For some, band camp has concluded and the school year is underway; for others, camp is in full swing, complete with marching and maneuvering basics, sectional rehearsals, and color guard catches. The tail end of summer is an intense time for marching ensembles, a time that sometimes finds parents and new marching students a bit surprised by the level of commitment asked of them. There are compelling reasons, however, to put aside other activities until November (or so) and make room for the full-time commitment marching band requires.
It’s good for you:
Being a marching musician is hard physical work. The stamina it takes just to hold a baritone horn at attention for more than a couple minutes helps develop strength, endurance, and a willingness to muscle through tough tasks. Building enough cardiovascular strength to dash around a football field for ten minutes straight while using every iota of breath to push notes through an instrument is something no other school activity can duplicate. Marching music is a true marriage of artistry and athleticism a student will find nowhere else.
Even into their adult years, many musicians who participated in marching band can cite countless treasured memories from the time they spent in their school ensemble. For many, a band reunion would hold far more meaning than a class reunion, because in band, students find like-minded friends who work together as a team. As a bonus, the students in band tend to be high-achieving members of the teen population, which puts kids in good long-term company. Studies show that people who engage in healthy long-term friendships enjoy success in other life areas as well.
A commitment to the greater good:
It’s easy for teens (and adults) to become “me-centric” in a society that encourages a constant jockeying for the spotlight. In marching band, students learn to operate as an integral part of the whole. They must execute their individual roles to the best of their possible ability, but always with a mind toward how their instrument’s voice fits with the ensemble and how their positions on the field contribute to (or detract from) the form. A willingness to sacrifice, to make it to rehearsal even when you don’t feel like it, or to help that struggling freshman instills skills of buy-in and empathy that will serve students in any field they might choose to pursue in their adult lives.
The western world has become a padded and fluffy place where failure has taken on an ill-founded bad name. When a student is charging across the yard lines to make a set, playing the hardest passage of music she has ever learned, and praying her shoe doesn’t come off in the mud, she might just run into a mishap. But because there’s an entire ensemble moving on whether she has her shoe or not, she must learn the skill of recovery. Mistakes are inevitable. Students have the choice when errors come along to implode or to recover, and a marching ensemble has an uncanny way of demanding the mistake-maker get ‘back with the program’ quickly and seamlessly. The recurring theme of life skills a student can learn in marching band plays yet another refrain.
Though the hours spent in rehearsal become countless, the miles on the road to football games and competitions burn more tanks of gas than imaginable, and the emotional energy required to put on the best possible performance time after time may sometimes seem overwhelming, the emotional, physical, and relational gains that come from a full commitment to a marching ensemble are equally immeasurable. When all is said and done in November, you can count on even the most initially-reluctant student to miss band until it ramps up again next summer.
Resources you might enjoy to help your marching musicians achieve:
Leadership Success by Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, Pat Sheridan, Jon Gomez, and Scott Lang
Marching Bands and Drumlines by Paul Byer