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Winter Marching Planning

Heidi Sarver | December 2010

    Spring will be here quickly. Although marching band directors are eager for a chance to relax and focus on concert and jazz bands, there are some details for the next season best accomplished in winter.

Show Concept
    The early winter months are the perfect time to brainstorm. Years ago I would simply choose music based on the formula that most marching band shows followed: high-energy opener, Latin number, drum solo or feature, and a ballad as a closer. Now that show planning focuses on a theme, at the University of Delaware we start by choosing a word. Sometimes the word immediately brings song titles to mind; other times it brings about a concept. We may also decide that a word, while good, is not quite right. After many staff conversations, we have a show concept.
    In 2009 we came up with the word stress. Although it started out as a bit of a joke, it is a fitting word for every band director, and after a few staff meetings we liked the direction but had no theme or concept. At one meeting we discussed words that were similar to stress and settled on pressure. Appropriate musical ideas, such as Billy Joel’s “Pressure” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” came quickly, as did ideas for drill moves and individual body moves.

Musical Details

    It is wise to contact arrangers and show designers early, especially if you are considering using someone new. Avoid assuming someone who provided this service last year will do it again. Band directors who wish to arrange music must file for permission, a process that can take anywhere from eight weeks to eight months with no guarantee permission will be granted. There are a number of places that will help find the print rights holder.


Winter may be too early to know football schedules, but it is an ideal time to put together a tentative list of parades, competitions, and special events. Use the time no longer spent in after-school marching rehearsals to research mission statements and judges. When considering adding a new event to the calendar, be sure to contact directors who attended in the fall; it should still be fresh in their minds in December.