Proud football fans of the Ravens may not realize just how much their city is indebted to one long-standing musical organization that helped the NFL stay alive in Baltimore. There are only two marching bands in all professional football, worldwide. This year marks the 75th anniversary of one of those groups — Baltimore’s Marching Ravens.
The first-named Baltimore Colts’ Marching Band was founded in 1947, and represented the football team, the Baltimore Colts. Just a couple of years later, the Colts moved up and joined the NFL, but it was a short-lived stint in the big leagues. The team folded in 1950 and the band was left with a decision to either conclude their group as well, or somehow continue without a football team.
The band decided to march on, performing in numerous high-profile games, parades, and events, promoting the restoration of an NFL team in Baltimore every step of the way. They even advocated for a new stadium complex by performing on the front steps of the Maryland State House. The tireless effort of this special marching band earned them the title of “Baltimore’s Pro-Football Musical Ambassadors” and the first music group to be represented in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This band succeeded in all of their efforts to both secure a new stadium complex and restore an NFL team to the city.
Toward the late 90’s, both the football team and marching band coined new names as they entered their brand-new stadium, the Baltimore Ravens and Baltimore’s Marching Ravens. The band’s success is in large part due to the resolve and leadership of the organization’s president, John Ziemann. He was featured in the ESPN 30 for 30 series, “The Band That Wouldn’t Die,” in which the story of the band’s pursuit to bring professional football back to Baltimore was shared with a worldwide audience.
Most of the staff members have jobs outside of the band but have chosen to participate in the Marching Ravens as a fun opportunity to both do what they love and be a part of an incredibly special legacy. Pete Zirpolo joined the Marching Ravens in 2003, along with his three children, and his influence and guidance among the band members prompted President Ziemann to invite him to serve as vice president.
In 2004, Daniel Fake joined the band as a saxophonist and has since served in just about every staff position until being named head music director. It seems as if Director Fake was destined to join BMR. After graduating college and starting his teaching career, he saw the band perform on television and was transported back to high school, where Marching Ravens posters were strung across the walls of his band hall. Upon discovering his teaching mentor had joined the band, it was decided… He was joining the Marching Ravens.
“Knowing there are just two marching bands in all of professional football, worldwide, is a humbling realization. And to keep a marching band going without a football team at the professional level was the result of passion and love, and speaks to the desire of the community to keep football alive through music. Our staff is working to ensure the legacy of the previous 75 years continues for the next 75,” he explained.
Throughout his time with the Marching Ravens, Daniel has taken on several different instructional and creative roles, including lead drill designer and instructor. As members come from diverse marching backgrounds with varying levels of experience, the band uses Pyware to both create shows and teach the drill in a straightforward approach for every musician to succeed.
“Our drill teaching approach has evolved significantly through Pyware. In addition to coordinate sheets and drill charts, we post videos of shows utilizing Pyware animation tools. The video, along with the coordinate sheets, has greatly reduced our drill learning time and improved our drill execution,” Fake stated.
In 2018, Shawn Westover became a BMR instructional staff member and began dabbling with drill design in Pyware. He would practice cleaning up the drill files and ensuring coordinate assignments lined up correctly. When the full band returned from time away due to the pandemic, Shawn took charge of the lead drill instructor and designer positions. He echoed the same sentiment as Director Fake — the software had transformed their drill teaching approach in a fundamental way. Additionally, the band only practices together once a week and utilizing Pyware allows members to study the production prior to rehearsal to capitalize on limited rehearsal time.
“We utilize Pyware to give our members all of the tools to prepare ahead of time. We use coordinate sheets for every member as the main source of learning drill on the field, but we also make drill charts available and 3D videos with audio so they can review what is happening visually and musically. We also give the videos and charts to the Ravens Media Team so they can plan which cameras to use for the stadium production on game day,” Westover explained.
Our technical support team at Pyware has had such pleasure working with this unique band. The NFL field dimensions are different, but we were able to gather information from the band’s staff and design a grid with correct markings and of course, the Ravens logo. The band exudes such pride in representing Baltimore, as the audience can attest to, especially when witnessing a field full of performers marching in unison to represent a raven soaring across the field. The Marching Ravens are truly a joy to watch…
Director Fake stated, “marching band and football go hand in hand, except at the professional level.” The Baltimore Marching Ravens went to extraordinary lengths to ensure the opportunity to not only perform at a professional level, but to represent a professional Baltimore football team as well. The organization’s unmatched passion for the activity since its founding in 1947 is both remarkable and a true inspiration.
Congratulations on 75 years of Baltimore’s Marching Ravens!
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