Marching Band

After the pause for the pandemic in 2020, high school marching band season is all ready to roll again!

These are some of the organizations that run marching band competitions in the Bay Area:

I have seen marching band competitions in the categories of parade and field.  Generally, bands are judged on visuals, music, and general effect.  They can also be judged by music category: woodwind, brass, percussion, color guard, depending upon the organization.  Each organization may use different criteria to judge the marching bands.

Marching band competitions occur in the fall, at the same time as football.  Marching bands originated as part of the entertainment for football's half times.  Since then, marching bands have developed their own competitions.

Marching band members are both musicians and athletes on the field.  Members must be able to both play instruments and to march in tight formations.  Sometimes band members march backwards, relying only upon the music and practice to tell them where they should be.  Often, formations change each week, as the formations are ever evolving, based upon critiques from competition judges.

Marching band season begins with Band Camp.

Band Camp

Band camp usually begins before the start of school.  Some high schools run weekly sessions throughout the summer.

If you are a freshman and rent your instrument from the school, you will have to start camp by renting the high school's instrument, since a sousaphone, for instance, may cost thousands of dollars.

Band camp practices occur during the heat of the day during summer to build resilience for the much harder competition months of October and November.

Band camp may include strength training, drills, marching band step training, and musical training.  Musical training occurs by instrument, musical group (brass, woodwind, percussion, color guard) and/or by the entire band.  The band usually practices together at the end of the day.

At the end of the day, students can expect games and group-bonding exercises to build trust and friendships.


Band directors allocate some of the logistical aspects to parent volunteers including:

  • Uniform ordering, fitting, and mending
  • Food preparation or ordering from vendors (including distribution after competitions.)
  • Water and snack distribution
  • Chaperoning
  • First Aid (for those hot summer days!)

Band members may also strive to be leaders as they gain experience, including:

  • Drum majors
  • Assistant drum majors
  • Brass, woodwind, color guard, or percussion captains
  • Instrument leaders
  • Bus leaders

These positions resemble chairs in an orchestral setting.

What if high school marching band is not enough and you are 21 years or younger?

Drum Corps International

If you love music and marching band, an additional step to consider is the non-profit organization, Drum Corps International (DCI).

Santa Clara's very own Santa Clara Vanguards was one of the founding members for Drum Corps International, which is now based in Indianapolis.

DCI is often called music's major leagues for good reason.

The Bay Area's Blue Devils and Santa Clara Vanguards are dominant in DCI.  Competitions occur during the summer and culminate in the championships in August.

Let me know if you have questions in the comments section below!


Books About Marching Bands

The Marching Band Nerds Handbook Rules From the 13th Chair Trombone Player, book cover
Techniques of marching bands, book cover
Percussion, book cover
Woodwind, book cover
Brass, book cover
Techniques of Color Guard, book cover