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May, as we prepare for the Memorial Day parade, is our month for marching band at Wayland Middle School. This site will present:

A Brief Marching Band History

Marching bands have existed in some form for as long as there have been organized armies with access to some kind of instruments. Bands grew out of the military where there were thousands of people who needed to move in the same direction, all together, and not trample each other. The troops moved best when everyone stayed in neat rows, the same distance apart. This task was most easily accomplished if there was some way of indicating to the troops which foot should come down when.

With no instruments, the troops often chanted, "Left --, left --, left right left --" (sometimes with humorous variations...). Drum beats made it easy to stay together and could be heard at a great distance. Add a few instruments playing melodies, and the music also helped keep up the soldiers' spirits. (Read some short excerpts about battles won because the bands helped keep up the soldiers' spirits & sense of pride.)

Marching bands can be made up of any instruments and any number of players. American soldiers marched to fifes & drums during our Revolutionary War period, drum and bugle corps during our Civil War period, and full brass, woodwind & percussion military bands during World War I & II. If you were a soldier in Scotland or some places in Canada, you might have marched to drums and bagpipes! (Click on the names to see some pictures of the groups and learn a bit about them.)

A picture of a Wayland Military Band from around the1890s!!

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SOUSA & GILMORE: Two bands that didn't march much, but grew out of the military tradition

Military units still have band attachments and the bands still march in official functions, but let's turn our attention to the civilian bands. In the 1800's the band movement spread across the country, culminating with Patrick Gilmore's band and the Sousa Band. (Oddly enough, even though the bands really had their beginnings in military functions, it was the civilian bands that signed on to go to war with the troops during the civil war! It wasn't until later that a bill was passed in Congress to create bands in each level of the military.) Click here to read more about the time of Gilmore's band & Sousa's band.

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What is this "Field Marching" and "Street Marching"????

It is really pretty simple: in street marching, you march in the street (a parade) and in field marching or field shows, you present a show on a football field! Click here to see some outstanding parade bands. Click here to see some college football bands in their half time shows.

The World Association of Marching Show Bands maintains a page of marching band links with links to marching bands all over the world! Check it out for some great pictures.

Then there are the Scramble Bands... Many college football bands don't bother with precision and marching together and all of that. When they need to move on the field, they just do it, in whatever haphazard manner it happens in!!! Princeton had the first college football band and its band is a master of the scramble method! Click the link above for one of the best descriptions of a scramble band that I have ever seen!! (Harvard also uses the scramble technique!)

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AND... What about Drum Corps?

You want to see precision, watch a Drum Corps show!!! Check out the DCI (Drum Corps International) Finals in August. They are always televised because the artistry and athleticism is unbelievable!! (The finals are usually the 2nd Saturday in August and are broadcast on PBS.)

A Drum Corps usually rehearses once a month during the winter and then all summer long the group is either rehearsing or competing. Competitions take corps all over the world. It is a very intense and exacting experience. Corps members must be in superb physical conditioning as the marching is very energetic and requires a great deal of coordination and stamina. Corps members must be superb players on their instruments as it takes a lot of power to be heard across a football field.

Corps often create very elaborate shows with many special effects and even costume changes. The arrangements are very musical and often focus on one theme - jazz,or classical, or music from a particular country, or movie music, etc.

Click here to see some pictures of a few of the world's greatest corps!

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Marching Band Commands

There are many different ways to get messages to a marching band - most groups have a drum major who leads the band on the field or on the street. Sometimes all commands are whistle commands. (Anyone who has had the misfortune to be close by when I blow my whistle knows that whistles are LOUD, and can be heard over a LONG distance!) I use a combination of voice commands, whistle commands and drum commands. My whistle communicates with the drums and the lead snare communicates to the band. Click here for a summary of our Wayland Middle School Marching Band commands.

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go to next mth's tidbit

Click here to see past month's Tidbits. There is information on the musical Oklahoma! and Robert and Clara Schumann and the Renaissance period of music, major & minor scales & the history of the clarinet and a bit about why we recognize music as being from a particular country.

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