Composer March Madness bracket

Courtesy graphic

People can follow the brackets of Composer March Madness on the Spirit of Twin Lakes’ Facebook page.

MONTICELLO — Taking a basketball tournament away from a Hoosier is like taking a fish out of water, but a local middle school band director may have devised an alternative in which his students, colleagues and the community may participate.

All it takes is a bit of classical music appreciation and internet access.

The 2020 Composer March Madness tourney is currently under way and features 32 composers of classical music, ranging from Beethhoven and Mozart to Gershwin and John Williams, going head-to-head in contests set up much like its Indiana and NCAA basketball counterparts.

It is the brainchild of Roosevelt Middle School band director Kelso Daning. He’s also the assistant high school band director and percussion director.

“The idea came from a combination of planning eLearning lessons for band at Roosevelt Middle School, having no real March Madness (basketball) to watch and follow this year, and wanting to provide something for myself, my students, colleagues and community to keep busy with that brings some positivity and fun given the circumstances,” he said.

Twin Lakes School Corporation announced March 13 that it was closing campus classes through March 30 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The closures were announced about a day after the Indiana High School Athletic Association postponed and the NCAA canceled their respective hoops postseason tournaments.

Twin Lakes teachers were instructed to devise eLearning (online) activities for their students in the interim.

Daning’s tournament pits two classical music composers’ pieces against once another. Participants are provided YouTube links to listen to the composers’ work, then are asked to vote for the musical piece they like best. The head-to-head music pieces are posted early each day to the Spirit of Twin Lakes’ Facebook page.

Voting, conducted via a Google Docs form to which Daning provides a link on the SOTL Facebook and Instagram pages, lasts each day until 6 p.m. Results are posted on the SOTL social media pages a short time later.

“Links are emailed to parents and staff and on TL campus for students who don’t have social media access,” he said.

Daning plans to choose different pieces as winning composers advance so participants can listen to a broader range of their music. In other words, people won’t hear the same piece twice from a particular composer.

“I am trying to select (a composer’s) most famous and well-known music to expose people to some music history,” he said.

On the first day of the tournament, German composer Ludwig van Beethoven’s (1770-1827) “Fifth Symphony” went up against Sergei Prokofiev’s (1891-1953) “Romeo and Juliet, No. 13 Dance of the Knights,” while American John Williams’ (1932-present) “The Imperial March” from “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” took on French composer Camille Saint-Saëns’ (1835-1921) “Aquarium.”

Of 131 total responses the first day, Beethoven earned 69.5 percent of the vote over Prokefiev, while Williams totaled 72.2 percent of the votes cast over Saint-Saëns. In the next round, voters will hear different musical pieces by Williams and Beethoven.

Other first round head-to-head matches feature Hanz Zimmer (1957-present) vs. Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) vs. Johannes Brahms (1833-97), J.S. Bach (1685-1750) vs. Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47), John Phillip Sousa (1854-1932) vs. Frédéric Chopin (1810-49), George Gershwin (1898-1937) vs. Richard Wagner (1813-83), Franz Schubert (1797-1828) vs. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1757-91), and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93) vs. Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904), among others.

An interesting aspect of Daning’s “tournament” is the revelation that people may have heard of the composers but do not know their works, or may have heard the music and not realized it.

“That’s one of the things I’m thinking about when selecting music of each composer,” he said. “So much of their music is used still today in movies, TV, commercials, ads, etc.”

Daning will select two “matches” each day — including weekends — with selected composers going head-to-head. Once the “Elite Eight” is reached, the tournament will proceed with one match per day until the finals on Friday, April 3.