Imagine your alarm goes off and it is eight-thirty in the morning. It is a hot summer day and you would rather still be in bed than up and having to run to practice. When you get there you are told to run a lap for every minute you are late. You were sixteen minutes late, that is three miles. After you are done, it is right into warm-ups and as you do that sweat starts to run down your back. As the sweat continues to trickle, your team learns your spots and are given your positions. You run through the plays and by this time your shirt is soaked through. After lunch, you start right back up into learning plays again. Skip forward a month or two and you are stepping onto the field for the first game of the season, the crowd is cheering and you take your place for the first play. At the end, the crowd erupts in cheers, and the drum major leads you off of the field. Most athletes feel at home on the field, in the locker room, or even where they practice. The band's locker room is the band room, our field is determined by where we compete, and we practice in a parking lot. Marching band is a sport.
Sports and marching band relate. A sport is defined by Elizabeth R. as a “physical activity” moving an object over space or the disablement of the “resistance of a mass.” Elizabeth R. goes on to write that it is also “…a contest or competition against or with an opponent” (R). A sport is defined as a physical activity that moves an object through space with a resistance of mass, in which a competition is held against another opponent. Is a marching band competition just a spectacle for the audiences’ eyes and ears? The New World Encyclopedia defines marching band as a cluster of “instrumental musicians” in which they “perform outdoors” also who include “some type of marching” or different motion along with “musical performance.” Along with that, the New World Encyclopedia adds:
A marching band not only performs musical compositions, but also entertains with flamboyant steps and movements to create a moving musical ensemble, sometimes forming designs such as letters, logos, or even animated pictures. In addition to traditional parade performances, many marching bands also perform field shows at special events such as football games or at marching band competitions.
Marching bands have a major or national league. Just like football, marching band has its own major league, called Drum Corps International (DCI). It has been operating since 1972 and is made up of three separate divisions that the drum corps can participate in (Davis). Madison Davis explains that DCI is like the “NFL, MLB, and NHL” of the marching world and she finishes by saying that DCI “is a nonprofit organization” along with the other organizations.
Others outside of the marching band world believe that there is not a lot of physical activity involved in marching a show. Most of the time physical exertion takes place outside of game performances just like other ‘traditional’ sports. Lauren Robak in her article, “Sports and Physical Activity’ makes the comparison of marching band as well as other sports by using an interesting point by Wozniak:
‘Members have to hold their instruments up at attention or playing position for almost the entire time’ (Wozniak 12). This requires good arm strength and endurance to be able to keep the instrument in the proper position. Marching band is similar to sports in this aspect because athletes involved in sports need to have good muscular strength and endurance in order to perform all of the necessary tasks that are required of them.
Robak makes an obvious point that marching band, along with other sports, need muscular strength and endurance for them to perform well. If both marching band and other sports require muscular strength and endurance, then why is marching band not considered a sport? If marching band requires muscular strength and endurance just like hockey, soccer, baseball, football, and swimming, then it would be nothing less than hypocritical treatment towards marching band if it was not considered a sport. While interviewing a senior at Palisades, Aaron Fischman, discovers that students in marching band “have ended up quitting” due to the fact that they were not able to meet the “physical demands” that are required. The physical demands in a marching band have hindered performers to continue in it. Is that not a reason why some sports players decide to quit? Would that not make other sports and marching band similar to each other? Haley Greenwald-Gonella in her article “Musicians as Athletes” brings up the fact that, with the physical loads put onto both marching band and drum corps as a whole to function, appear to call for some type of “conditioning and injury prevention.” During a season, most sports teams normally have to warm up and work on their stamina. Along with those sports though marching band needs to continue to work throughout the year on conditioning. Which involves standing on their toes for longer than twenty minutes, being able to continuously march from spot to spot while playing our instruments, and they also need the stamina to brave the weather(since they perform in rain, snow, hail, or shine).
