Marching Band Handbook: High School Vs. College
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Marching Band Handbook: High School Vs. College

It's your first day of College Marching Band, What can you expect? #6 will suprise you!

Marching Band Handbook: High School Vs. College
Furman University Music News

It’s marching band season for both high school and college, and that means lots of sunburns, sore legs, and pages upon pages of music and drill. You (or maybe your parents) have signed up for your high school’s marching band, and you don’t know what to expect, or maybe you are going to college five states away and don’t know what to expect for your next couple years in your new home. Your section leaders may have sent you a list of what you need to tote along, but a couple Creators at Furman are here to fill in the blanks! College or high school, we got you covered.

As a marching band veteran (9 years in the making), I decided to take a look back at the core differences between High School Marching Band and College Marching Band. I know a lot of new faces will be showing up on Day 1 of Band Camp with many questions and concerns, so here's the 10 differences between High School Marching band and College Marching Band!

1. Competitions

In high school the whole purpose of Marching Band was to get ready for competitions. In fact, so much so, that typically your band director wouldn’t fret about the Friday night football game.

In college it’s a completely different story. Competitions are no longer present and your goal is to please the audience at football games. This means learning to love the band for entertaining purposes only, not for the trophies.

2. Band Camp

In high school you worked hard for two, sometimes three, solid weeks to learn and memorize your show.

In college you’ll probably only have one week for Bandcamp.

“I think an important part of adjusting to college marching band is to keep up the learning mentality you did in high school to learn the competitive drill and music, but keep your ears and eyes open to the new environment to see how your new home operates. You'll find it is most likely more laid-back instead of run like a military boot camp.” – Abby Ledogar (Furman '19)

3. Learning Pace

In high school, depending on the school, you were expected to learn quickly, yet the practices still dragged on while the band director would set drill and spend more time to make sure everyone understood what was being asked of them.

In college, the pace is much faster. Day 1 — Learn drill to first song. Day 2 — Try to play music with drill from first song.

“I would say that, even though things seem more laid back, you should still focus and work hard because the crowds you performs for are larger and enjoy it much more.” – Jordan Chase (Furman University ’19)

4. More Members On Average – This one can vary

In my high school, I graduated with a band of 40+ members. Mind you I started with only 23 members in my sixth-grade year.

In my college, we average around 140+ members. That’s a private university. Most public marching bands could have up to 250 members or more!

5. The Show

In high school, you’re expected to perfect a single show to compete with other bands.

In college, you’ll learn your main show, a variation of the main show, and a pre-show.

“Awesome! If I could give a tip, I'd say let loose and have fun. It's not high school anymore! No more competitions. Just entertain the crowd and be a rockstar. Dance! No one knows who you are under the shako anyway.” — Dustin Ledford (Furman University ’15)

6. Expectations

In high school, you have high expectations, but goofing around can be okay at times. Plus, most schools want you there, so students get away with more than they should at times.

In college, you have high expectations and can be removed from the band easily and quickly. Be there on time, to every rehearsal, and work hard.

“You're representing a much larger group of people than in high school. A university or college has more alumni, current students, faculty, donors, etc. Therefore, the level of professionalism must be much higher.” – Alex Helms (Furman University ’16)

7. Football games

In high school, football games are one of the best parts. You get the whole third quarter off, get to hang out with your friends, and play some great music to support your football team.

In college, football games can still be fun, but on a different level. Your sole purpose is the support your team and entertain the crowd. Games are much more organized, your focus has to be own your drum major(s) the whole time and there isn’t a third quarter break.

8. Types of People

In high school, your average band member is either in band because they love the activity, were forced by their parents to join, or played in band in the middle school and recruited by the band director. The majority of the students may not care about the overall program and more people drop out because of drama than anything else.

In college it’s a brand new ballpark. Everyone is there because they love music. While there can be the requirement to do marching band because of scholarships, no one in the Marching Band will truly hate the activity. Most of the members can be music majors, but there’s sometimes an equal amount that are non-music majors as well.

9. Drama

In high school, hormones are acting up and some people don’t even want to be there. You can’t spell high school band without drama. Okay, well maybe you can, but drama is everywhere. Between students, between staff members and even between the band booster club.

In college, drama is practically nonexistent. If it does exist, it’s usually low-key, because people are more mature. Plus with all of the work they're putting into this activity, it’s wise not to spend part of that time starting drama.

“Don't take it too seriously and try to have fun” – Connor Lynn (Furman '18)

10. Relationships

In high school, you become friends with a majority of your bandmates and they’ll become a main source of your friend circle for the next few years. You’ll lose touch sometimes, but if you ever need to strike up a conversation, you can easily be nostalgic about band!

In college, you’ll see your bandmates all the time! Marching band is still an important aspect in your life, but it’s not so much about the nostalgia, because a majority of your band friends will be your friends in other activities as well. You’ll go on late night Cookout runs, complain about Music History together, and you may even become best friends and roommates later on.

Final Thoughts

“We can all agree that band in high school is something everyone should have the chance to experience - without it, we would be missing more than just halftime entertainment. But, college bands, although they appear the same from the spectator's point of view, are an entirely different world. When entering your freshman year in college, it is important to realize this, and to not focus on the traditions and experiences from high school. You must be open to new ideas, and ready to make new memories. Never say "But, I did it this way in high school!" We all did something different in high school, but now it's time to do something new in college. Your 4 years of undergrad may be the best four years of your life, but you have to be ready for new adventures, not hung up on memories of the past.” – Hannah Carlson (Furman University ’16)

The biggest takeaway, is that Marching Band is only a small part of your life now. It’s still important and you’ll still put in hard work, but remember you still have your classes, jobs, internships, relationships, family, etc. You’ll make it through though because Marching Band can still be enjoyable.

We all unite through music.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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