Category Archives: Miscellaneous

The economics of a competitive group dance routine

1902765_10152284887868103_160835853_n.jpgIt’s pretty amazing how much time, sweat, rehearsal, effort, and money goes into putting a competitive group dance routine on stage. I think it’s terrific and amazing that so many dance parents are able to give their kids the experience, discipline, camaraderie, and excitement of performing an intricate routine, complete with music, choreography, and costumes. While the kids on stage and the choreographers are the ones who get the medals and awards, really it should be the parents getting the awards for making it happen!

One thing I am always surprised about is how often these amazing routines go on stage, and are performed at competitions, with less-than-perfect music. Often times the music for these routines have jarring clicks, jumps, awkward timings, and mis-matched phrasing. While competitive dance is not judged on the quality of the soundtrack, bad music edits can make counting and choreography more difficult for the dancers since musical phrases can wind up with nonsensical timings like 9.7 beats instead of 8!

It surprises me that so much music with significant issues winds up on the competitive stage when you consider how much time, energy, and money goes into each dance. After all, the music is the foundation of the dance, and great music serves as the inspiration both for the dance teacher/choreographer as well as the dancers themselves. There are some studios, such as Mather Dance Company in the L.A. area, that go so far as to have original music commissioned for them by professional recording artists. While understandably, that kind of budget is out of reach for many studios, working with a skilled music editor is quite reasonable, especially when you think about the finances that go into each competitive routine that is put on stage. After all, we wouldn’t dream of putting a dancer on stage with a wrecked costume, so why would be put them on stage with wrecked music?

So let’s take a quick look at the cost to put one competitive dance on the stage. Oftentimes a unique music remix can be created for $199 or less, so I will wrap up our analysis by looking at that music cost as a percentage of the total cost of putting a routine on stage.

To make this calculation, I’m going to use conservative estimates. For many studios, the costs might be much less, while at others, they might be far more. For this example, let’s use a group routine with 15 dancers. If each of those company dancers is paying an average of $180 per month in studio tuition, and is in a total of 8 competitive routines, then their combined total studio fee, on a per routine basis is: 15 kids x $180 x 10 months / 8 total routines = $3,375 combined cost per dance. No matter if a guest choreographer is brought in, or the studio’s own teacher creates the choreography, that takes considerable effort, so we’ll budget $500 for the choreography. Next, costumes can easily run $125 per, for competitive routines, so that is another $125 x 15 = $1,875. But we haven’t even gotten to entry fees, let alone hotel and food costs that dance parents incur. If a competitive routine is entered into three regionals and one nationals, the entry fees can easily be $40 per regional and $50 per national. That is 15 x ((40 x 3) + 50) = $2,550. We are up to $8,300 for the combined routine cost, and we haven’t figured hotel or travel expenses yet.

Let’s assume that one of the regionals is near enough to the studio to not require a hotel, and let’s use a conservative estimate that the other two regionals will require one hotel night, and that the nationals will require four hotel nights. That’s a total of six hotel nights, so our calculation is 15 families x 6 nights x $110 / 8 routines = $1237. Let’s just round up to $1300 when you figure in food on the road. We’re also going to assume that families don’t have to purchase air fare to get to Nationals.

So our total cost, to put one group competitive routine on stage in all competitions is $3375 studio time + $500 choreography + $1875 costumes + $2550 entry fees + $1300 hotel costs = $9,600. Now imagine spending even as much as $200 for a spectacular custom music remix. That $200 represents 2% of the total cost in putting the routine on stage. Some would say that that is money well worth it. But I might be slightly biased as a music professional. Even if it’s not worthwhile to spend $200 on the music for a competitive group routine, it’s still very much worthwhile to spend $40 on having smooth and seamless music edits handled by a professional.

Don’t let your music hold back your competition score

dancer-with-music-flowers.jpgIt’s that time of year…. when hours upon hours of dance rehearsal are getting ready to be brought to the big stages of competitions. Dance parents have poured hundreds upon hundreds of dollars into lessons, dance teachers have poured their heart and soul into creative choreography, costumes have been chosen and tried on, competition fees have been paid, and hotel rooms booked.

