I’ll always remember my first marching band performance. We played “Jurassic Park” and ended the show with a company-front formation, high-stepping in cut time. We ended on the sidelines, playing with horns up to our home fans.
As a college band, our primary goal involved support of the football team (see “Smells Like Team Spirit”). Yet with every show, we grew as musicians and as people. So I truly can attest to the value and fun of marching in a noncompetitive setting.
On the other hand, this issue of Halftime Magazine focuses on competition. Our cover story, “Battle of the Bands,” highlights the show-style bands from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, where halftime is like going to war. “To Compete or Not to Compete,” poses the important question: Does competing help or hurt students and the school’s overall band program? And “Demystifying the Judging Process,” gives valuable advice to those who do choose to compete. We also profile and congratulate the 2007 Drum Corps International World Champions.
So since I never marched competitively, I felt I should share this letter with my husband, Josh. He served as drum major of the Ferndale (Mich.) High School Golden Eagle Marching Band in 1993. (Incidentally, Ferndale is now a three-peat state champion) Here, Josh provides a few thoughts about competition:
I marched competitively in high school and had a blast. It was more like a sport, which is great because it forces you to practice and work hard to get rewarded. It certainly teaches good skills that you can use later in life.
I do agree that a marching program can hurt the music program from a purely musical perspective. However, one upside for us was that it allowed a lot of our most talented orchestral and vocal musicians to participate by playing in the pit percussion. They looked at it as a chance to be a part of a winning sports team, which we were.
The best feeling I ever had in band was conducting on the field at state championships and accepting the “best percussion” trophy at finals. We were in the Pontiac Silverdome, where the Detroit Lions used to play, and there were 5,000 fans cheering for us. It was truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
As you can tell from our divergent experiences, whether bands choose to compete or not to compete, the experience is unforgettable.
Christine Ngeo Katzman
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief