I’m asked weekly, one way or another:  “I’ve hired my staff and designers…how do I get the ball rolling on the show?”

**Note…everyone has his/her own process, and I’ve even deviated from this to fit a group’s preference…some do not require as much planning for various reasons, while some require daily prep.

Once you have your visual/drill designer, music designer, guard designer, and any consultants you’re going to bring on board, it’s time to start the collaboration/meeting process.

Because every staff is different, prepare to be flexible AND make sure that everyone leaves his/her egos at the door.  Sometimes that is easier said than done, but all-in-all, if you work with people you like, and you respect each other, then you shouldn’t encounter many problems.

There are a few things to keep in mind as a director when working with your staff/designers. There is almost a direct correlation between the level of effort, and planning that you, the director or program coordinator puts into a show, and the outcome of the product.

Meeting #1 (if not in person, sign up for a freeconferencecall.com line…it’s free!)…meeting should be limited to approximately an hour.


  • Include everyone that wants to present a show idea/concept
  • Everyone throws out related musical or visual ideas for 5-10 minutes for each idea/concept
  • These ideas/concepts could even be a show that is already completed and off the shelf, such as a show from www.centerxproductions.com
  • Buying a show off the shelf shortens your planning time mainly because the music doesn’t have to be arranged or composed and generally has visual ideas in place.
  • After the group brainstorms, try to narrow it down to 2-3 ideas or shows.
  • Schedule another meeting for 3-7 days later..it is never a good idea to make quick decisions when you have to live with it the entire summer and fall!

Meeting #2…30-60 minutes.

Picking the Show

  • Each show goes through an evaluation process:
    • Pros/cons
    • visual ideas
    • music selections
    • horizontal/vertical moments

Meeting #3 

Developing the theme/concept

This will be a meeting to determine the flow of the show paired with the musical selections that you’ve picked.  If the music will be originally composed, moods and visual ideas will determine the layout and pacing of the music.  Plan your vertical effect moments, or some moments visually that could happen in each movement.  That could be as simple as “I’d like to arrive at our first large moment within 30 seconds after the drum major salute”.  Planning moments or new ideas to happen roughly every 30-40 seconds will be super important in the pacing of a show. Keep the audience and judges engaged!

Here is a popular format used when arranging/composing shows:

  • Pre-show: (or can be done in the opener)-set the tone
  • Opener: continue setting the tone of the show, along with your first statement.
  • Ballad or Feature Section: (These can be in either order depending on the length of your opener)
  • Closer: tie the movements together for an exciting or lyrical ending.  This is 100% dependent on the concept/theme…finish strong and on point…it’s the last thing the judges and audience will remember about your group!

While this “4-part” show is popular, it doesn’t always fit the show perfectly.  Sometimes you might cut out the feature section…which is fine.  It would just be the standard Opener-Ballad-Closer (Fast-Slow-Fast).

Meeting #4 Review arrangements/composition and discuss modifications if necessary.

This could take weeks to complete to get right, and after meeting #5, you might need to add/remove time to help create the vertical moments!

Meeting #5+ Production sheet/visual planning

If there are many vertical moments to plan , it might require a production sheet.  I prefer to design them in google docs.  Mainly because everyone that you want can have access to the file.  Sometimes while on a design meeting, I’ll have everyone sign into the production sheet and we can update it in real-time.  This way, if there is a mistake, it doesn’t take weeks to fix them going through all of the different designers.  Also, let’s be honest…there’s almost always someone on the staff that will will not look at it…make sure to keep everyone accountable!

Here is an example of a production sheet for you to download and use as you wish!  You might want to simplify it a bit or change to fit your needs.

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