Dance teachers are doing their best to insure every aspect of the dance is as clean as a whistle. Entrances and exits are tight. Costumes, hair, and makeup is perfect and ready to go.

There’s just one thing left, that some choreographers forget to clean, and that is their music. There are several things you want to check, to make sure your music is as clean and perfect as it can be for competition.

Transitions: Make sure that every transition is precise and smooth. Hiccups, jumps, pops, or other glitches take the audience and judges out of the moment, distracting them from the beauty of the dance. In addition, bad edits can make it more difficult for the dancers to stay on tempo. Precise transitions, on the beat, are made far easier when you align the music to a tempo grid. Click here for more information on Finding the Tempo.

Lyrics: CHECK YOUR LYRICS. Judges will MAKE DEDUCTIONS for inappropriate language used in your music. There is no need for these deductions! Why risk the thousands of dollars that have been invested in your dance with an unnecessarily lowered score? You wouldn’t put your dancers on stage with tattered costumes, so why would you put them on stage with lyrics that have the potential to offend a judge?

Volume: Make sure you have not accidentally lowered the volume of your music in the editing process. Older songs can often have the volume raised without distortion in a process called mastering.

Clarity: Make sure you are not using a song imported from YouTube (more explanation on why). The quality often suffers and that loss of clarity will be amplified in a theater or convention hall.

If any of your songs needs cleaning, Squirrel Trench Audio is at your service. We have cleaned songs for lyrics, transitions, volume and clarity many times, and have literally helped dance studios increase their scores because of it. Use this request form to get your music cleaned! Squirrel Trench Audio also has clean versions of many songs ready to choreograph. For instance, here are clean versions of:

DON’T LET YOUR MUSIC HOLD YOU BACK FROM THE BEST SCORE YOUR DANCERS CAN ACHIEVE. 

How to score better at dance competitions

Cathy Roe dance awards 2010_1Have you ever wondered what it takes to do better at a dance competition? Well wonder no more because Cathy Roe, the founder of Cathy Roe Ultimate Dance competitions has spelled it out for you. Here is the link to her recent Facebook post on this topic, How to Stand Out at Competition. Here are the most important things as Cathy has listed them:

  1. Technique
  2. Rehearsal
  3. Stage Presence
  4. Originality (including unique music!)
  5. Dance within your abilities
  6. Be classy and age appropriate
  7. Show Good Will
  8. Innovative choreography (including using music that connects with you!)

Out of the eight most important things to score well and stand out at a dance competition, TWO of the items include the musical aspect. Reprinted here is the full text of Ms. Roe’s comments on these two aspects, musical aspects emphasized in bold:

4. Our motto “Dare to Be Different” means BE UNIQUE, BE ORIGINAL! I used to tell my students that if we heard a song at a competition, that was a guarantee that we would NEVER dance to that song. There is no dearth of exquisite, exciting, original, emotional, clever, mesmerizing music. If you haven’t checked out Spotify, it’s fantastic for finding music! And as for dance themes…. we see a lot of “love gone wrong” themes, especially from our soloist. The soloist that stands out has a unique and interesting message or song that makes the judges sit up and pay attention because they haven’t seen/heard it before.

8. Bring innovate choreography. How? Be yourself. Think about your life, what you love, your experiences. Listen to music until you find that song that hits you right between the eyes and you say YES! I GET THAT! I FEEL LIKE THAT! Tell a story that matters to you. Forget about imitating anyone and especially because you think what they do what “wins”. Be in it to love it; to be an artist; to be a leader. Be an original thinker, a path finder! My judges are people (that it took me years to find) that will appreciate you for it. But just remember, with all the innovation in the world, we can’t see your vision without technical dancers that can execute it. So I must go back to #1 because it is the technique of your dancers that will display your vision like fine paint on and expensive canvas.

