Updated: Apr 18
When you think about your high school years, what comes to mind? For me, it's music. My high school had a robust music program that really helped shape me into the musician I am today. I played in the marching band, wind ensemble, orchestra, and every musical theater performance I could. I was a bando, through and through.
Fast-forward to today. Two of my private students will be entering high school this coming fall, one of them at my alma mater, Poway High! I was so excited to hear that she will be joining the Emerald Brigade. Helping her prepare for this next step in her musical journey has reminded me of the great time I had in band. For any parents or students who are interested in marching band but are unsure about committing, here are 5 reasons you should.
1. It's musically challenging...and so rewarding
When you think of marching band music, you might think of John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever" (and that infamous piccolo solo). On top of this piece, you'll also learn your school’s fight song, the national anthem, and the field show – a roughly 30-minute musical performance often broken up into 3 or 4 movements. Oh, and it’s choreographed. Oh, and you also have to play it from memory. Sound challenging? It is, but don’t panic - you have the support of your peers, the wisdom of your section leader, and the leadership of your band directors to see you through.
One of the most rewarding parts of playing in band is knowing that you're all in it together. Putting on a field show takes hard work, dedication, and most of all, teamwork. Nothing beats the feeling of walking off the field alongside your fellow bandos knowing you put on a great show. That sense of accomplishment makes all the hard work worth it.
2. You start the year with a great group of people
At most high schools, band season begins even before the first day of school, during a week of boot camp - sorry, band camp. During this week, you'll be introduced to the student leadership, learn the ins and outs of marching, and start rehearsing the field show. Band camp really gives you head start in forming new friendships and navigating the new high school campus, which can seem daunting if you're coming from a smaller middle school.
Also, boot camp - I mean, band camp - is a really great bonding experience. Something about really hard music, turf so hot it can melt your instrument, and intense physical exercise really brings people together.
3. You quickly learn time management skills
For me, the most challenging part of marching band was not memorizing the music or mastering the steps to the field show - it was learning how to manage my time. The band rehearsed almost every morning during first period, as well as every Thursday evening and some Saturday afternoons. Not to mention weekly sectionals, Friday night football games, fall tournaments and competitions... I swear we practiced more than the football team did.
Although the rehearsal schedule can be rigorous, it will prepare you for your intense high school schedule, which will quickly fill up with sports, clubs, and AP classes. No more [insert video game here] till 2 in the morning when you have to be on the field, ready to rehearse at 7:30 am. If there's anything you take away from your marching band experience, it will be learning how to manage your time wisely. From showing up on time to managing your own calendar, these important life skills will stick with you for life.
4. You're exposed to great performance opportunities
I was lucky enough to attend a high school that really valued the arts. Our marching band, concert bands, choirs, and orchestra all took part in regional competitions (and did quite well, I might add). Throughout the school year, we got to travel to different high schools, performance venues, and amusement parks. One of my favorite memories is marching in the Disneyland Parade during our annual Disney trip.
5. It's an opportunity for student leadership
Band can be a resume booster, it’s true - especially if you elect to take on a leadership position within the band. I was fortunate enough to lead the flutes as section leader my senior year of high school. As a section leader, you do more than set a good example – you're also responsible for running sectionals and making sure everyone knows their parts. You learn how to encourage, inspire, and lead a group of your peers - and how to stay professional amidst all the high school drama.
Depending on the band, other leadership opportunities might include music librarian, band secretary, treasurer, and of course the esteemed Drum Major position.
Bonus perks of being in marching band:
You get to attend every football game for free
You get to compete
You get to wear an awesome uniform
You get to play fun music
You get to skip P.E. (in some schools)
You make lasting memories
I'm so grateful for my time in marching band. It helped me improve musically and introduced me to some awesome people, some of whom I still keep in touch with. If you're on the fence about joining, all I can say is do it. It's a challenging road, but it's so worth it.