On Saturday, 366 students will march to the beat of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” The UF marching band’s show honoring Franklin is the third performance of the season rehearsed with a new mobile app for learning drills.
The UF marching band has been using the UDBapp to learn marching drills since before the first home football game Sept. 1 against Charleston Southern. The app removes the need to print paper drills ever again, said John Watkins, the UF marching band director.
Previously, the 366 marching band students used paper that outlined the coordinates of the band members for three to five songs, Watkins said. Thousands of sheets were printed for each rehearsal, but if any design changes were made then the sheets would have to be reprinted.
“With an activity like this, it’s all kinesthetic learning,” Watkins said. “They can see what they’re doing, where they’re supposed to go. But then it’s about them being able to feel it.”
The app takes latitude and longitude coordinates from the design software Pyware 3D Professional and turns halftime show drills into an animated picture of shapes and patterns, Watkins said. Each student can click and interact with coordinates during practice to see how they’re moving around the field, Watkins said.
The School of Music will save between $30,000 and $32,000 in paper and printing by using the app, Watkins said. The subscription for the app is $5 per each student, which comes out to roughly $1,830 paid by the band program.
The app’s creators and Ultimate Drill Book co-founders Joshua Gall and his brother Luke said they faced issues of losing or damaging the paper drills at rehearsals. Joshua, a 2014 UF instrumental conducting masters alumnus, began developing the app while at UF.
“The app is as good as the people who use it,” Joshua Gall said. “If it’s a great app but no one uses it, then it will never really see the light of day.”
Not only are the brothers co-founders of Ultimate Drill Book, but Luke Gall said he and his brother use the app every day as band teachers.
“We are finding ourselves in the situations where we’re not only talking to people who are using it across the country, but we’re talking to the students who we’re teaching right in front of us,” Luke Gall said.
Greta Gallina, a 20-year-old UF plant science junior, said the app helps her understand what shapes in the drill look like from above. Before the app, it was difficult to understand. The band members only knew what the puzzle they were a piece to looked like after seeing a video.
For a Veteran’s Day show, marchers morphed into tanks and for a Halloween performance they turned into a ghost that moved across the field.
“It was always a wonder of what shape we were supposed to be making,” she said. “With this, we get to see what the picture is and what we’re actually supposed to be making.”
Ryan Klitz, a 20-year-old UF music education junior, is one of four baritone section leaders. Drills are constantly changing and require quick mental calculations in order to be executed, Klitz said.
“I think it was about like 4,500 pieces of paper spent on making drill cards,” he said. “And we only use them for one rehearsal and we throw them out or they get damaged.”
This year’s band is one of the largest bands UF has had, Watkins said. But rehearsals are faster and more efficient than in years past.
Watkins said his personal relationship with Joshua Gall allows him to communicate ideas for improvement within the app. Soon, a GPS attendance feature will help them take attendance easier, Watkins said.
“Let’s face it,” Watkins said. “They all have phones anyway. We might as well use them.”