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Marching bands strut their stuff in Cake competition

Published: Sunday, November 20, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 10:11


Robert McKnight

When you think of the band Cake, you may think sardonic hipsters or you may even find yourself imagining Linzer Tortes, but we're almost sure you don't think about marching band geeks. It certainly would take a peculiar ear to imagine a Cake song ideal for a marching band.

However, Cake trumpeter Vincent DiFiore's ears were burning brass after the group finished the lead track on Cake's first release in seven years, Showroom for Compassion.

What started as simply rearranging the single "Federal Funding" so marching bands could expand their repertoire for free has turned into a national competition presented by Cake and the US Scholastic Band Association with the help of sponsors like Yamaha, Fender Music Foundation and advertisers such as Rolling Stone. The competition asks high school and marching bands to record the band performing Cake's "Federal Funding March" for the chance to win $100,000 in band equipment.

There are about 65 schools committed to the competition and Cake expects at least 100 overall. However, no bands have submitted a video as of press time. With marching band season winding down and no videos posted on the Federal Funding March website, DiFiore is surprisingly far from discouraged.

"I hope there are a lot [of schools] that are involved that are using the music that aren't really motivated to send a tape but just want to play the music," he said. "I'm waiting for the thrill of hearing these bands play the music. That's going to be the payoff for me."

College Times talked to DiFiore about his motivation to bring a Cake song to football fields everywhere and his passion for arts education.


College Times: When did you first think of arranging "Federal Funding March"?

DiFiore: It came during recording. When the arrangement [of "Federal Funding"] was finished, it popped. You could imagine it as a marching band arrangement. I wanted to make it into a marching band arrangement when we were all done, you know, a remix of it. [Marching bands] always looking for new songs to do that have some funk and some syncopation in it and some repeating lines that are interesting to repeat. I finished it up when we were all done and […] we made it available on our website so [schools] could take the charts for free. That was really all I wanted. I wanted to offer it for free so the bands could do it. What it got turned into, which is even better.


How did the idea of turning it into a contest happen?

Our manager [Thomas Manzi] was the inspiration, helping us facilitate getting this out on a wider scale. I'm all for music in schools and want to help out in any way to show support for that.


Have you always been pretty passionate about music and arts education?

Well, I grew up with it. It's something that really made my life interesting. It was something substantial to do in school and the thought that it's not available for kids now is really a shame. The music education in schools should continue. It's good for school, you know? It's not something that's just a frivolous opportunity.


You were never part of a marching band, though, right?

You know, it just turned out that way. I was always a part of the symphonic band or the concert band. I always took it as an elective all the way through high school and I played in the brass choir at a local church and kept up my private lessons. My brother was involved in sports ahead of me, so I decided to follow in his footsteps and I ended up running cross-country and track. I missed out on the opportunity to be in the marching band. I did go to a neighboring high school where a friend was attending and he invited me to play with their pep band at a basketball game once. I realized the exhilaration – the fun – that these guys were having playing in a band like that.


What are the judges looking for?

Performance and style are the two main categories. […] I really hope the winning school can use the equipment they'll be winning. My hope is the prizes offered will go a long way.


It may be a double-edge sword. The schools that have the best performance may have the best funding already.

I thought of that, too. We'll see. Maybe there'll be some sort of trickle-down, even if the trickle-down doesn't work in the real world of global economics, maybe it somehow works in the world of school bands. Maybe they'll get new instruments but they'll give their old instruments to a school that needs them.


For more information about the Federal Funding March visit

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