Squirrel Trench Audio is in the business of delivering UNIQUE, original music and remixes to competitive dancers. There are two different ways we can help you in this regard. If you have a music idea, or songs you’d like remixed together, you can use this Request Form to get a price quote from us. In addition, we have a library of unique music remixes for you to choose from on Legitmix. Just take a listen, and if you find one that connects with you, you can purchase it immediately, no waiting! Here’s our catalog of unique remixes:

Get more remixes at Legitmix

The Secret to Being Rich by The Disclosures

The Secret to Being RichWell, the day has finally arrived: The Disclosures‘ latest project has just been released in mp3 and CD formats worldwide.

In the interest of Full Disclosure on this write-up of The Disclosures, I am the person who mixed and mastered this album. And in my role as the mix engineer, I heartily endorse this fun and creative song collection. This has been a true labor of love for me to mix and master, and I am quite thrilled with the results.

The Disclosures are the singing and songwriting duo of Christopher Morris and Chad Helminak, based in Madison, Wisconsin. During the process of mixing this CD, I was continually amazed at Chad and Chris’ conceptual, lyrical, and musical creativity. Each song is completely original, and no two songs on the CD sound alike.

There is quite a cast of characters contained inside– there’s Uncle Hank who is a very smart man with a plan, Kidd Silver, a young pirate just beginning to embark on his chosen career path, but winds up in a sorrowful situation with Loan Sharks, Dr. Greedypants who invents a high-tech ray-gun device that turns pigs into bacon, and to the rescue rides Captain Smartmoney, who shows Dr. Greedypants the error of his ways…..

This album of 10 songs is aimed at kids in the age range of kindergarten through fifth grade, and hidden inside these catchy and inventive tunes are some ideas for smart money management — but just as importantly, a whole lot of silliness that is sure to cause youngsters fits of giggles. In fact, Chad and Chris have kept their eye squarely on kids throughout this musical journey – every artistic decision made was done with the youngsters in mind first and foremost – and how to deliver songs that would be instantly appealing to them. It’s an added benefit that parents will enjoy the songs as well…. give it a few listens, and you’ll be humming “won’t you be my money buddy, yeah”, muttering ‘ARRRRRRR’ at random people walking down the street, and a whole lot more.

The release is just in time for the holiday season, so if you know someone with kids in this age range, this CD makes an outstanding gift. Currently, the mp3 format is available on iTunes and Amazon, and the physical CD is be available via CD Baby, Amazon, or bulk purchases for organizations may order via The Disclosures’ own web site.

Here is a track listing; click any song to go to a preview of it on iTunes:

  1. Money Moola Dinero Dough
  2. I Want, I Need
  3. Save!
  4. Won’t You Be My Money Buddy?
  5. The Tale of Kidd Silver, the Savviest Pirate to Ever Sail the Seas
  6. Thank My Piggy Bank (link is to YouTube video of song)
  7. Captain Smartmoney vs. Dr. Greedypants
  8. Spend, Save, Give
  9. Too Good To Be True
  10. The Secret to Being Rich

Grab this CD– you’ll be glad you did! No fuddy-duddies allowed!

Ready for some musical inspiration?

DANCE-silhouetteDance teachers, and studio owners, this post is for you.

Right at the peak of Regionals competition season, heading into recitals and possibly Nationals, there is much that needs to be worked on. Some of you are also getting ready for a new season of routines, which means new choreography, which means new music.

When you are ready to start working on the next season, and need musical inspiration, then look no further than a Squirrel Trench Audio custom remix. Every piece of music is worked on individually and uniquely for YOU and your dancer’s needs. There is no cookie-cutter process, and you will not hear your music used by another dance studio. For dancer teachers who love great music, we think the difference between a piece of music which is custom crafted just for you and your dancers is a difference that can be FELT throughout your process of working with your students. You KNOW that this music is YOURS and YOURS ONLY which is something you can feel great about.

