will be. A general tendency is to lower the amounts of air when on the move, to “conserve” it due to the physical demand. Like a marathon runner, your endurance will GROW over time, so continue to push yourself. Before you know it, you will be able to handle the visual responsibilities while also playing with the same breath control you do while standing still.

• Finally, r-e-l-a-x! The more tension you have throughout your body while on the move, the more difficulty you will have sounding great. Not only does tension prohibit you from creating the sounds you want, it hinders the muscle memory you’ve worked so hard on in music rehearsals when much more relaxed.

Always be a musician, and always be an athlete. That way, when you have to put it all together, you will be a musical athlete!




Something that continues to frustrate me as a teacher is the reluctance students often reveal when called upon to respond to a question or offer an opinion. I know they have answers, and as soon as they’re out of the room, there’ll be no shortage of opinions! There are times when I’ve asked a very simple question—one I know they can all answer, yet they sit in silence and stillness. Are the social pressures really that great? Have I done something to make them afraid to respond? Regardless of the reason, I refuse to accept this complacency, especially among the student leaders whom I count on to set the example.

A culture of commitment

I want to instill in my students not just a culture of excellence, but a culture of commitment. This starts with something as simple as how they raise their hands. So, on that first day of summer band, we have hand-raising practice! With all the incoming freshman gathered with the upperclassmen, I say, “Upperclassmen, show our new members how we raise our hands around here.” Instantly, 200 hands shoot skyward, elbows extended as if reaching for some invisible prize. Then I say, “Now, everyone, show me how we raise our hands.” All the new members raise their hands just as enthusiastically along with the vets. Why? They’re just copying what the “big kids” do. Now, I’m working the social pressures in favor of that culture of commitment. “From now on, that’s how we raise our hands. All the way, or not at all.” Then I follow up with a few simply questions to which everyone can respond in the affirmative, and we’re practicing this simple skill. But how powerful it is in influencing that culture of commitment!

So what’s the big deal?

Much is communicated nonverbally when people interact. Near the end of a long marching band rehearsal—when everyone is hot, tired, maybe frustrated—I might say, “Raise your hand if you’re working hard tonight.” If those hands are raised high and with enthusiasm, not only have we acknowledged as a group that we’re working hard, but we’ve shown enthusiasm for hard work. The WAY they raise their hands sends a powerful message.

When we return to the previous set, an urgent “jog” or “hustle” back to the start communicates enthusiasm (whether they’re really enthusiastic or not!). When kids move slowly and lethargically, a much different message is sent, and these complacent behaviors can often contribute to a tedious rehearsal.

Why “beware the bystander?”

Bystanders can be very influential because their non-involvement strengthens the prevailing attitude. When they choose not to respond, or they respond reluctantly, others can interpret this as disagreement, apathy, or even contempt. But when there are strong behavioral procedures in place, it mitigates the effects of fatigue, frustration, and even apathy. The behavior itself influences the mind and we redefine “fun” in the context of commitment! So we must beware the bystander because of his subtle but powerful influence. His lack of commitment allows others to see what they want to see to feel better about their own complacency.

A couple of recommendations

There is a wonderful Ted Talk that illustrates the power of body language in influencing attitude. The speaker is Amy Cuddy, and the talk is entitled, “Your body language shapes who you are.” Click here to see the video.

If you’d like to delve more deeply into the subject of bystanders and their influence, I’d like to recommend a book entitled, “Followership,” by Dr. Barbara Kellerman. In her book she identifies five types of followers: Isolates, Bystanders, Participants, Activists, and Diehards, and she discusses how individuals move from one level to another. Fascinating reading for those of us leading so many!

These and other topics will be the subject of future weekly System Blue tips. As always, if you have questions or would like more information, contact Frank Troyka at

Video Link

Across The Pond – Still Part of the System Blue Family

Posted on Categories News


Drum corps is a remarkable activity.  For those of us who have participated, we know how it connects us.  We know the trials and tribulations as well as how hard we strive to make our dreams come true. With that in mind, we had to share the story of Joe Vise.

Joe is from England and has previously marched with fellow System Blue endorsees, Kidsgrove Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps.  This year, however, Joe took the leap of faith, crossed the pond and will march with The Concord Blue Devils B corps.  Congratulations Joe!  We love to see you keep it in the family, and we look forward to tracking your remarkable summer ahead.

We wish Joe, Kidsgrove Scouts, The Blue Devils and all of our endorsees a successful and wonderful DCI season.  Dreams really do come true.

Together, its our time.








They recognize that they are just ONE on the TEAM.

