Marching Band Discussion

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by gzent, Oct 28, 2009.

  1. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN
    The recent thread from a young player's point of view got me thinking.

    It seems every respectable trumpet player I know, whether personally, or via the web, has the same opinion as mine, that marching band is harmful to the development of young players.

    Several of these older players I know were band directors.

    A couple points:

    Why do educated teachers keep pushing an activity that is harmful to trumpet players?

    What can be done about it?
  2. Solar Bell

    Solar Bell Moderator Staff Member

    May 11, 2005
    Metro Detroit
    Money, Prestige, Ego.

    See "Drumline" and "The Music Man".

    They also punish the good players that do not want to participate...."If you don't participate in marching band, you cannot be in the Stage (jazz) Band, or the the Concert Band, or Orchestra."

    I don't know what can be done, you could sue or petition to not have to be involved but then you suffer the wrath of the band teacher.

    I agree it is not a good situation.
  3. MFfan

    MFfan Fortissimo User

    Sep 13, 2006
    Kalamazoo, Michigan
    It is like Globalization being the horse is out of the barn. Very few of the millions of trumpet players are going to get to the professional level. I would think there may be some analogies to playing of sports in various levels of schools. Sure, there are going to be some injuries and even a few deaths, but I think the overall benefits to the multitude of kids who get to play a sport they love, in an organized fashion, at whatever level they can, outweighs downsides. Of course, the activity should be administered as well as possible. Those trumpet players and other instrumentalists that are above the pack may decide to opt-out of the marching activity and concentrate on the standard aspects of progression.

    My experiences playing in high school and university marching bands, Michigan State from 57-64, then a VFW National Band ( lots of parades) for many years, then 35 yrs playing games with the MSU Alumni Marching Band, were very beneficial to my self-esteem and worth as an amateur player, plus all the socializations that have continued over the years. Back then, all we did in high school was a fairly simple show at half-time each game. MSU was on a high level, but not the intensity I have see with the bands in more recent times.

    Two of our children played in high school marching and concert bands from around 1990-98. Times were still relatively simple, with little in the way of marching competitions and the early days of drum corps style marching and perfecting one show for the football and competition season. I do think that increasing emphasis is not necessarily better than the "old days" priorities.

    I have been a drum corp fan for over 40 yrs and have seen the progression up to the major business and elite programs that dominate Division I.
    Fortunately, there are still categories for the start-ups and smaller corps to compete on a level field.

    What are the contentions the activity is harmful to trumpet players or any other instrumentalists? Obviously, some physical injuries may occur.
  4. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN
    To me its obvious that playing as loud and as high as you can for 2 hours or more a day, 5 days a week is not what developing players should be doing. Sadly, during marching season that is often what they are told to do.
  5. Solar Bell

    Solar Bell Moderator Staff Member

    May 11, 2005
    Metro Detroit
    To me, that is the major problem....those kids are NOT allowed to opt-out of marching band.
  6. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN
    Also, I don't think sports analogies are applicable.

    Most sports coaches have training in physiology and first aid.
    They will (if not incompetent) have a basic understanding of the limits
    of teenage bodies and when a player is exhausted or injured.

    Most band directors, apparently, don't have the same understanding as related to trumpet players and how easy it is to do long term damage to lip tissue.

    This isn't new in my opinion, but the length of daily practices and the "season" has definitely become longer since I was in HS (1978-1981).
  7. gbdeamer

    gbdeamer Forte User

    Oct 16, 2008
    I guess I'm a non-respectable trumpet player because I don't view the marching band activity as having anything inherently bad in it for trumpet players.

    I played in my high school marching band, was tech or assistant director for several others, and have remained close with those involved in programs here in the Northeast and I have never seen a band that has rehearsals like you described. What you described sounds more typical of a drum coprs rehearsal, which I would concede could be damaging if not done with the proper mindset.

    The vast majority of marching bands I've seen (particularly in the last 5 years or so) are trending away from high-impact numbers and going for shows that are more lyrical and flowing.

    Perhaps it's a regional thing, or maybe the experience is more pronounced when the bands are bigger (120+ horns)?

    I'm not a fan of requiring those who want to participate in other bands to join marching band, but I hesitate to condemn the activity as a whole. Again, i place the blame on directors who advocate volume at the expense of music...
  8. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN
    Its not just being asked to play loud or high.
    Young players just don't have endurance, for any number of reasons.

    When they reach the point of exhaustion, that being their range is gone or volume is gone, liking due to swelling or failing embouchure, they don't have the option to stop for the day. Young players can achieve lip failure quickly. 20 minutes of playing too loud can do it. Then they have another hour of playing to do in a 2 hour practice.

    Its just not right.

    Over and over respected pros advise the less experienced to focus on making musically pleasing notes and not to focus on playing too loud or high.

    But then a band director or marching band advocate will push a player to do something
    stupid and harmful.

    Because of peer pressure most teenage trumpet players don't want to admit when they are playing beyond their ability and so they just "tough it out" for the remainder of


    Toughing it out is stupid and harmful!!!
  9. ChopsGone

    ChopsGone Forte User

    Jan 26, 2009
    Northern California
    I guess I'm in the other camp. While I never regarded marching band as great fun, I didn't consider it harmful unless I was slipping on fresh horse droppings in a parade. It was simply the seasonal incarnation of band. We sweated through summer band so we could march throughout the football season plus marching contest, then we promptly switched to concert season for the rest of the year. There was just one main band, with a second band for the younger or less-experienced players. We were never asked to play as loud or as high as we could; we were told to play it like it was written, and John Philip Sousa put dynamic markings in his pieces.

    Volume was never a problem. We marched 120 to 140 players, with several in reserve. However, we admittedly did not do drum corp type routines. Our director would have had the good grace to drop dead before doing that.
  10. chrisryche

    chrisryche New Friend

    Oct 26, 2009
    Starke, FL
    I think it all really has to do with the quality of band director at the high school level. I was fortunate to have a good one who understood that having a good, solid sound with good intonation on the field was more important than how loud or high you can play. If you have those things, the volume will be there. A good director will also know not to waste a trumpet player's chops during marching season when they are needed just as much in concert season. Unfortunately we cannot always pick who our kid's band directors will be but when a concern is raised, the good ones should have some understanding.

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