An inside look into High School Marching Bands, it’s an experience like no other
Many spectators watch the halftime performances of high school marching bands at football games. Yet just watching the show (a term referring to the band’s marching-and-music performance) doesn’t tell spectators how much energy the band put into making it happen, or that marching band is so much more than halftime entertainment.
What is Band Camp?
A few weeks before school starts, the marching band’s hard work begins with band camp, a simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating two weeks comprising a significant portion of the band’s rehearsal time for the season. Though exact schedules vary by band, it’s usually five or six days a week.
Each day, there are nine hours of rehearsal plus two hour-long breaks for lunch and dinner. The nine hours are broken up into three “rehearsal blocks” of three hours each. Bands spend these rehearsal blocks practicing the fundamentals of marching technique, memorizing their music, and learning drill (the formations on the field made during the show).
Though the August heat and long days make band camp very demanding, especially for students who have never done marching band before, it is also incredibly rewarding. By the end of those two weeks, members of the band have grown physically stronger, improved at playing their instrument, and become part of a community that’s both tight-knit and accepting.
Band camp isn’t easy, but for many, it’s that community, forged more strongly each day by all the time and energy spent working as a team towards the collective goal of creating the best band possible, that propels them through the long days.
When band camp ends and school begins, rehearsals usually settle into a less intense pattern of two to four per week, each significantly shorter than a band camp day. The band performs on some Friday nights, during the halftime of each home football game, but the most important performances happen on Saturdays: competition days.
A competition is an all-day immersion in the world of marching band. Competitions, more than anything else, are the payoff for the hard work during rehearsals. It’s an incredible experience to feel the energy building as the band gathers on Saturday morning, rides the bus to the competition site, and warms up for their first performance of the day. The performance itself is similarly electrifying: the experience of being on the performance field, competing, knowing how hard the band has worked for that performance and the confidence members of the band have in each other. As a member of my high school marching band, I’ve experienced this firsthand, and it’s a feeling that never gets old.
After performing, the band will watch other performances, and though each band is competing against all the others, they still applaud each other’s successes and wish them good luck. The marching band community is incredibly supportive. Scores and awards for the first round of performances are announced, and then each band performs for a second time. The camaraderie within and across bands is always amazing. The excitement of hearing that your band did well is among the best feelings that competitions have to offer.
Give marching band a try
High school marching bands are always looking for new members. If you’re a band student who hasn’t done marching band before, consider trying it out next season. For students who aren’t interested in playing an instrument, the color guard, which is a critical part of the marching ensemble, offers a different opportunity for participation. Students can also participate in high school marching bands when they’re in eighth grade. In marching band, you’ll be challenged and rewarded and find yourself in a community eager to support you.
It’s not for everyone.
But if marching band interests you, look into your high school’s program and get ready for intensity, fun, and an experience like no other.
Anna Janowski is a teen volunteer at the Beaverton City Library (grade 12). Outside of school, she likes to read, write, play softball and the trumpet.