What Good Is Marching Band?

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Another school year is off and running and you know what that means? Football! Oh, and yes marching band. Many band directors have a love, hate relationship with marching band and there are many who wish it was not even part of what we have to do in music education. Others love it to the point that it has become the focus of the program and it is not about football, but competition. I am not going to take sides here, but I will leave you with this thought – everything in moderation! Too much of anything in life is probably not wise.

So, for all of you marching band loathers out there, I ask that you focus on the positive aspects of marching band and how they can improve the abilities and musicianship of your students. Listen, a bad tone is a bad tone, inside or outside. Please make sure to stress good quality sounds no matter where they are playing. Many feel that marching band causes the destruction of the embouchure. Well, it does if you let the students over blow with puffed checks and bad fundamentals. And what about musicianship? Should any music they play, be that Louie, Louie or Lincolnshire Posy be played without good phrasing?

If you love marching band and are passionate about it, you probably agree with the sentiments expressed in the previous paragraph, that good playing is good playing, good musicianship is good musicianship. I might suggest that you however consider the primary reason you are a teacher, and that is music education. Although I agree that music education can happen in marching band, I am a strong believe in a balanced program built around the concert band at the core. Consider this year moving into concert music sooner. It will help keep the marching music fresh for the students and give them the opportunity to play a variety of different literature.

I appreciate marching band because it is a great way to get students to use more AIR!! It is the essence of wind instrument playing isn’t it? So why not use this to our advantage? The trick is to not ever, never ever let the students push to the point that their embouchures are destroyed and the tone is disgusting! If these things are kept in check, I firmly believe that marching band can help the students become better wind players. Now percussionists love marching band because they get to play – a lot! There are many skills they can improve while participating in marching band. But like I stated above, moderation folks! A well-balanced all-around program is what we should all strive for and marching band certainly can and should be used as just another medium in your program to do so.

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Larry Clark is the founder and President of Excelcia Music Publishing. He is a well-known composer, author and clinician for bands and orchestras. His music is some of the most popular and most performed around the world for school ensembles. He has over 300 publications in print and writes extensively about topics of interest to educators and composers. For more information, visit his website.