Regardless whether someone has seen a marching band, the first conclusion they come upon is that the performers are just walking around the field aimlessly. There is so much more work than that that goes into a show, and the steps in between the 8 to 5. The percussion instructor at Palisades informed Aaron Fischman that the performers are running about to each spot on the field, it usually ends up to be from 120-180 beats per minute. Along with that the percussion instructor continued to notify Fischman that not only do they get a cardio workout from it but, they also have to put air “through their instruments” to produce sound and music, and while they are getting tired they still need to continue because it affects the quality of the music. If the performers are running to their spot while also pushing air through an instrument would that be considered as a cardiovascular workout like the traditional sports workouts? The physical exertion is nonstop on top of the skill to perform a memorized piece of music along with remembering the “drills on the field” (Santoro). The continuous motion while performing and memorizing the drill and music puts out a lot of work and exertion. While marching about the field at unpredictable tempos, while marching involves exhausting physical postures and powerful muscular movement, the optical part “does not consume the entirety of the activity” (Davis). While the fact that marching a show is full of hard work and exertion, it takes a lot of time to build up an endurance to be able to do all of the requirements at once.
During a performance not only do the marchers have to put forth physical activity but they have to continuously put forth that work with little to no breaks. Not only does a marching band march for one song but they continue to march for another two to three more songs which are where the endurance and ability to keep on going even after you are tired or want to quit comes in. ““There’s a lot of physical demands, there’s musical demand, there’s precision requirements, and physically it’s very taxing,” said Hernandez, who will be celebrating her sixth anniversary with Palisades this February” (Fischman). While needing to meet a lot of demands physically, musically, and through precision requirements, the performer needs to be able to continue to perform a show using a lot of endurance to help them perform with ease. What is not understood from some is that marching band puts a lot of “physical and mental stress” that the band as a whole must withstand (Santoro).
In marching band, there are so many different types of skills that the performer must be able to carry out with precision. One of the most important skill is being able to memorize and play the music and drill. “"In the past 20 years, marching bands have gone to these highly choreographed visual shows, where performers are literally running around the field at very high velocities with heavy instruments while playing very difficult passages"” (Rauscher). Not only has the marching has been amped up, but so has the music. If marchers are running and memorizing what would be their plays, would that making marching band like traditional sports? Not only are marching bands getting harder and using more activity than in the past but the marchers need to be able to do all of the marching, playing, and choreography at once. When in a marching band the performer needs to be familiar with how to march correctly, keep their music fully “memorized, count, move, play, and remember what to do before and after the show,” and all of that needs to be done at the same exact same time (R). When everything needs to be done at once sounds scary just think about how many people are watching them and unlike other traditional sports, there is no cheerleaders or anything to take the focus off of the band. “Their skills are endurance, discipline, dedication and art” (Dvorak). There are so many more skills than listed. Traditional sports like marching band need a lot of skills but the skills are different in every sport. Does that mean that marching band is not a sport though because the skills are a lot different than the ones needed for a ‘traditional’ sport?
A traditional sports competition is a little different from a marching band competition. The competitions are normally held on a Saturday or Sunday and they normally take up a huge chunk out of the day. When interviewing about a band competition, Jason Malmont learned what a band competition is and how the atmosphere is like, unlike other sports events. ““(Competitions) give (band members) a venue to perform to the best of their ability and to a crowd of fans,” Porter said. “With band competitions, the audience knows when to clap and not to talk during performances. It is a nice thing for them to have that different atmosphere”” (Malmont). While some do not think of a game as a competition but, in reality, it really is just like the same thing, except for the fact that bands are competing against a lot more competition than just one team. Jake Austin informed his readers in "Band Demand: High School Marching Band Programs Require Discipline, Pride” about the normal schedule for a high school marching program. “During a typical week, most marching bands hold two weekly rehearsals and a Saturday rehearsal with or without a competition” (Austin). A marching band may not practice as much as most sports but they do have weeks of camp where they go all day and practice nonstop along with the practices during the week normally are around three to four hours long. After the performance, the band members have a couple of options of what they can do with one being that they can watch the other performances. “Though the chance to perform in a focused setting is important, competitions also stand as a key chance for band members to interact with and observe other schools’ bands. Many directors view competitions as a community-based affair” (Malmont). A band competes in a completely different way as a traditional sport.
