Last fall I had the pleasure of attending the Bands of America Grand National Championships, held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It featured 85 of the country’s best high school bands, drawing thousands of people. It was an amazing experience and strengthened my belief that marching band is a worthwhile endeavor.
Marching band and all that it entails sometimes gets a bad rap. I hear complaints that students are not expected to play with good technique, are stunted in their development as musicians because ensemble rehearsal techniques are neglected, and that students are too busy to do anything else, such as take lessons. However, while attending concert band performances this spring, I noticed many things that carry over from marching band to concert band.
Proper posture. Marching band provides great focus on body posture and control. This facilitates good air support. Providing a good standard and model of posture during marching season this fall will help keep it in students’ minds next spring.
Breathing together. Many marching bands stress taking a breath as an ensemble to come in together on time. This is commonly taught by having students take a breath at the same time they take a step. Establishing the technique of breathing in step produces phenomenal attacks. Breathing together can also produce clean releases. The ring that results when students release together is the aim of many top bands. Some marching band directors teach their students to take a breath on the release; if a release should happen on beat one, students are instructed to all take a breath on that beat. If a marching band can come in and release at the same time when spread out on a football field, a concert band should have a much easier time doing the same thing.
Warmups. Marching band programs should have an established warmup routine that is used daily, covering the same concepts used in concert band. The purpose of warmups should be the development of each player, and exercises should include breathing exercises, long tones, lip flexibility, scales, articulation exercises, and chorales. Establishing these concepts in the fall will make a band director’s job much easier in the spring.
Discipline. It is easier to establish discipline in marching band than in concert band. High school students have an abundance of energy, and the strenuous physical activity that a marching band show can demand forces students to focus that energy. When the marching show is learned and students are able to experience the final product of their hard work, a sense of pride can occur that can influence students to want to create that same feeling again in concert band rehearsals and performances. The sense of pride developed in marching band can also be a great recruiting tool for future band students.
Marching band programs can contribute greatly to the development of student musicians and young adults. With proper attention to musical development a marching program can also contribute significantly to the concert band program in a school.