Even among the other members of your leadership team, you will assume the role of both leader and follower. You have to learn when it’s appropriate to assume which role. Seek help from your fellow leaders when you need it. Knowing when help is needed is a sign of intelligence, awareness, and the mark of a strong leader. It is not an admission of weakness or inadequacy. Support each other by applying expectations consistently and by showing respect for ALL members of the leadership team.

They never complain to anyone who can’t help them solve their problem.

Complaining about ANYTHING to those unable to effect a positive change, no matter what the situation, undermines your credibility as a leader and you instantly become part of the problem.

They know that if they’re not part of the solution, they’re part of the problem.

As corny as this might sound, it’s true. You can’t be a leader by default. You must take a decisive stance on every issue, even when it means setting aside your own feelings for the good of the group.

They never give up.

Any leader will face opposition, contempt, ridicule, and frustration on the way to realizing his true potential. You must be far-sighted in your goal setting and be resilient enough to get beyond the immediate setbacks. Remember: Effort fully releases its reward only after one refuses to quit.

They know that there are no guarantees.

You can do all the “right” things, and still not get the results you’re hoping for. That’s because people always have the power of choice and they can choose the wrong path without reason. STICK WITH IT! Even the worthiest causes meet resistance from time to time. Resolve to let every experience show you its lesson.

Check back each week for more System Blue leadership tips. If you have any questions or if you’d like to brainstorm a particular idea, contact Frank Troyka at


Playing Through The Center Of The Horn


Part of the training regiment with a drum corps (and marching band), is learning to play through the center of the horn. This is something that should be focussed on heavily in band camp and early season rehearsals. By learning to play in the center, and not “on top or bottom” of pitch, among other things, leads to better endurance during long rehearsal days. If performers are trained to play in the center of pitch when the weather is “normal” (say mid 60’s to mid 70’s), and not the common tendency to play sharp, this will pay dividends when the weather becomes warmer, especially summertime with drum corps. If performers have the tendency to play sharp, and the temperature is in the 90’s, the group will definitely have a “dull” sound to them, and seemingly have less endurance through rehearsals.

Don’t severely react to the “sound” of the instrument (ensemble) as the weather gets ridiculously hot. When the tuning slide is pulled out almost all the way, the instrument WILL sound (and feel) differently. Nothing has changed with the performers or ensemble, it’s just, well, hot! Put “warm weather ears” on if you are a director, and if you’re a performer, make sure not to purposely lip the pitch down, as you will lose endurance, create bad habits, and fight the muscle memory you’ve been working to build.

Finally, keep the instrument in the shade when you can, and ALWAYS keep yourself hydrated!

Stay cool 🙂




Very soon, we’ll be in the midst of a new marching band season and there will be an overwhelming number of things pressing down on us. There’s a good chance that last year you thought of some things you’d like to do differently next year with regard to rehearsal procedures, show design, and maybe the timeline for learning the show. You may not be thinking of them right now, but it’s guaranteed that when the season begins, those changes you wish you’d made will haunt you for another season. This is the time to think through what you want to do differently and come up with a plan for change and action. Here are a few suggestions….

Involve others on the staff.

Get together with the others you work with and brainstorm ideas. You might do this in a social setting rather than at school so there’s a more relaxed, peer relationship. Involvement creates ownership, and when others on the staff feel like they have a part in developing a successful program, you build loyalty. Encourage even the wildest ideas! You never know which one will lead to a breakthrough.

Involve your student leaders.

As connected and aware of our students as we might like to think we are, there’s a dynamic at work within the band that only the students are privy to. You can create the same kind of ownership within the students that you do for the staff by listening and acting on their ideas. BEWARE! If your students have “concerns,” do your best to listen to what they’re actually trying to say rather than HOW they say it! Emotions run high when you’re a teenager (remember?) and they don’t always see themselves they way adults see them. SUGGESTION: When you invite the leaders to share their ideas, any concern should be accompanied by a solution. They’ll discover that solutions are much more challenging to come up with that problems, and this teaches them how to think through a problem rather than just amplifying it.

Have your own list of changes you’d like to make.

Rather than just list your ideas, consider discussing the scenarios that brought those ideas about. Then you can gently guide them to the conclusion you may already have reached. Then give them the credit! If you lead your staff and students without regard to who gets the credit, you’ll create even more loyalty and ownership in every stakeholder in the organization.

