Parcell: Truth about Marching Band

Jordan Parcell

Band kids are most often characterized as whiny and obsessed with talking about how difficult it is to be a member of the marching band. 

So how hard is it really?

Let’s start at the beginning of the season, which actually starts at the end of the previous school year when we get our music.

This music is typically comprised of three or four sections, each with a different theme. We all get together once and play through as much as we can. After that, we are all expected to prepare our parts and be able to play the whole show by band camp. 

We also have to physically prepare ourselves by acclimating ourselves to the heat so we are prepared to spend time outside during band camp.

Just before band camp starts, the new marchers have their own four days of learning fundamentals, which entails lots of running back and forth on the field and getting used to our directors yelling constantly. We also have practices where we begin working in depth on playing our music stylistically.

Then comes the most dreaded part of the entire season: band camp. 

This year we began band camp in July, which is generally accepted as the hottest month of the year in Kansas with an average high temperature of 81 degrees. We have band camp from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Thursdays. 

We work on music for the show as well, as the things we have to know for football games. The latter includes the music we play for the Pantherettes, the national anthem, the fight song, the song we play when the football team scores and the alma mater.

When school starts, we have zero hour rehearsals, as well as band class on green days. I don’t know a single person who would willingly show up to school so early, but it’s part of marching band. 

We have to be on the field at 7 a.m sharp, in order of our assigned numbers for attendance. If you miss attendance even by a margin of a few seconds, you’re counted late. If you have a certain amount of tardies or absences, you aren’t allowed to perform the show, but you’re still required to show up to all practices and performances. 

Between the hours spent running bits and pieces of the same nine-minute show countless times, we have to prepare for football games and the homecoming parade. We spend what seems like a lifetime marching in an oval around the track, with the constant cry of “left, left, left. Left, left, left” coming from the directors. 

And all for what? What do we get out of this from the literal blood, sweat and tears shed over the duration of the season? 

Six performances. Three at football games, three at festivals. 

We work on the same thing for five or six months for six performances. It might be understandable if we could get money out of it, like a drama club does with their shows, or a choir could with concerts. 

We get no money from it, quite the contrary; we spend upwards of $20,000 to pay for music and drill to be written and what ever props we use.

So yes, us complaining about how annoying the trumpets are or talking about how much we love this one part of the show may be annoying, but next time you encounter a band kid, maybe you’ll be less annoyed and more understanding of what that person has been putting into the band program.