To March or Not To March, That is the Question!

November 16, 2010 at 7:33 am | Posted in Random, Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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For those of you who clicked on this blog post looking for some suave literary reference beyond the title have been rickrolled. The title is actually quite succint. We’re talking about marching band here folks!

Wait, hold on! Don’t close that browser window just yet. I am not going to be writing a blog post about the latest marching band results at BOA. My topic is one much more philosophical, and at times, very volatile between music educators. As the title suggests, to march or not to march? That is, should a school spend the time and resources on marching bands or spend it elsewhere?

Now, before I go any further let me make a few statements of my own background regarding marching band. When I was in high school, I was a member of a large (200+ member) non-competitive marching band. Our band director was an amazing teacher, and put on a quality product every year. However, we did only one competition (district), some marching band festival-type invites, and of course the home football games. That was is it! I never marched drum corps, and there was no marching band at my undergrad university. Throughout my college studies, though, I was involved in several competitive marching band programs too. Some were very competitive (all way to BOA) and some were merely involved at the state level, advancing to regionals, semi-state, etc. So while I have not myself marched competitively, I have been involved both with programs that did and some that did not.

Background given, let’s continue by discussing the pros and cons of each argument:

Pros:

  • Marching Band teaches students cooperation, hard-work, and leadership skills
  • Marching Band gives the general public a “face” to the band department as a whole
  • Marching Band gives the students something positive to be a part of outside the school day
  • Marching Band is a social/fun thing for the students
  • Marching Band enhances the students’  physical and playing abilities
  • Marching Band attracts students to continue in music

Cons

  • Marching Band is time consuming, expensive
  • Marching Band is not musical: it’s all the same stuff for 3-5 months
  • Marching Band teaches bad playing habits
  • Marching Band dissuades students from continuing in band

Now, these are just a few of the things off the top of my head. Marching Band clearly has elements of both good and bad. Marching Band is most importantly a face for the public. The community might not know a thing about your wind ensemble, but every person has probably seen a marching band on TV, or in a parade. It also does teach many positive things like team work, dedication. But there are also negatives for people who take it over the top: it is very time consuming, and frankly can be argued that it is very unmusical in its concept.

For me, the discussion really boils down to what your goals are for your program. As with all good things, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Does rehearsing the same music from June-November constitute a productive thing? (Given you could be working on your concert band music, talking about sound production, air flow, talking about musical form of a piece, etc) Likewise, does putting on a marching band uniform and walking out onto the field and standing and playing constitute a marching band?

Let’s look to the middle! If we in Indiana are devoted to doing marching band, do it so it isn’t overkill. Plan some good music, decent drill, and do it well. When it comes time to competitions and performances, play for the home games, and some shows. But when it comes down to it, remember that the band program’s core ensemble is the concert band. As music teachers/band directors, we need to focus on things that can enhance our players’ sense of musicality, rhythmic accuracy, intonation and other basics. We also need to focus on that core gorgeous sound, and how to produce it. If marching band can enhance your program and players’ development, use it for that vehicle. (But be sure not to drive it 100mph into a ditch!)

Please note, I am not arguing a particular case, but rather presenting arguments for discussion. So what are your thoughts on marching band, either for or against?

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