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Memories of marching band
Memories of marching band

Memories of marching band

A friend on Facebook posted an article today about the athleticism of marching band. Band members are so often regarded as geeks (and I even mockingly refer to myself as such), but in marching band, you’re every bit an athlete as the guys banging into each other before you march out. I am easily 30 pounds heavier now than I was when I marched in college marching band. I won’t see 150 again unless I’m marching four out of seven days again, walking to and from rehearsal, and missing dinner.

Ahhh, those were the days. My freshman year I was so unprepared for the rigors of marching band that I developed chronic calcium tendonitis in both feet. Tendonitis had gotten so bad that calcium deposits were forming in the tendons. Copious amounts of ibuprofin and rest did wonders, but I hobbled for awhile. That same year we all endured a three hour rehearsal in horizontal sleet (Kate, you remember that?); I’m still defrosting, nearly 18 years later. Uh…nearly half my life later…holy crap. I’m going to go sit in a corner and rock now, thanks mental math! Every year we marched the Hoopeston Corn Festival Parade, then ate sweet corn and ice cream until we fell over. I played five Bears games (a couple of years ago Tom and I snagged tickets to see a pre-season Broncos game and we both realized it was the first time either one of us had been to a football game where we weren’t the halftime entertainment). I met my husband in marching band. I met life-long friends in marching band. I discovered how fast I could move, stop, play a piccolo feature, and run like hell again. I played in rain, sleet, wind, snow, blazing heat, suffocating humidity, and the HoosierDome (may it rest in peace). I learned how to replace piccolo pads with a lighter as I walked into a stadium. I learned how to repair a snapped-in-half piccolo headjoint with electrical tape and a prayer. I learned how to hem God-awful wool marching pants with a stapler.

I had a love/hate relationship with marching band. I loved being out there with my friends, and doing some wicked awesome shows. But I hated being out there in the craptastic weather central Illinois would throw our way. I despise going out in bad weather now and will actively avoid it. Don’t bother asking me to an outdoor school or scout function if the weather is going to be bad.

Such great memories of those days. If you ever get a chance to see a state high school marching band finals (here in Colorado it’s usually mid-October), go. You will see an awesome display of athletic musicianship on the field, kids hauling ass and doing things that are MUCH harder than you think. Unless you’ve done it, you just don’t know.


  1. You know I remember! Wasn’t that the freeze out year for band day and we couldn’t do the MOST AWESOME DRILL EVER (nothing like a little stepping over the flag line to thrill the crowds.)

    I still love marching band and have only recently been able to not cry while watching college marching bands. (I know, completely sappy, I should be embarrassed– but I’m not.) My Mom said that once my kids are in band I’ll start to cry again. My oldest starts band in a week. I’m in so much trouble.

    I never realized how much better in shape I was in the fall until my sister informed me that marching band calves are amazing. Maybe it was all that smoking?

  2. cms8741

    I have a confession: I was secretly PLEASED that the piano was not an instrument remotely possible to port in marching band. Seeing everybody out there in those uniforms that had to feel like a million degrees in the heat and not nearly warm enough in the snow was enough to make me grateful that I wouldn’t have to haul my instrument out there. Though, I must say, that being the lonely pianist, I missed out on a lot of friendships and shared experiences. “One time, at band camp…”

  3. Jen

    Amen, sister! There are some schools in SC that have actually gotten approval to count marching band participation as the P.E. requirement for graduation……..it’s definitely intense physical activity, and I’m glad some people are starting to recognize that. Down here in the land of humidity, marching band is mostly characterized by excessive, copious amounts of sweating. Occasionally it gets cold by the end of the season, but sometimes not. Regardless, though, those kids (and directors!) work very, very hard and definitely don’t get the respect they deserve in many cases.

    I marched for 8 years (4 HS, 4 college), and then taught it for 8 more. I love watching it, and I do that plenty because my hubby still teaches it and we get to go and cheer them on at contests. Wonderful memories, that’s for sure. Thanks for reminding us, and for helping to educate people about exactly what marching band is and what it does for people! 🙂

  4. My small school didn’t have much of a marching band. We marched in 3 parades and did a homecoming halftime show. That’s it. My band director decided my senior year that he didn’t like flutes or piccolos in the marching band and I was shuffled to the color guard. Sad…

    My son will go to a HUGE high school, and has every opportunity to be in the marching band. Now I know what he’s in for. 😉 Oh, and my daughter will start percussion in the fall and the high school has a drum and bugle corps. I don’t think she’d survive, LOL.

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