By Victor López,
Alfred Marching Band Composer
For many years I often heard band directors argue whether or not there was a real need for a marching band in their music program. They argued about the amount of time that it took to prepare for performances, the amount of money needed to fund the program, and whether or not the ensemble had any musical value. Some went as far as becoming advocates to convince band parents and school principals to do away with the marching band program at their school. This obviously was a no-brainer for administrators who were looking to cut liabilities, funding, and conflict in class schedules. They certainly welcomed the idea.
Eliminating the marching band is actually eliminating a very important marketing tool for your music program. In many instances, those who succeeded in doing away with the marching band soon experienced the negative impact of such programmatic change. They then wondered why their music programs were dwindling in student numbers, and why they were being asked to teach non-music classes.
As school budgets shrink, it is of the utmost importance that we keep our music programs alive by becoming creative and making certain that ensembles which give us the most visibility are not dismantled. That may take some sacrifice, but ultimately it will pay off. There is a unique and exciting aspect to marching band which young people seldom find available to them elsewhere. They develop a sense for community and responsibility, which are qualities needed for their adult life. The recognition and exposure from participating in the program is immense. Think of the amount of people who really attend school concerts or music festivals, as opposed to watching the marching band at football games, parades and other community functions. Yes, besides marketing your program, the marching band is prime visible evidence.
A former principal once told me, “the marching band is a shining window in this building and I keep it clean.” That says it all. So… HOLD ON TO THE MARCHING BAND!