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Marching Band Enthusiast

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You can't have a parade without one. And halftime at any college football game just wouldn't be the same.

Marching bands exhibit a mastery of rhythm and discipline. They combine the type of tight-formation marching associated with the military with heart-thumping, up-tempo music. From high schools to college and beyond, marching bands around the world enjoy this cheery pastime.

For many people who love marching bands, the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California, every Jan. 1 is the ultimate goal. Hundreds of marching bands from around the world converge in the city, adding music and flash to a parade that also features dozens of flower-adorned floats.

People are attracted to marching bands for different reasons. Some come for the synchronization, the amazing spectacle created when scores of band members march in step and create snake-like patterns or spell out words on the football field.

Still others love the music -- the heavy drums and blaring brass that make for an unmistakable combination.

Most people take to marching bands in high school. From drummers to flutists, trumpeters to trombonists, young musicians often find that a marching band is an exciting way to strut their stuff.

Andy Pierce is the secretary for the Dartmouth College Marching Band. He joined his first band long ago: "It was composed of eighth and ninth graders and it was a low-key, formation marching band. [It] was very serious and we'd practice long hours each week," he says.

Beyond high school, North America is home to dozens of community youth bands and college bands. They often tour their regions, competing in regional contests and performing in parades during the summer months.

While a few people find careers as instructors of marching bands, others say their experiences help them with their careers by teaching them teamwork and discipline.

Costumes are another big part of the show with marching bands. Some bands provide costumes, while others require their members to make or buy their own. Decorated instruments and matching color guards make for a site to behold when a marching band comes into view.

Some college bands have gained worldwide fame. Millions of people can identify the Michigan fight song, for example, thanks to the marching bands that have played it during football games for decades.

College marching bands are often highly disciplined and competitive. Marching band contests for all levels are held around North America each year. But marching bands are also about camaraderie and fun.

"What I enjoy most about the Teen Tour Band is the new experiences, traveling, the friendships that have developed and the recognition achieved with being a member," says Chrissy Taylor. She is a member of the Burlington Teen Tour Band.

According to Julia Dick, also a member of the Burlington Teen Tour Band, people in wheelchairs and the blind will have a hard time marching with a band. "You need to be able to walk with two free hands to hold an instrument or flag and see the line in front of you," she says.

Marching requires physical endurance. "If you need a workout, it's the place for you," says Dick.

However, kids of all shapes and sizes march in the Burlington Teen Tour Band. They simply overcome their physical ailments when it's time to march. "We have kids who are tall, short, fat, thin, have bad joints, low blood pressure, arthritis, asthma, allergies [and] even weak minds!" says Dick.

Getting Started

Getting started in a marching band usually means having some musical ability, although most bands also include drum majors and color guards, who lead the formations and keep time.

Some of the more professional marching bands require members to try out or audition for a position with the band. Others are happy to take on just about anyone with the ability to play an instrument -- you'll learn the rest as you go.

That's how Dick learned. "It was a little intimidating being thrown into marching my first practice and not knowing what I was doing at all," she says. But the challenge helped Dick develop her skills quickly. Now, she's a much better trombone player, she says.

Get tips on how to prepare for membership with a particular band by talking to the director.

Try out different bands to see which one you feel comfortable with. "Come to a practice and see if you are serious about being in a band," suggests Taylor.

The cost of getting started in a marching band varies. You may be asked to pay an annual membership fee and a uniform fee. You will be expected to purchase your own accessories -- like socks, shoes, suspenders and gloves -- depending on the style of the uniform.

Some marching bands have a supply of instruments, though you may need or want your own eventually. One marching band enthusiast describes band-supply equipment as "old and smelly."

Nonetheless, there are plenty of used instruments on the market that are in decent shape and cost about half the price of new ones.

Some bands have funds set aside to help people who want to participate but can't afford it. "The [band] is expensive, but the city does have a fund to help families who can't afford it," says Dick.


Western U.S. Pipe Band Association
308-1151 West Ida Ave. 308
Littleton , CO   80120-2245

World Association of Marching Show Bands
7620 Elbow Dr. S.W., Ste. 311
Calgary , AB
T2V 1K2


Links to Marching Bands
A list of links to scores of marching bands around the world

Marching Arts Directory
Lots of links all about marching bands

Sun Devil Marching Band
Featuring pictures of the ASU bands in action

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