New Orleans, LA

Barry Spanier’s story from producing to directing music for Olympic opening ceremonies

Pierre St-Jean

NEW ORLEANS, LA – The pageantry of the Olympic opening ceremony may be the only thing to rival the inspiring athletes at the Olympics.

Barry Spanier, Director of Bands at Tulane University and a veteran of opening ceremonies discussed the process of preparing the show, as well as witnessing the magic and ingenuity required to pull off the historic event ceremonies in a recent episode of Tulane's On Good Authority podcast.

Spanier was the venue band coordinator for the Los Angeles Summer Olympics in 1984 and the artistic director of the Sydney Olympic band in 2000. The planning, display design, recruiting, and training for the Sydney Olympics took years and the 2,000 marching band members came from 23 different countries.

Spanier said of the process, “You have such a long lead up time. And yet, the resource of time is absolutely limited. Everything—not just the band component, but every component of the opening ceremonies—the budget, supplies, facilities, all these things are limited. So, as you get closer and closer, you have less flexibility.”

In addition to the time required, Spanier explained that there are always unexpected surprises to deal with. He shared one of the memorable experiences he had in preparing the show. The field in Sydney was a thick carpet stretched over the field with a dot every four meters to create a grid for performers to hit their marks throughout the show. The carpet had to be restitched and stretched over the new field after being moved from the practice facility to the stadium. The grid was not reassembled properly after the move. Spanier and his crew improvised, “We found some white paint and they were serving fried chicken for lunch. So, we got chicken legs, and we dipped them in the paint and we just went and painted new dots on the field.”

He also shared the unexpected challenges in Tokyo, but he's interested to see how they approach the opening ceremonies given the constraints. Spanier stated, “Ultimately it’s about that physical competition and reaching beyond what you've done before. I trust that that is still going to be the primary element.”

To listen to the complete story you can click here.

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