The Physical and Mental Demands of Being in a Marching Band

Jul 22, 2019

From band camp to the 14 hours of weekly practice, high schools across the state work constantly to prepare a show for football games and fall competitions. Between the practices leading up to their performances, bands across the state must do physical preparations in order to prepare for their upcoming seasons. Meredith Rhodes, drum major for the Lugoff-Elgin Marching Band, states that in order to prepare physically they “do a series of dancing warm-ups …  marching warm-ups to check technique, and weightlifting for the low brass instruments.”

Meredith Rhodes
Credit Courtesy of Rhonda Rhodes

The physical parts of this activity are only half the battle as students must also have an unbreakable mental focus. While marching, the students must have a 6 to 8 minute show memorized in order to perform at their best. Once students complete this task, they must then learn to march in time and maintain their proper marching technique.  Gabriel Sullivan, percussion captain of the Lugoff-Elgin Marching Band, states, “you’re going to have to listen back to tempo, then you have to focus on where your feet are, you must watch as well to know when you’re playing, … and then you are gonna have to make sure you’re not slowing down and maintaining your body’s physical exertion to be able to get through the show.” For new students, this can be a lot to manage at first. However, Sullivan says this all becomes “second nature after a while.”

In addition to the marching band season, some students must also prepare for concert band as well. This requires students within marching band and concert band to balance both ensembles, while maintaining their school work in between. Following this, many students also participate in region band and all-state band. This takes additional preparation as students must learn solos, and work on sight-reading. Rhodes states that she balances her time by “[working] as diligently as I can for as long as I can without sacrificing mental strength.”

The work of these students has paid off tremendously. Last year, a law was passed that allowed marching band to become a physical education credit. In order for this to be implemented in high schools, there are certain academic requirements marching bands must meet for students to receive credit. The rubric for this credit was based on online Physical Education. Glenn Price, former president of the South Carolina Band director’s association, states that the directors “monitor [students]” within marching band, whereas parents monitor students with virtual Physical education. With marching band now being available as a physical education credit, this will also allow students to make a well-balanced schedule throughout the day.

The overall efforts of these students are extremely present. Between school, marching band, concert band, and auditions, these students find a way to balance their time in a way that allows them to participate in everything. Marching band is an activity that requires an enormous amount of physical and mental balance that students have to maintain. There is never a time where these students can take a break throughout the show. No one is excluded and everyone’s part contributes to the visual or musical aspect in some form. With so much activity involved, it is safe to say that these students have shown great maturity by being able to achieve such difficulty.