The Excitement of Marching Band Competitions!

My interest in marching band competitions started during my kid's first high school marching band competition year.

It was fed earlier in middle school, when my kid started marching in parade competitions for middle school.  But, in my opinion, parade marching is not quite as exciting to watch as a field show competition, which is the other major marching band competition here in Northern California.

Let me explain how the marching band field show can be every bit as exhilarating as watching a sport!

The First Field Show

This is a small synopsis of the very first marching band field show for my kid's marching band:

  • An introductory exposition lays out the story behind the show.  There is a new Italian restaurant opening.  During this exposition, parent volunteers pass out focaccia to the audience members!
  • With the salute from the Drum Major, the show begins!
  • Front ensemble, woodwinds, brass, percussion, and color guard move in unison as the music begins!
  • The marching band moves backwards, forwards, and side to side based upon cues and the numbers and lines on the football field.  This is after about 14 hours of practice each week, both for the music and for the marching.
  • Band members get to dance and show other skills, typically.
  • Laughter is an important component of my kids' high school marching band shows.  In this first one, there are slices of pizza that are the horses in a race.
  • Midway, the students make a formation that looks like an arrow.  I have seen the word "no" spelled out in another competition, in response to whether the groom says "I do," or not.
  • One of the students went to a circus camp and learned how to walk on a 55 cm yoga ball.  He walks on the ball while spinning a pizza.  Wow!  In other years, he plays a member of the wedding party, as he balances on the ball.
  • The color guard puts on a beautiful display with flags and props.
  • The show ends with an audience participation number.
  • Scores for the shows can be presented after each division or after the entire competition, depending upon the organization running the competition.  Waiting for scores, can be a nail-biting experience!

Other Shows

Since then, I have discerned that there are two kinds of shows:

  • Shows with a storyline: these are easily understood by the audience and are well-received.
  • Shows that are more avant-garde: these shows are usually put on by performers in Drum Corps International.  They are beautiful to see, and often have an overriding theme, rather than a storyline.

Shows with a storyline tend to be more understandable to the general public.  For instance, one of my favorite shows was one about the movie, Back to the Future.

Here are some other shows:

  • A wedding-themed show that follows a storyline where the bride is jilted and ends up throwing a cake at the wedding planner!
  • In the Old West, the devil and an angel try to trick a cowboy.
  • Beatles-themed show that was avant-garde in nature.
  • Drummer learns that it is best not to take the easy path.  Loved the BTS song in this show!

Execution of a splendid show may seem easy, but it is not!

Behind the Scenes

Behind the scenes of a successful marching band show are many people!

The band teacher and band director put in many hours (often of their own time) to plan the show and tweak it each week.  Each week, you will see tweaks made to the show, based upon the comments made by judges in previous competitions.

The students often put in 14 hours each week after school and weekends.  If there is a pep band home football game, the hours may increase to 18 hours each week.  Band camp can be 6-7 solid days of practice before school starts.  If there is a competition, students can expect 22+ hours that week.  Marching band teaches discipline and time management, certainly!

Individual instructors spend just as much time and more by planning and tweaking the show, in addition to teaching students.

Student leaders are responsible for their groups and for taking instruction and leading other students.

Parent volunteers are responsible for providing chaperoning, first aid, prop-making, transportation of props, food preparation and serving, uniform management, senior dinners, end of the season parties, and picture taking (video and still.)

If you have any questions or comments, let me know!

Books About Marching Band

The Complete Marching Band Resource Manual, book cover
The Marching Band Nerds Handbook, book cover
Marching band techniques, book cover
The marching band handbook, book cover
The complete marching band resource manual, book cover