Marching band lies in the sweet spot where love of music and physical activity overlap. Marching band, despite (un)popular belief, is indeed a sport, requiring as much team coordination, technical skills/know-how, and endurance as any other school-funded group activity. While it may be the most esoteric form of physical activity known to man, for those who march, it’s so much more than the half-time show at your high school football games you ignored to get food.
At the high school and college level, we generally do play pop songs and add (often off-key) sound effects to touchdowns. But, the much more interesting — and demanding — competitive side of marching band is where the fun happens.
In competitive marching band, bands come together to perform their choreographed shows lasting anywhere from seven to 11.5 minutes. Each show has a theme, and teams are judged on all aspects of their performance, from whether or not they are stepping at the exact same time as every other performer, to how well they perform musically. Based on subcategory scores, teams are given a final score out of 100. While it might be played entirely independently of the other team/band, at the end of the night, the side with the more points wins. Sounds like a real game to me.
We even have “professional” level marching bands that belongs to Drum Corps International l (competitive marching band’s NFL). These groups travel the country, performing in stadiums, competing to better themselves as individual performers and as a cohesive group. Sadly, the sport is too unpopular to garner much of a crowd outside of marching band vets, so unlike professional athletes, participants must pay dues.
In early August of each year, the Drum Corps International World Championships take place in Indianapolis, where all 47 corps are invited to compete in the Preliminaries. The top 25 advance to the Semifinals, after which the top 12 compete for the title in the Finals. What sport would be complete without a series of final competitions?
Each group performs the show they have painstakingly practiced every day for the past few months. They have perfected every step, rehearsed every note, and put their blood, sweat, and tears into their craft alongside teammates. Even entry-level highschool organizations practice religiously. My high school marching band practiced more than our football team, which has four state championship titles since the ‘90s along with an entire documentary made about their 1999 championship under their belt. We were practicing on the field days before them in the summers, and weeks after them once their season ended, spending 25 to 30 hours a week memorizing things like our exact placement on the field at any given moment.
Marching band might not have as much cultural clout as the epic highs and lows of high school football, but for participants straddling the line between student athlete and performer, there’s nowhere they’d rather be at 9 a.m. on a Saturday, or 10 p.m. on a Sunday, or every day after school.