Two Million Reasons Why Marching Band Kids Are So Responsible

smiling dm in rehearsal

We have all watched a marching band at half time. We have all marveled at the quality of music and the complexity of marching, but have we ever considered how much responsibility is placed upon a marching band member?

Mr. Gary Gribble, director of the Alan C. Pope Bands, has created some mind boggling facts which should make us more than marvel at what happens on the field during half time. Gary writes:

“Let’s assume, for simple math, we have a moderate to above average-sized marching band of 100 wind players, 20 percussion, 20 color guard, and two drum majors.  Now, while it seems fairly straight forward…just play your music and march to various spots on the field… here’s what REALLY is facing them.

“In an average production of 2 minutes duration, there will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 notes played per student (some parts will be less, some more). For each note played, the student must be responsible for:

  • Correct fingering of note
  • proper tone quality
  • proper pitch
  • correct beginning articulation
  • correct release/ending
  • correct duration/timing
  • balance to other players
  • blend with other players
  • appropriate volume

“This means at least 9 responsibilities per note times 300 notes…understand that sometimes the student will not play during segments, so this is an average…2,700 responsibilities per student…times 100 players = 270,000 musical responsibilities for the wind section.

“Percussion will have more notes in snare/mallet parts, perhaps fewer in bass drum and accessory parts, but on average, about the same number of musical concerns …substitute stick heights for pitch correctness, since it is not typical to tune drums as you go. This adds 2700 responsibilities…times 20 percussionists = 54,000 musical responsibilities for percussion.

“Color Guard must be concerned with:

  • timing
  • hand positions
  • equipment angles
  • speed of spins
  • height of tosses
  • direction of spins…not to mention holding on to or catching equipment!

“Number of counts roughly parallels musical notes, so assume 300 beats times 6 responsibilities, or 1800 items per guard member…times 20 members = 36,000 more things to do.

“So far, we are up to 360,000 responsibilities, and we haven’t touched marching. With marching, there are at least the following considerations:

  • posture
  • direction of facing
  • instrument position
  • staying in step
  • staying in form
  • size of step
  • tempo
  • style of movement (Toes up? Knees straight? Shoulders square?)
  • control of space between members

On average, there will be one step per beat of music, or approximately 240 steps. This means 240 times 9 responsibilities per member,…times 140 members …302,400 more things to think about.

“The drum majors must be on top of:

  • tempo, beat pattern
  • dynamics
  • communication of style/energy to band
  • poise/showmanship

or approximately 1200 items… times two majors…2400 more responsibilities.

“Keeping up so far? We’re up to 664,800 things that have to be done correctly… AND WE’RE JUST TALKING ABOUT THE FIRST PRODUCTION OF THE SHOW!!   Assume there are three segments in the average show, our grand total jumps to a staggering 1,994,400 responsibilities on the members for a single performance.

"The next time you watch a marching band show, examine the level of expectation and delivery that occurs with each student. It is truly remarkable, and it will help you appreciate even more the feeling that comes from a well performed show. When they are done, stand up and cheer their efforts…they are truly at the top of the 'responsibility pyramid' when performing in marching band."

Thanks, Gary Gribble, for sharing with us all of the responsibilities which are demanded of our marching youth! What an accomplishment for these young people. We will all cheer more abundantly and with more understanding for all of the performing bands we encounter!

Photo by flickr user Cubmundo.

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13 thoughts on “Two Million Reasons Why Marching Band Kids Are So Responsible

  1. I agree 100% and try to relate this to the kids I teach in marching percussion . It is a very awesome activity for those who want to learn life lessons early.

  2. This is true so much. I am a kid in band and I don’t know english well. We work hard a lot in band and try to make it the best we can.

  3. College marching band is a whole other story… Thought about knees up? Memorizing a new halftime show and music every week as well as stand tunes? Learning an eighteen minute pregame where not only you are doing full chair but are doing complex maneuvers such as 270 degree turns and TTRs? Don’t forget learning 14 minute cadence chants and the physcial endurance. Recognition for those in college marching bands who give up about 500 hours a semester to support the university

    1. I totally agree. I have a son who is a percussionist/music ed major at a D1 school and those students work their butts off. And the three band directors have all that times 150+ students. makes me tired. I am very proud of how hard they work and what a great show they put on each week.

  4. It’s about time we’re recognized for something other than the kids wearing the funny hats! — Irwin County Marching Big Red’s only Mellophone Player 😉

  5. Although I myself never participated in band, I had 2 sisters and a brother in band, as well as 2 nieces, and now my grand daughter.. oh and my father.

    But never before my granddaughter was in band did I realize the amount of work put into those performances. She was marching band playing flute her freshman year. Now both her Sophomore and Junior year she was Color Guard. and the amount of work required of these kids even beyond the marching season is incredible. My granddaughter is also in concert band now, and plays piccolo as well flute sometimes during the same music piece at different times of course, and during jazz band plays tenor sax.

    Besides band, she and the other kids are expected to put in concession duties at volleyball and basketball games.

    She is in the National Honor Society, currently has had straight a’s since 8th grade except for 1 89 in her freshman year.

    She is an awesome 16 year old kid whose been raised almost single-handedly by her mom. Her father died from lung cancer just over a year ago with no insurance and this kid will have to rely heavily on scholarships for her schooling. Considering her track record so far and her determination, I believe she will be able to get those scholarships and grants.

    So do band kids have a lot of responsibility? You bet they do, and they accept it when they don’t have a good performance, but the learn and improve and move on. The thing that impresses me the most about band kids is their team spirit for THEIR band team. They are friends with each other and support each other through all the difficulties they encounter in life.

    I am darned proud of my band grandchild.

  6. This is awesome, but there’s still so much more involved for both high school and college bands. For a show colorguard/flag corp, you have to factor in dance routine, point locations where they must be at during certain parts of the music, spacing and general location for when they’re dancing through the band as they’re marching. (I’ve had my fair share of ‘accidentally’ running into tubas while twirling mini flags and doing split leaps!)

    And if you’re dealing with a show band, then you have to calculate their dance routine as well. Keeping up with your music, marching routine, AND just how many times you do the Running Man without breaking your reed or hitting yourself or someone else in the head with your instrument is rather vital.

    With all of that, I’m amazed us band members hadn’t lost our minds. With all of that responsibility in one routine, you would think we would be stressed! But we all know one thing – the work is worth it all. To work together as one, to strive for your very best as a family of musicians and performers, is what makes marching band more of a day at the amusement part than a grind. We love music, we love performing, and we’ll take all the responsibility required to represent our band and what music means to us.

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