Having many years as a marching band director or staff member at every level possible, my thoughts on this subject have continued to evolve over time. What I can say is there is not “one size fits all” approach to teaching any band, especially college marching band. You are charged with serving a variety of stakeholders including students, alumni, faculty, athletics, and the community; many of which have opposing viewpoints and agendas. So, what may work great for one program, may not to another. With that being said, below is my philosophy of teaching college marching band.
Philosophy of Teaching University Marching Band
University marching bands are constantly posed with a difficult balancing act. Their responsibilities range from entertaining audiences and supporting the athletic department at sporting events, to recruiting for the university and the music department, to teaching future music educators how to run a marching band. In addition, university marching bands have a diverse student population representing nearly every department and degree program on campus, presenting a challenge to the director to meet their needs while serving the department of music as well as the university and community as a whole. This requires the marching band director to have a clear philosophy of teaching the marching band as well as a clear understanding of the needs and expectations that are unique to each and every university and community in which they reside. My philosophy of teaching a university marching band relies on three main principles: 1) providing a model of how to run a marching band efficiently and how to create a positive rehearsal atmosphere, 2) providing students a quality musical experience, and 3) producing a product that is entertaining to audiences.
As research suggests, young music educators are most likely to emulate and recreate the environment that they had in their ensemble experiences. This is why it is vital that we model a positive and efficient rehearsal atmosphere for students to be able to recreate with their future programs. Furthermore, this will promote an atmosphere that is welcoming to the non-music majors who are an essential element to the marching band’s enrollment. To help facilitate this rehearsal atmosphere it is necessary to develop capable student leaders who can assist in teaching and administering in various aspects of the marching band. This will allow older students the opportunity to get experience before they graduate and will increase the student ownership of the ensemble as a whole.
Since students enter college at all levels of preparation from their respective high school programs, it is important that every student receives strong training in both music and marching fundamentals. This will allow rehearsal to move efficiently and will improve the overall quality of performance. In addition, it prepares the music education majors within the marching band to confidently teach fundamentals in their future ensembles. Finally, establishing a strong basis of fundamentals allows the staff to develop the members of the ensemble’s musicianship through performance.
While the university marching band has a responsibility to educate and develop the future music educators that make up the ensemble, it also has the responsibility to serve the university by entertaining audiences at a variety of functions. The marching band is the most visible representation of the music department and it can be a tremendous help – or a noticeable burden – to the department depending on how it represents itself in public. University marching bands that can consistently entertain audiences and represent the university with class not only act as one of the largest and most effective service organizations on campus, but they also recruit students to the university in all academic disciplines.
So, while the university marching band has a responsibility to serve the department, the university, and the community as a whole, it also has a responsibility to serve the students within the ensemble. Therefore, it is important that the director has a philosophy that can achieve this balance and create a good model for the music educators to emulate with their future programs and an ensemble that can consistently entertain audiences and represent the university at the highest level.