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Marching Band 101: Planning for Success!

June 8, 2011

Whether today you are discussing details of your 2011 field show, or are still in the process of making a selection; here are some hints on how to make the best decisions possible for you and your group.

Analysis of Your Band

Everyone's goal is the same - to look and sound their very best in front of an audience. Here are some strategies that will help make this goal happen:

1. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses

  • What sections are stronger musically and how can the musical arrangement showcase them?
  • What sections are weaker musically and how can parts be modified so that they can successful
  • What sections are strong visually and how can the drill design emphasize this
  • What sections are weaker visually and how can their drill be modified (i.e. smaller step sizes) to give them drill they will look great marching
  • As an ensemble what do the winds do well and how can we showcase this?
  • As an ensemble what does the percussion do well and how can we showcase this? For example, if the battery is weaker communicate that to the drill designe so they kept in the center of the field behind the winds to prevent timing problems
  • What does the color guard do well and how can we showcase this? Do they spin better than they dance? How are their performance qualities?

2. Distribution of Classes and Instrumentation

  • What is the distribution in the band between freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors?
  • How is the quality of the incoming freshmen?
  • Are the upperclassmen strong leaders?
  • What is you instrumentation like? There are many pieces of music that can enhance challenging instrumentation, both custom arranged and stock.


This is crucial to successful programming.  In these economic times it becomes necessary to use all resources wisely and think "outside of the box" for resolutions to challenges.

1. Budget

  • How much money do you have to spend of your field show?
  • Do you have a strong booster group that are active in fund raising?
  • What financial support do you get from your school or school district?
  • If your budget is limited, stretch your dollars by purchasing a pre-written show complete with music and drill
  • Can you borrow flags, props, etc. from neighboring schools?
  • Can you re-cycle old color guard costumes, flags, etc. to fit the current show?

2. Rehearsal Time

  • How much rehearsal time do you have during the summer? Do students meet in sectionals or as a full ensemble? Summer rehearsals set you up for success in terms of mastering music and visual fundamentals.
  • How long is your band camp? What facilities do you have? Do you have to be outdoors all the time? How much of the show do you want taught at band camp? Remember that band camp is most likely your one and only extended amount of practice time and it's important to maximize it
  • What is your rehearsal time once school starts? Write down each rehearsal and create a time-line of where you want the show to be at a specific point in order to be the most efficient with your rehearsal time.

3. Staff

  • Do you have staff to assist you?
  • If so, make sure each staff member clearly understands their roles both in and out of rehearsal for maximum efficiency.
  • If not, can you empower your student leaders to assist you?
  • Would strong alumni be willing to come back volunteer their time?

School and Community

The bottom line is a marching band entertains an audience. They can do this through a variety of genres; make sure you pick a show that is as appreciated by the judging community as it is the football audience. Some things to consider:

1. Students

  • What type of music would your students enjoy playing? If they like it, it will show through their performance quality.
  • In what genres do your students demonstrate the most talent? Do you have a strong concert program or a stronger jazz program? When it comes to music selection, showcase what you do well.
  • How strong is your color guard program? Many theme shows require a strong color guard both in skill and performance quality. Again, make sure to showcase what you do well.
  • How strong is your percussion program? Make sure that the music you are selecting sets the entire band up for rhythmic accuracy.
  • Does your group have a certain identity that you would like to continue?

2. School

  • How important are school related performances for your program?
  • If they are important, make sure that you choose musical selections that can be well received at pep sessions and football games
  • Is entertaining the half time crowd important? If so, it is important to select music that will be well received by that audience.

3. Community

  • How supportive is the community of your program? How supportive do you want them to be?
  • Make sure to take the time the opportunity to feature your band in the community and when you do present appropriate literature.

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