The Real Cost of Marching?

It’s no secret in the marching arts community that participation and competitive experiences don’t come cheap. Students and parents are very familiar with band fees, scrip, fundraisers and booster budgets. But what does it all add up to?

Business website Bloomberg recently published an article claiming to have quantified “The Real Cost of High School Marching Band” at $7,110.77 per year. The sum includes an instrument, clothing, medical supplies and fundraisers as well as travel expenses for Bands of America Grand Nationals and the Tournament of Roses Parade.

From the story: “Being in a marching band takes more than coordination and stamina.

  • $550.00: Band membership fee
  • $400.00: Spring concert season fee
  • $700.00: Private lessons (minimum amount; half-hour sessions, once per week for 28 weeks)”

Personal Finance Editor Suzanne Woolley’s nephew participates in high school marching band in Texas and is going to perform at Carnegie Hall this February. Supporting his fundraisers gave her the idea for the story.

“It seemed like there might be something there in seeing how much it could cost a parent to have a child in a marching band—not to make any point pro or con about the value of that experience, but just out of interest,” Woolley says. “We were curious.”

The article has been criticized by some readers as not being representative of the average band member’s experience and not detailed enough in sourcing or specifying which costs come from individual students and families as opposed to the band budget. “There was debate about the methodology in the comments section on the story,” Woolley says. “There were people who thought the costs cited were too high or too low and others that said the costs were spot on.”

Sources listed in the story include the Avon (Ind.) High School Marching Band, Marching.com, summer camps at Auburn and Florida State Universities, and private teachers and students in New Jersey and Indiana.

“Someone made a very valid point about the instrument being a one-time cost if you do indeed own the instrument, and that was an oversight on our part that has informed our thinking going forward,” Woolley says. “We are thankful to critical readers for sharing their views and knowledge and that they are passionate enough about the topic to engage in a debate that informs everyone involved.”

According to Woolley, Bloomberg would be interested in further researching the costs of marching bands in a more detailed manner and welcomes any suggestions (although it would be a while before they could revisit the topic).

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