We’ve created custom remixes for a number of dance studios throughout the country, including Beatles remixes, Michael Jackson remixes, Janet Jackson remixes, hip hop remixes, movie/Broadway soundtrack medleys, and many others. We’ve also done scary horror-movie themed remixes, and Dancing Through the Ages medleys. We can do recital opening/grand finale numbers such as this fun Wizard of Oz production.

If a Squirrel Trench custom remix is just the ticket to get your choreographic creative juices flowing (especially for your teen, junior and senior groups), then the process is easy. Just email me (morriss@squirreltrenchaudio.com) or give me a call at 413-535-0621 to discuss the ideas you want shaped into the music for your routine. Pricing varies depending on the complexity of the project, but is generally in the range of $89 to $129.

Call or email me when you are ready to get started!

The Disclosures – Thank My Piggy Bank

Those who work with credit unions may have heard of the Madison-based musical duo of Christopher Morris and Chad Helminak, better known as The Disclosures. In addition to their busy touring schedule, they have also been recording some new songs for a forthcoming album.

It’s not too often that my primary job of EverythingCU.com intersects with my side project of music engineering, editing, and remixing, but when I heard that Chris and Chad were working on new songs, I jumped at the chance to mix their new album for them. They have been thrilled with the results.

Their first single, Thank My Piggy Bank was just released on YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby yesterday, in honor of National Financial Literacy month. Here is their fun video:

And you can purchase/download it from iTunes here. For more details on the duo and the song, their blog post is here. Enjoy!

I love thrilling choreographers with exciting music!

As much as I enjoy editing and cutting popular songs to dance competition length, I take special pride in creating unique remixes that are often used for group routines, especially jazz, character, tap, and hip hop routines. Here’s what a choreographer in Utah had to say after I tweaked a remix to amp up the excitement level even higher:

“NAILED IT!!!! I am soooooo happy it is literally perfect! EXACTLY what I had in mind! I am so excited, the girls are going to freak out. Thanks a million, I really appreciate your help and creativity! You are great! So glad I found you! Thanks again!!!!”

— Daysha Pedersen, choreographer,
Cedar City/Salt Lake City UT
January 16, 2013

Another happy dance music customer

I had the great pleasure of editing the music of a number of soloists at Cedar City, Utah’s On Stage Dance Studios last year in the January to March time frame. I’m happy to report that dance parents at On Stage Dance Studios have already begun having their music edited by Squirrel Trench Audio again this year, and I am happy that they are loving the results that we deliver. Here’s what another satisfied dance parent had to say today:

“Hi Morriss! Thank you so much! It’s perfect! You are definitely the best at what you do! The choreographer said you are amazing and that she can’t believe you were able to do it so that it blended so well and didn’t even sound like it had been cut. Not to mention how fast you are at getting it done too. Talk to you again the next time we need some music cut. 🙂 Have a great New Year! Thanks again”

— Andria, dance parent
at On Stage Dance Studio, Cedar City, UT
January 1, 2013

More happy dance teachers and parents

It has been such a great pleasure creating so many fantastic edits and remixes for dance studios, teachers, and parents. In addition, we’ve done music edits for the winners of the Dance Mom of the Year contest that was held earlier this spring on DanceMom.com. Here’s what the grand prize winner had to say:

“Had Sav’s ballet solo music edited by Squirrel Trench Audio (A DMOY prize).  He did an AMAZING job!  Sav’s ballet teacher was thrilled and impressed!
THANK YOU!”

— Savgirlsmom,
Dance Mom of The Year contest winner
November 1, 2012

In addition, we’ve created some slamming remixes for Rhythm Dance Company in Westborough, Massachusetts, and are looking forward to having them performed!

“Just listened once through- I Love it and am so glad I found you!!!  I have more mixes to send your way if you can do them!! Thanks again!  Psyched we can work together.”

— Nicole K., studio owner,
Rhythm Dance Company, Massachusetts
September 28, 2012