“Every show usually has three distinct parts: an opener, some kind of ballad or slower piece to change the pace and then a closer that is usually a little faster paced and builds excitement,” said Carlisle Assistant Band Director Dominick Raimato. “So usually, there is applause for transitions between the three sections. Usually, if (the audience) is surprised or impressed by something, it is appropriate to applaud” (Malmont).
Though a competition is different for both marching band and a sport they still have a reason to compete. The competitions are huge that are held from the home band and bands from different schools and districts come just to perform their show in front of a crowd of people and judges (Robak). A band may compete in a different way but the judges are just like referees in a sense. Also, there are rules just like any other sport. “As far as competition, drum majors’ compete in their own categories (individual) while the marching band and Color Guard have their own competitions (team). Together, they help the entire band’s showmanship scores” (Santoro). For a band, the score is a judgment on how well they played and marched but for a traditional sport, it is all about how many shots, goals, or baskets they made.
In a marching band just like traditional sports, everyone has to be in it together. The difference though between a marching band and traditional sport is that in marching band there are no JV team or bench, which makes it so much harder on them when someone just does not show up or breaks a bone. “There are no performers who “sit on the bench” in a marching band. Everyone is a “varsity starter” at every rehearsal and performance” (Middletown High School Band RSS). The students who start for a game are supposed to be the best of the best right? Then why are all of the performers a starting varsity line? That’s what is going through some of your minds, right? The kids are all starting as varsity because in a band everyone needs to be in, not just a select few. Marching band is for all of the performers to show their ability not just the varsity starters or the quarterback for that matter.
Everyone in marching band just like any other sport has their own personal job but for the show to work everyone has to work together so that the performance is as close to perfect as it can get. “Personally, I enjoyed it -- and it CERTAINLY taught a much higher degree of teamwork and discipline than just wind ensemble (which was just another phase of the band program rather than an entirely different band)” (Value of Marching Band). In a band, the performers must all work together even though they have their own job.
“Being in the marching band we all learn how to work together. You can’t just do your own thing — you have to be in step with everyone in the band and play your instrument at the same time. It teaches you that you can’t really take short cuts through life because then you’ll never be good at anything. You have to practice a lot to get the march and the song perfect.” Hannah P. / 7th grader (Honey).
The band, in order to function properly, needs to come together with their own parts and make it into something beautiful and perfectly matched. To achieve the band's goals, all of the marchers and staff need to work in harmony (Middletown High School Band RSS).
During a show or game, all it really takes is one mistake made by one person in order for the whole show to be messed up. “Having a “hole” in a marching band show is like missing a piece from a jigsaw puzzle. You might think it’s only a small percent of the picture missing, but that “hole” is the first thing you look at! Its detrimental effect on the overall picture and performance is far greater! The rest of the band is counting on you to be there and know your part” (“Mighty Indian" Marching Band 2015-2016 Handbook). A hole can mess up the whole show just like if you are missing the center or linebacker or even the goalie.
As defined a sport is a physical activity that involves propelling a mass through space, overcome a resistance of mass, and requires a contest or competition against or with an opponent (R), marching band meets all these points and so much more. They give students a set of skills that help them throughout their lives, the students are taught teamwork and how if one person is gone it can mess the team up as a whole. A marching band competes and they are physically active too.
