Goodwin gives Marching Gamecocks their beat

September 27, 2010
By Rachel Haynie
"I try to arrange music the students will enjoy learning and playing." — Dick Goodwin

"I try to arrange music the students will enjoy learning and playing." — Dick Goodwin

Nearly a decade has passed since Dick Goodwin last arranged or composed for a University of South Carolina football half-time show. Distinguished Professor Emeritus since 2000, the music professor thought he’d pretty much hung up that jersey. But, turns out, he had some eligibility remaining. So for this season, he was coaxed back into the position he held for nearly a quarter century.

“Steve McKeithen can be very persuasive,” said Yamaha Artist Goodwin, renowned around Columbia as wearer of multiple musical hats – including leading the Dick Goodwin Quintet or his Big Band. “Among the things I wanted to do with the time retirement affords was invest more energy in composing, arranging, performing, and producing. I realized Steve was asking me to do something I admittedly wanted to do anyway.”

Long before student musicians returned mid-August for band camp, Goodwin had worked out all the arrangements for McKeithen’s half-time shows, starting with the season opener, Styx and Stones, themed around the 1970s and 1980s music of the American rock band, as well as the Rolling Stones, the iconic British import, and the more contemporary Stone Temple Pilots.

One challenge of arranging such music is that instruments played by the Mighty Sound of the Southeast are different from the licks rock bands get. “There’ll be no guitars on the field at half-time. As I arrange the melodic material to be played by brass and woodwind sections, I have a sense of what makes a good transcription,” Goodwin said. “It’s the melodies that fans recognize, and I try to get the most out of each instrument.”

Goodwin also infuses his arrangements with upbeat tempos that keep the marching musicians in step for their drills and formations. The home team’s band only has the field for about seven minutes so as to leave a similar timeframe for the visiting team’s band, thus choosing quickly-recognizable music is important.

Synthesizing all these essentials and transposing them to sheet music takes practiced skill. “It’s one of the tasks I was brought to USC for in 1973, that and teaching composition and music theory,” said Goodwin. “When I first arrived and went to the band hall, I couldn’t find anything to go by in the music library. I waited until the first student showed up to rehearse and asked him to sing or hum the Alma Mater. That’s what I began the arrangement with.”

In addition to the Alma Mater, many of the songs most associated with USC’s school spirit were composed or arranged by Goodwin: the Fight Song, Go Carolina, and 2001. With hundreds of arrangements or original compositions in the music library now credited to Goodwin, he never ran dry on ideas during the twenty-six years he has had his hand in the half-time music. Now, in retirement, he has such diverse gigs – from dances and wedding receptions to opera and jazz – he has even more influences to draw upon. But the shows all start with McKeithen’s concepts.

While the two music men, who have in common their Texas backgrounds, know what music themes are in the works for the entire season, the student musicians don’t. They get their music for the following game only after the current game has gone into the statistics books. Band members, only about a third of whom are music majors, take on learning their parts for just one week’s half-time program at a time, staying focused on the game at hand, just as the football players do.

Getting the music ready for a half-time performance is a lot of work to pack into seven minutes on the field, but for Goodwin, it’s worth it. After all, they’re playing his song.

2 Responses

  1. Jason Tatem

    September 28th, 2010

    I’ve always been a huge fan of halftime shows at USC. Whenever I’m at a home game, that’s the one time I don’t get up for drinks or food. I’ve always thought of the band as a hard-working unit, just like the football team that doesn’t get the recognition they deserve. 🙂 So, thanks CHG for posting such a great read.

  2. Matt Hudson

    September 28th, 2010

    Completely agreed Jason.

    Being in the high school band, and drum major for last two years of that, along with touring with USC’s band as one of their student-Equipment Managers, I got to see first-hand the amount of work (torture?) that each and every band member goes through.

    Much like a football team they do indeed put in full days of grueling work, sweating it out with the rest of them.

    I also happen to know Dick Goodwin, and served as the set-up guy for his Quartet while I was in college. Great guy, great composer, great choice for an article too 🙂

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