A few of the things I wanted to improve over the years were…

  • Better rehearsal pacing
  • Consistent attendance and punctuality
  • Higher individual accountability without seeming oppressive
  • Greater social responsibility

These and other topics will be the subject of future weekly System Blue tips. As always, if you have questions or would like more information, contact Frank Troyka at

Win A Free System Blue Hoodie – Sign Up For a SB Event



Sign up and pay for one of our upcoming System Blue Events and be entered to win a System Blue hoodie. You must complete the following steps to be eligible:
1. Sign up and pay for a System Blue Event
2. Share that event to your Facebook or Instagram Feed
3. Use ‪#‎systemblue‬
4. Tag the System Blue Facebook Page or Instagram @systemblue1
5. Complete the following sentence – When I attend my System Blue event I would like to learn _____________.
We will randomly pick 10 entries.
Our 10 winners will be announced and posted to the System Blue Facebook page on Monday May 23,2016. The hoodies will be mailed out shortly thereafter.
*If you have already signed up for an upcoming event this summer, complete steps 2-5 only in order to be entered for the hoodie give away.
*USA shipping only, we can not ship items overseas.
Good Luck! Together, we grow. #systemblue



The Trumpet Mouthpiece Best For You


System Blue offers two Trumpet mouthpieces, the TR1 and the TR2. In general, the two mouthpieces are very similar, they both have larger back bores and throats, and like all of the System Blue mouthpieces, they have a UV (not ultraviolet :-), but a mix of a U-shape and V-shape cup), and slightly sharper bite to assist with clarity of articulation. The biggest different between the TR1 and the TR2 is the actual cup size. The TR1 is geared more for “lead” players and has a smaller cup, whereas the TR2 is more of a “section” mouthpiece, and has a standard Trumpet cup size. Both mouthpieces are designed to work best with the System Blue Professional and Traditional Trumpets, but work well with ANY Trumpet.




A big misconception is that great leaders are just born that way. Sure, there are some who just have charisma. Others seem to gravitate to them because of their personality. But personality can be developed, just like your intellect and your skill.

They don’t have to be genetic!

Many years ago, and many times since, I asked my own students to identify the characteristics of the leaders in our band they thought were the most effective.

Here’s what they came up with…

They are strong performers.

The great leaders weren’t always first chair. We had some of our best leaders come from outside the top band. But they worked hard and they worked smart, and that earned them the respect of their peers.

MAKE NOTE! Sometimes it’s easy to think that great performers are born that way. Great performers HATE this perception! Talent only goes so far and the rest is hard work! One of the best ways you can show your commitment is to PRACTICE PUBLICLY. Practice where others can see you so they know that the path to excellence is through effort.

They are approachable and humble.

Make time for everyone, especially those outside your social circle. The better you get, the more distant you may seem to those who want to be acknowledged by you and to be more like you. Something as simple as saying hi to a freshman in the hall might seem like nothing to you, but it could mean a lot to someone who looks up to you. Offer help. Be friendly.

Praise effort.

Give thanks. Remember, gratitude is free to the person giving it and priceless to the person receiving it.

They are good communicators and teachers.

They’ve thought about what they want to say, and they say it with confidence. This doesn’t mean you pound your fist, or shout your beliefs. (Sometimes, those who shout the loudest are trying to convince themselves!)

Good communication starts with simple things. Start by eliminating things like “um,” “like,” “ok,” and other filler words. When you’re in a position of authority, these weaken your presence. You can practice being a better communicator without anyone knowing! Start by eliminating those unnecessary words and phrased in casual settings. No one will know you’re actually practicing to be a better leader!

Check back each week for more System Blue leadership tips. If you have any questions or if you’d like to brainstorm a particular idea, contact Frank Troyka at

Why the SB30 Hybrid-Euphonium


Why the SB30 Hybrid-Euphonium

We get asked all the time why a group would choose to use the SB30 Hybrid-Euphonium over a Baritone, or a Euphonium, or a mix of Baritones and Euphoniums. There are several reasons we usually respond with, and I will talk through a few here.

One of the main reasons we initially designed the Hybrid-Euph was to eliminate the need to use two different low brass voices (which The Blue Devils did for many years). When two voices are used (say a Baritone for the leads, and Euphonium for the lower parts), and then a unison line is written for the full low brass section, intonation issues will arise that are inconsistent between the two instruments. By using the one instrument, all of the tuning tendencies are now similar from player to player.

The Hybrid-Euph borrows parts from a Baritone and a Euphonium, as well as has some custom parts made specifically for it. The “front-end” of the instrument is more Baritone, and the “back-end” is more Euphonium. Because of that, lead players will still be able to climb the register and play with a great top end sound, while the lower parts can still play with a “beefy” sound in the low register.

As you can see, the SB30 Hybrid-Euphonium covers all the bases musically, as well as it is weighted so performers from high school students to world class drum corps members can perform and maneuver it with general ease (although it is still a large instrument, we’re not talking about a Trumpet here :-).