UF marching band saves paper, money with new mobile app
By Christi-Anne Weatherly
Intern & Contributing Writer
This Saturday at the Florida vs. Georgia football game, all 365 members of the UF marching band will be marching to the beats of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and other hits from the band Queen that they learned and rehearsed with a new mobile app for practicing drills.
The Pride of the Sunshine is now using the Ultimate Drill Book app (UDBapp) to learn and rehearse marching drills, eliminating the need to print drills on paper.
Before, the students used drills with coordinates outlined on paper for each song they would perform for that upcoming game. Practices twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays (and an extra Friday practice if there’s a home game that week) meant that thousands of sheets were printed for each rehearsal.
“I think it’s tremendous in terms of sustainability,” said UF marching band director John “Jay” Watkins. “The normal is that you would print almost 20 pages per student per day per rehearsal, and that’s just gone. We’re not doing that anymore.”
The app allows to students to see their halftime show drills as an animated picture of points using latitude and longitude coordinates. Students can interact with the points to know exactly how they should be moving on the field.
“[The app] elevates our ability to teach in a more detailed sense, and certainly at a faster pace,” Watkins said. “We’ve certainly seen a lot of positive success with it.”
The UF School of Music is saving about $30,000 in printing costs because of the app.
First-year health science major Mattie France loves the app because she can simply press play and watch the marching formations in real time.
“I think that it’s super helpful for both me personally and the band as a whole,” said France, who plays the piccolo. “With paper drills we would have to march with just a sheet containing our own coordinates, whereas with the app we can see the whole formation of the band as well as our individual coordinates.”
One of the few downsides to the app is that students are encouraged to use their phones in class, Watkins said. “But I’ve just taken the approach that if they have time to do something else on their phone, I’m not moving fast enough,” Watkins said. “It’s really sped up our pace of learning substantially.”
Implementing the app into permanent use by the marching band members has been in development for several years, according to Watkins. They first tested it out last year with just the student leaders.
UDBapp was developed by brothers Josh and Luke Gall. Josh was a former student of Watkins, completing his masters in instrumental conducting at UF in 2014.
Josh’s relationship with Watkins has proven incredibly helpful for both parties in the process of the app’s development and updating. “[Watkins] is first and foremost a respected professor at the university, and so for him to be accepting of ideas or be willing to share ideas about what he would like the app to do, over time, has proven helpful,” Josh said.
Luke said that he and his brothers’ goal is to reach every marcher and every educator that participates in marching activity. “We feel that our software can help them in a variety of different ways; whether that’s the simple fact of not having to print, or for some other programs that want to take a step forward and find another level of excellence, we can actually help them do that,” Luke said.
“The next step is to get all the music done the same way,” Watkins said. “That’s my next goal, is to get to the point where we’re never having to print anything.”