Marching Band Alums Experience Recurring Dreams and Nightmares

Science magazine Pacific Standard has an article exploring the recurring dreams of marching band alums and the science behind them.

From the article by Kim Kankiewicz:

“It’s almost game time. I can’t find my sax. Or my shoes. Or my hat,” says Sue Farrell, who played in the University of Maryland’s Mighty Sound Marching Band in the late 1980s. “I know I won’t be able to find a spare in the band room, but I scramble around anyway, praying frantically. The clock is ticking, and I am not finding what I need.”

Farrell’s nightmare, which occurs several times a year and intensifies in the fall, is typical of recurring dreams described by other marching band alumni. Shanda Schlagenhauf, who played saxophone in Western Kentucky University’s marching band, dreams she’s on the field and doesn’t know the formations. Rachel Westermeyer Wright, who played clarinet for the Willowbrook High School Marching Band in Villa Park, Illinois, dreams she’s missed rehearsal and doesn’t know the music. Cindy Combs, an alum of the Harper Creek High School Marching Band in Battle Creek, Michigan, dreams she’s about to march for the first time in 30 years and discovers she can no longer play the trumpet.

“Marching band is a highly structured social activity that involves long hours of practice and stressful performances in front of thousands of people, making it the perfect material for garden-variety anxiety dreams,” says Ryan Hurd, a researcher, author, and board member for the International Association for the Study of Dreams who maintains the Dream Studies Portal. Hurd, who himself dreams about high school marching band 25 years after participation, adds that recurring dreams are commonly set in the first half of our lives.

The article goes on to discuss factors that can lead to increased marching anxiety such as having to learn a new show every week and feeling under prepared–or being exposed as a soloist or guard member instead of hidden in the ensemble.

Dr. Jacob Levy, associate professor and director of the Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, studies performance anxiety in marching band members. His research shows that band members who are less prone to anxiety tend to enjoy their experience more–and stay in marching arts longer. However he also says that not all performance anxiety is bad.

“Anxiety is not all bad. It can motivate us to practice and help us focus when performing. The trick is to develop skills to manage one’s anxiety level so it does not become overwhelming,” Levy says in the article.

Click here to read the full article from Pacific Standard.

What about you? Have experienced marching band dreams or nightmares as a current member or as an alum? Share your stories below in the comments!

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