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The Lessons of Marching Band

The skill sets of a marching band member: Being a member of a marching band requires much more than basic knowledge of your instrument. Although the average marching band member has three years of prior experience on their instrument when they become a member of a marching band, there are a plethora of skill sets they have yet to learn. The main skill sets include:

  • A high level of coordination: as opposed to sitting and playing an instrument, marching band requires members to march and play simultaneously. This approach requires a mindset of upper and lower body responsibilities. The upper body responsibility is similar to that of sitting and playing; the upper body responsibility is playing one’s instrument with the appropriate technique. The new lower body responsibility is marching with the appropriate technique. Members must treat each responsibility as separate but place equal attention to each responsibility.
  • An enhanced level of memory: when in a concert ensemble setting, members have their music on a stand and read their music. In a marching setting, members do not have their music in front of them. Through months of learning and refinement, members not only memorize their music, but also their marching sets. In a show, the sets dictate where each performer moves (called dots) in a specific period of time. An example of a set is this: “Set #1: 4.5 left 40, 20 behind back hash, move 8, measures 1-2.” Each set describes the coordinates of each individual, whether to move or hold, how long to move or hold, and the corresponding measures being played at that time. A single show can have anywhere between 20-70 sets. Therefore, an enhanced level of memory is required to memorize all music and sets.
  • Effective time management skills: because band is an extracurricular activity, it is not as high on the priority list as compared to core classes. It can be argued, however, that band requires as much, if not more, time than other classes. Therefore, to balance the time between classes, time management is crucial. Without time management, core class performance will suffer and could result in dismissal from extracurricular activities.
  • A strong work ethic: being a member of the marching band requires a strong work ethic. New music and marching sets are consistently released, changes are frequently made, and expectations are rarely lowered. The expectations of always knowing the material and always attending rehearsal are the main drivers for a strong work ethic. Having a strong work ethic also directly affects one’s ability to manage time well.

How the skill sets of a marching band member can translate to other disciplines: The skill sets developed in the marching band environment are directly applicable to most other disciplines of life. Unfortunately, some members may not recognize this fact and will continue to only view marching band as a form of entertainment. The following are some examples of how these skill sets can be applied:

  • Coordination is a skill that is required in almost every task. Different types of coordination, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, etc., facilitate with the achievement of different tasks. By developing coordination skills in the marching band environment, one is developing a skill that will be used in almost every task undertaken.
  • An enhanced memory is a great skill set to have in any situation. Not only can it be applied in an academic environment, but also at work and in one’s personal life.
  • Time management skills are crucial for the academic, professional, and personal life environments. The repercussions for not having good time management skills can range from being late to class, to missing a flight, or getting fired from a job.
  • A strong work ethic is essential if one is to achieve their objectives in life. Without this skill set, it is difficult to progress through life. It is often said that your work ethic is a strong foundation of who you are as an individual. A strong work ethic is required to thrive in academics and is expected for career success.

Marching band develops skills that are directly applicable to other disciplines in life. These skill sets, also called life lessons, can be developed in any activity, but it takes maturity to recognize this fact and apply them to his or her life.

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