Andrew Muth began working for the Lewis Cass Marching Kings in June of this year. Before Muth, Don Krug had directed the band since 1971, assisting in taking the band to state for 34 consecutive years. Mike Clark also directed the band from 2001 to 2012 before he passed away, winning 7 state championships in his time. Muth came into the program knowing of its success, with intentions of maintaining that legacy.
“The community was very welcoming, but with a little added pressure of, ‘you have to maintain,’” Muth laughed.
However, Muth is no stranger to a successful program with a long reigning director. His own high school director at Paoli has been there since 1988 and won 13 state championships. Although, Muth does not measure success in trophies, but rather the quality of the program is achieved through teaching students to love, understand, and appreciate music. Success at the state level is just an added bonus, according to Muth. This mindset has helped relieve some of the pressure. This approach to teaching has already lead to a successful season for Lewis Cass so far.
“The Cass machine is well oiled, and parts of it just run themselves,” Muth said referencing the parent volunteers who already know what to do, and the upper classmen who have been setting examples for the incoming freshmen.
Muth also mentioned Alan Hinshaw, how has been with the band for 5 years now. With Hinshaw’s knowledge of Cass and Muth’s knowledge of marching band, Muth believes they are set up for success. These factors add to Muth’s confidence of maintaining the Lewis Cass legacy.
In terms of teaching style, Muth is invested in the understanding of the process. He strives for the students to understand how they are being evaluated, and so sticks to an open door policy. Meaning the students have full access to the judges tapes and the the score sheets. This is so the students understand why they are practicing certain things on the field; it is according to how they were evaluated on their last performance.
It is important for the students to understand where they are critiqued so they can focus, and turn weaknesses into strengths. The band consists of over 100 students, and the challenge the directors face is making each individual cohesive in look and sound. They want each student to achieve at the same level. Meaning freshmen and seniors need to perform identically.
To master this, Muth has spent a lot of time on teaching the music. Teaching the students to breathe the same - articulate the same. Teaching them that every student must play to produce the sound quality the judges are looking for. Teaching them that everyone is additive to the performance, and that they have a responsibility on each count. They want their last show to be their best show - adding to each week to achieve the best, final performance.
This is a lot of responsibility for each individual student to master. According to Muth, marching band has evolved immensely in the 10 years since he has been out of high school. Now there are themes and theatricality. The students have an emotional, musical, and visual responsibility to guide the audience through a story and take them on a journey.
The story Lewis Cass tells this year is titled, “A New Beginning.” They hope to push the envelope with their performance and portray the message of moving forward, and that every new beginning, begins with an old beginning’s end. The Marching Kings maintain tradition, without letting the fear of change hold them back.