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Special Feature: Greenwood's Rainbow Tradition

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    In the words (or word) of Tevye from "Fiddler on the Roof", TRADITION plays a large role in successful marching band programs. But, while Tevye recognized that his traditions were slowly slipping away, marching traditions seem to strengthen with time.

    The Greenwood Marching Woodmen know a thing or two about long-standing traditions. If you have seen a Greenwood State Finals performance, you've heard a tradition that dates back over 40 years. The Marching Woodmen's warm-up tune contains a fragment of "Over the Rainbow" from "The Wizard of Oz." And if you happen to notice a Greenwood alum in the audience with a tear in their eye, you've witnessed the emotional power of TRADITION.

    Greenwood's Oz connection dates back to 1973. New band director Herman Knoll came to Greenwood from Martinsville High School and he already had his first marching show planned. Knoll was, and is, a Drum Corps fan. One of his favorites, the Cavaliers, had used "Over the Rainbow' as their corps song for many years. The Madison Scouts had also recently performed a show composed of Oz tunes. So, fully inspired, Knoll planned an Oz themed program for Greenwood's 1973 track show at the Indiana State Fair Band Day competition.

    The two-part State Fair competition consisted of a preliminary round in the morning and a finals round that evening. The top 16 groups, the "Sweet 16", made up the finals competition. The Greenwood band program was building momentum under their previous director, David Van Veld. In a span of a few years, the band grew from 90 members to 150. In 1971, they broke into the "Sweet 16" for the first time and finished the day in 16th place. Director Knoll arrived at the right time with the extra energy needed to push the band to new levels. In 1973, Knoll's "Oz" show put Greenwood in the top 10 for the first time. "Over the Rainbow" became a signature tune for Greenwood and propelled them to 6th place in 1974 and 5th place in 1975. Also in 1975, Greenwood won 1st place at the prestigious Blue and Gold competition at Morehead State University in Kentucky. The excitement and momentum was building with each new accomplishment.

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    And then, suddenly, Herman Knoll announced that he was leaving. He had accepted a director position at his alma mater, Indiana State University. The announcement came in July with Knoll promising to stay with the Greenwood band through their 1976 State Fair show in August, but that would be his last Greenwood competition. Emotions were high among students and parents in the run up to the Fair competition. Any sadness in the departure of Mr. Knoll was quickly turned into a desire to give him a win. Their program included "Over the Rainbow" in the mix and it easily won them a spot in the "Sweet 16." The students really pushed themselves in the evening finals and they won the day as Greenwood was named State Fair Grand Champion! Director Knoll had ignited the Greenwood music program by showing what could be achieved through diligence, determination and hard work. And, a tradition was born.

    Four years later, assistant director Mike Sweeney decided to compose a warm-up tune for the band. His decision to build the tune around "Over the Rainbow" was a welcome tribute to Herman Knoll and the band's accomplishments. Now, the warm-up itself has become a tradition. But, it's a tradition that must be earned every season. The band only plays the "Woodmen Warm-up" when the director feels the show and players are ready for ISSMA competition. That level of readiness varies from year to year.

    And the tradition continues. To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the 1976 win, the Marching Woodmen presented "The Rainbow Revisited" as their 2006 ISSMA show. It too carried them to victory. So, when Greenwood fans post rainbow photos on Facebook, smile at any mention of "The Wizard of Oz" or tear up during the "Woodmen Warm-up", ...TRADITION!

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  1. Jon Heilman
    Sorry to hear of your brother's passing. I wasn't sure about referencing Tevye, but every time I think about a band tradition, I see him roaming the village and hear that song.
      Matt Bonfield likes this.
  2. paula mellencamp
    I love the fact that you used Tevye as a reference to Greenwood Marching Woodman tradition in this article, because my brother Mark Mellencamp played Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, at GHS, back in 1977, and was a freshman in the Greenwood Marching Woodman, the year they won State Fair. I, being 3 yrs younger was there of course, but not yet in the band. I remember quite well the going away party for Mr Knoll, everybody cried!! This article would have made my brother very happy, he died last Dec. 2015
      Matt Bonfield, Dolly and Mommafo like this.
    1. Jon Heilman
      Paula, are you related to the trio of Mellencamps who were among Greenwood faculty in the 60's?
  3. thewho
    I love their arrangement of Somewhere Over the Rainbow in the 2006 show! My favorite part is the rich phrase of Eb-C#-C right before the band swells into the big hit. That's such a memorable phrase in all of its own.
      Dolly likes this.
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