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Show Style Marching Band History






Marching bands evolved out of military bands. As musicians became less and less important in directing the movement of troops on the battlefield, the bands moved into increasingly ceremonial roles. An intermediate stage which provided some of the instrumentation and music for marching bands was the modern brass band, which also evolved out of the military tradition.  Many military traditions survive in modern marching band. Bands that march in formation will often be ordered to "dress" their "ranks" and "cover down" their "files". They may be called to "attention", and given orders like "about face" and "forward march". Uniforms of many marching bands still resemble military uniforms.

Outside of police and military organizations, modern marching band is most commonly associated with American football, and specifically the halftime field show. Many U.S. universities had bands before the twentieth century.

Another innovation that appeared at roughly the same time as the field show and marching in formations was the fight song. University fight songs are often closely associated with the university's band. Some of the more recognizable and popular fight songs, such as the University of Wisconsin's " On Wisconsin," Michigan's are widely utilized by high schools across the country.

Other changes in marching band have been:

  • adoption of the tradition by secondary schools (high schools, junior high schools, and middle schools)

  • the addition of a dance team, and/or baton twirlers

  • the addition of color guard members

Since the inception of Drum Corps International in the 1970s, many marching bands that perform field shows have adopted changes to the activity that parallel developments with modern drum and bugle corps. These bands are said to be corps-style bands. Changes adopted from drum corps include:

  • marching style: instead of a traditional high step, drum corps tend to march with a fluid roll step to keep musicians' torsos completely still

  • the adaptation of the color guard, rifle, and saber units into "auxiliaries", who march with the band and provide visual flair by spinning and tossing flags or mock weapons and using dance in the performance

  • moving marching timpani and keyboard percussion into a stationary sideline percussion section (pit), which has since incorporated many different types of percussion instruments

  • the addition of vocalists and/or electric instruments (marching bands have as a general rule adopted these aspects before drum corps, for instance the Drum Corps International circuit has only allowed electronic amplification since 2004 and has yet to permit electronic instruments without penalties)

  • marching band competitions are judged using criteria similar to the criteria used in drum corps competitions, with emphasis on individual aspects of the band (captions for music performance, visual performance, percussion, guard (auxiliary), and general effect are standard).

Historically Black Colleges and Universities have played a major part in the making of what we know as marching band.  Often referred to as "show-style" they make their mark at many events, where they are known for their skill in musicianship, choreography, and precision in formations and let's not forget their high stepping.  Their high stepping consists of bring their  leg to a 90 degree angle and then pointing the toe at the ground, as they march forward.  This is known in the band world as a "chair."  These colleges and university bands are often accompanied by their drum majors, dance lines, and often flag lines.  The drum major's) duty is to conduct the band, sometimes using a large  baton or mace. In most school bands, the drum major is the student leader of the band, followed by students within the band that lead a section, squad, letter, row, etc. The dance lines consists of young females who present chirographic movements to the music as it is performed.  They add flare and excitement to the performance.  The flag lines add color and decoration to the formations of the field.

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Historically Black Colleges and Universities have been divided into four regions. 





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