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Marching Band: We Work Just as Hard

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – Thanks to Mean Girls, whenever I say I was in marching band, I get asked if we really were sexually active. To answer that, I say we did not have time to be doing the deed, and yes, “that one time at band camp” truly is a thing. When you’re with the same group of people for upwards of eight hours a day, every day, in 90-degree weather, odd things really do happen.
Jason Gray, the sports director at Robbinsville High School, said, “Our football boys practiced at the same time as the marching band and I remember speaking with the band director, Birch, and being astounded by the fact that his kids spent all that time outside in the sun with minimal complaints. My football boys took a break to sit inside and watch old tapes when the heat got to them. These boys were inside in air conditioning while the band kids were outside running the same three steps for hours.”
One of the biggest pet peeves of band kids is to disregard how much effort goes into playing in the band. You start as young as eighth grade, either playing a musical instrument or joining the color guard and spending your entire high school career as part of this organization. Musicians carry their instruments onto a field where they are not only responsible for memorizing music and a drill for field shows, but also to memorize music to play in the stands to cheer on the football teams. Our football games tended to follow along the same vein as Monmouth’s football games, so being at every single one was not the greatest time. Colorguard members spun six foot flags, rifles and sabers, weaving in between musicians while smiling up at the press box. The press box is a good solid 30 feet off the ground, and the judges expect to see your pearly white smile even when you smack yourself in the head with the metal pole of your flag.

Image taken from The Odyssey Online

Heather Tozzi, captain of her colorguard team during her senior year, had much to say about her experiences. “I started as a freshman thinking it was going to be a fun time with my friends and I didn’t really realize how much time was going to be taken away from me. In my first two weeks of marching band, I spent almost 80 hours at the high school.”
She nodded at me, emphasizing just how much time goes into the first two weeks of marching band, and the hours don’t let up much once school starts, either. With three hour official practices twice a week and three hour sectionals the other two days, your free time all culminates in spending Friday night at the football game and waking up at 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday to get to a competition and coming home at midnight. In between all of that, band kids tend to be AP (advanced placement) and honor students.
Having spent 12 years at Robbinsville High School, Band Director Birch Wilson makes sure that all the kids he oversees keep their grades up. “I won’t let them march onto the field if they have less than a B in their classes. Their parents trust me to take care of them and in turn I make sure that they will be making the grades that they need to get into good colleges, because after four years I come to think of them as mine, too.”
Unlike student athletes, marching band kids aren’t allotted study time before practice. They have to find that time on their own, and often do their homework in stands and on busses. If you go to a marching band competition for high school students, about 80% of these kids will have backpacks with textbooks and graphing calculators. Students from different bands will be helping each other, even when their bands are in the same competing category.
“I remember my senior year, I was studying for a test for Calculus and I forgot my calculator. I was panicking and this girl, I don’t even know who she was or if she even told me her name, but she literally just handed me her calculator without saying a word,” said Tozzi. “I’m pretty sure I got an A on that test, but don’t ask me what I was studying, it’s been years since that moment.”
Image taken from The Odyssey Online

Marching Band isn’t only for high schoolers – they are common place in universities and colleges as well. Big schools like Michigan State and Ohio State University have bands that have achieved YouTube fame. Additionally, the MSU Marching Spartans have, to date, 2.8K followers, and the Ohio State Marching Band has about 670,000 search results. But not only are there college bands, but marching bands also compete professionally on an international level, Drum Corps International. Members are only accepted after rigorous testing and auditions, just like a professional sports team, except there can be over 300 marching members.
Marching band doesn’t get much credit in high school, and they are sometimes overlooked in college, but they exist. They practice just as hard as any recognized school sport, and love their sport just as much. The late Steve Mayer of Robbinsville High School said in an interview for The Ravens Gazette, “I don’t know why we don’t look at the arts that much. Our marching band is out there winning competitions, and they spend all Friday night at the school with our football team, who have never seen those kids perform. Our Raven Regiment performs for parents and students who haven’t really appreciated their efforts.”
While marching band goes under-appreciated by outsiders, those on the inside know that their hard work and perseverance paid off in the long run, and that the art form they practice is one worth noticing. So march on, band kids, and don’t let silly high school tropes stop you from playing your heart out.