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Resources for Instructors

See the tabs below for resources to help you start an indoor marching percussion, indoor winds or concert percussion ensemble; show design; education for instructors and students; and staying connected in the activity.

Click on a tab for more on that topic.

Starting an MPA Ensemble

5 Reasons to Start an Indoor Percussion Ensemble

  • Further the percussion and music education of students

  • Expand music program breadth and increase visibility

  • Provide students with a competitive arts activity that has a strong educational component

  • Build cohesiveness among students in your program

  • Increase parent involvement and support

Starting an Indoor Ensemble and How MPA Can Help

A first step might be to join our Facebook group called MPA Instructors’ Forum that any instructor or band director is welcome to join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/32338793462/

Instructors: Many ensembles start with a minimum of two instructors. One instructor who has a speciality in concert percussion and teaches the front ensemble (mallets and auxiliary percussion) and one instructor who is able to teach the battery (drums) as well as the visual part of the show. Some groups just use one instructor for it all - especially smaller groups. As they grow, many groups expand and have a large staff. Sometimes with multiple front ensemble instructors and techs for individual battery instruments. Many people reach out for instructors on the Facebook group page. MPA has a

Money: Money of course is a hurdle for many groups and schools. Some groups receive assistance from the school/district in a large or small way. Pretty much every group relies on a booster program and dues to pay for everything that goes into the program. Many groups have a budget in five figures. MPA can’t do a lot to help with this, but we do waive the membership dues for the first season as a member group. See more about that below.

Equipment: Most groups start pretty nominally with equipment and build up over time. Buying big keyboard instruments like marimbas and a lot of drums can be expensive, but not a lot is necessarily needed right away. Sometimes groups rent from other groups for a season - again, through the Facebook group. Many groups as they develop add electronics over time as well including the use of a computer, a mixer, and speakers. This is not needed right away.

Getting/creating a show: Some groups have staff members that are comfortable writing the music and/or visual part of the show, but there are lots of great designers in the circuit and around the country that can write shows as well. Starting off, some groups will buy percussion ensemble pieces from companies like Roll-Off. Another great option is to purchase a show that is already written by expert designers catered to your group’s skill level (beginner, intermediate, or advanced). Most groups should start with a Regional A class, or beginner, show. A few examples of websites that sell shows are in the Show Design tab above.

If you decide to go down the route of designing your own show for your ensemble you will need to get permission to arrange music composed by someone else if it is not public domain. Some composers do so for a small fee while others can be quite expensive or even unavailable. If you choose to compose original music, this is not an issue.

Arrangement licensing resources:

There are numerous ways to go about designing the visual component of your ensemble’s show. Some designers will write with pencil and paper, others use drill design software, and still others do all visual design with the members at rehearsal. Starting out it’s often helpful to start with a grid on paper to map out ideas. Common grids used on floors are 6’x6’ and 8’x8’. These can be marked on the floor with small pieces of tape to ensure consistency of staging. There are also local and national designers who specialize in designing the visual component of your program for a fee should you prefer.

Drill design software:

Costumes/floor: The costumes and floor (for marching groups only) can be as simple or complicated as you want to start off. These items are also more or less important based on the theme of the show. Some groups have parents who help to make/create uniforms, and some groups buy uniforms. They have many options of uniforms and options for customization.  Another option is to buy used. There are a variety of sites that also offer used uniforms from groups across the country.  One of these sites is The Guard Room. See the Show Design Tab for companies that sell printed floors (new and used) and uniforms.

Becoming an MPA Member Ensemble

If you have any questions or are at all interested in starting a group, an important first step would be to join the MPA instructor email list. You can do this by emailing the MPA secretary at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Many other questions can be addressed there as well.

Most groups that attend MPA competitions are official MPA members at a cost of $875 (for the 2020 season). This fee is waived for first-year members. 

There is also an option to attend up to three shows at $100 each. The per-show fee is not waived for first-year members.

Benefits: Groups can attend as many shows as they want and if they meet the minimum they can then attend MPA Finals. Member groups also can attend Day of Percussion, Instructor Training, and other MPA Events.

Paperwork: Part of the preseason (October-January) process is completing a few forms to be prepared for the season. This includes a roster of members, a copyright waiver (we don’t require any other copyright paperwork), and a liability waiver.

Signing up for shows: Also part of the pre-season process is signing up for shows. This is done in October and November as well. This is all done electronically through the MPA Website and a user profile that will be assigned to the head director.

Attending biannual general membership meetings: The MPA Board of Directors meets monthly, and twice a year there is a meeting among all directors in the circuit. All member directors are expected to have representation there. At these meetings, member groups discuss important changes that have occurred over the course of the year as well as an open forum for discussion for changes and the future of the circuit. These meetings occur in April or May and September. They can be attended in person or electronically.

Winter Guard International

The international competitive circuit of indoor drumline, colorguard, and winds is Winter Guard International (WGI). Throughout February and March WGI hosts regional competitions across the country culminating in World Championships in mid-April. Hundreds of groups from all over the US including several MPA ensembles compete at championships every year in Dayton, OH. WGI has its own registration process and dues requirements in order to perform at their competitions. MPA partners with WGI to host a regional each year in the Twin Cities Metro area, typically in March. To learn more about WGI and World Championships visit: https://www.wgi.org/about-wgi/what-is-wgi/

Show Design

Prewritten shows:

Arrangement licensing resources:

Drill design software:

Floors:

The Marching Percussion Marketplace group on Facebook is a great resource for finding used floors and other equipment people from all over the country are selling: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1388122394749384.

Another option for floors is to paint your own design on some used (or new vinyl). The backside of used billboard tarps works well for this. This is a cheaper option than buying a new digitally printed floor, though it's a lot more labor-intensive.

Costumes/uniforms:

Education

Staying Connected

For all general inquiries about MPA, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In addition, here are some online communities that might be of interest:






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