Austin, Jake. "Band Demand: High School Marching Band Programs Require Discipline, Pride (VIDEO)." The Sentinel. 17 Oct. 2015. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
Davis, Madison. "Marching Band: Sport or Not?" The Rider Online. 10 Nov. 2011. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
Dvorak, Petula. "A High School Football Coach Bullies the Marching Band and Dishonors His Sport." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 14 Nov. 2013. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
Fischman, Aaron. "Marching Band: The Other Athletes on the Field." ATLX. ATLX, 26 Sept. 2013. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
Greenwald-Gonella, Haley. "Musicians as Athletes." Halftime Magazine. Halftime Magazine, 2 Oct. 2010. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
Honey, Candace. "Marching Band - Confidence & Teamwork for Kids in Middle School - The Razoo Blog." The Razoo Blog Marching Band Confidence Teamwork for Kids in Middle School Comments. 16 Oct. 2013. Web. 17 / Dec. 2015.
Malmont, Jason. "Closer Look: Marching Band Competitions Grounded in Unique Etiquette, Tradition." The Sentinel. 19 Oct. 2015. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
"Marching Band." Middletown High School Band RSS. Web. 17 Dec. 2015.
"Marching Band." - New World Encyclopedia. 17 Sept. 2014. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.
""Mighty Indian" Marching Band 2015-2016 Handbook." PT Music Boosters. 2015. Web. 17 Dec. 2015.
R, Elizabeth. "Marching Band Should Be Considered a Sport." Marching Band Should Be Considered a Sport. Teen Ink. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
Rauscher, Megan. "Marching in the Band as Tough as Playing Sports." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 2 June 2009. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
Robak, Lauren. "Sports and Physical Activities.” Marching Band vs. Sports. 2 May`2012. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
Santoro, Sabrina. "Marching Band Requires Physical Stamina – Should It Be Considered a Sport? High School Illustrated." High School Illustrated. 6 Dec. 2012. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
"Value of Marching Band." Value of Marching Band. Web. 17 Dec. 2015.
A sport is defined as an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. Throughout the years, not everyone has seen marching band as a sport. Though it is an extension of a typical school band, being in marching band is not a walk in the park. By looking at the definition of a sport, it is clear that marching band could be considered a sport.
1. Uniforms and equipment
Just like other sports like football and baseball, marching band participants are forced to wear uniforms. They are usually heavy and one often questions his/her life choices after wearing one in the middle of summer. Marching band also utilizes many different types of equipment like other sports. Though they aren't balls or nets, marching band uses props for themed shows and instruments for the actual members.
2. Physical exertion
It is my personal opinion that those who think marching band is easy should be forced to run a whole ten minute show in full uniform. Marching band is a physically demanding activity that requires its members to be in top shape. Often, members of the band have to hustle from one side of the field to the other while trying to play music. The speed and legwork that go into marching band should never be overlooked.
Marching band, like other sports, require a great deal of skill. There are certain marches one must learn at varying tempos. Members have to learn the correct step size and how to carry your body across the field at varying angles. On top of all of that, one has to memorize music and remember where on the field he/she has to go. Performing a marching band show is about ten minutes of pure concentration and skill.
Like other sports, marching band members often have to attend practices. Usually, not including school class time, a marching band can spend about three hours or more practicing each day. When I was in high school, our marching band would always end up practicing with the football team across the way. Some marching bands also have weekend practices and come to practice during the summer. In marching band, you can never have too much practice.
5. A Team Competition
One of the most intimidating things to do in any sport is go compete and marching band is no different. A typical marching band may go to a handful or so of marching band shows every season, competing with other bands for titles of varying types. Marching bands, like other sports, go head to head, being judged on skill and technique, all the while trying to become the best of the best. Competition day is definitely a time for hype and excitement for marching band kids.
Like sports, marching band provides a variety of entertainment. Not only are the shows captivating and the music often beautiful, marching bands also attend other functions as well. It is common to see the local marching band participating in the pep band for other sporting events. Parades are also a source of entertainment where a marching band is involved, especially during the winter holidays. Overall, marching band can provide a great source of entertainment for people of all ages.