No 'Fear': How Claudia Taylor Johnson's Band Balances Competition, Art

As the mastermind behind one of the most dynamic bands in the nation, Claudia Taylor Johnson director Jarret Lipman is well-acquainted with the current clash of ideologies in the marching arts.

While some say bands should welcome a culture of competition like traditional sports, others want to check this mindset at the door and perform music solely as an art form.

In an interview for the upcoming FloMarching film "All Access: Claudia Taylor Johnson," Lipman explained how competition has become such a taboo subject in marching.

"I think there's a lot of fear in band that we're going to get over competitive and kids are somehow going to be devastated or that they're going to love music for the wrong reasons," Lipman said.

Amid these concerns, the idea of eliminating scores and trophies altogether in favor of organized marching festivals has even been mentioned.

However, Lipman feels CTJ and other marching programs can avoid burned out performers by finding a healthy balance between both mindsets.

"I think if we were not to compete our kids would still love music very much, and I don't think that's the only thing that drives them," Lipman said. "But I do think [kids] love to compete, and it's a part of what drives the sports culture."

"We love competitions like the Olympics and [other] sports. Kids are competitive about grades. I think we balance it out with a love for music and a love for entertaining but also a love for what we do. If you go to a competition, it's OK to compete to win, and it's OK to compete to be really good."

Ahead of each show, Lipman and the Claudia Taylor Johnson staff reinforce to the band that it is competing in an artistic world that is graded on subjective tastes -- sometimes the judges simply aren't going to like what CTJ puts on the field.

In those instances, Lipman stresses that his performers put their show in perspective.

"We talk a lot about competition at Johnson," Lipman said. "We aren't afraid to talk about winning. We talk about the excitement that comes with a win. We also talk about the fact that it's OK to be excited about pursuing excellence and pursuing winning. And we also talk about the sun is going to come up if you don't win."

Stay tuned to FloMarching to watch the first full-length episode of "All Access: Claudia Taylor Johnson" on Wednesday, Dec. 21.


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