‘I’m in the Marching Band. It’s a Sport’

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We’re one of the most ubiquitous aspects of the football season: the marching band. We’re there dividing football games and giving you a chance to get a snack; we’re at homecoming celebrations; we’re at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. High school musicians like me have been competing across the country for awards for the last couple of months; 22 of them appeared in the Rose Bowl parade and the College Football championships.

I joined the marching band as a freshman. Since fourth grade, every single season of my year had been about baseball. I played so much I felt that it was a part of me. I was never the strongest or most talented kid on the field, but I’d always make the A team and be a key part of our success.

But when I played freshman baseball last spring and over the summer, I came to the realization that the stress involved was beginning to overpower the fun. So I dropped the glove and bat to play bass drum in the drumline.

Vincent Guerrero in Marching Band
Vincent Guerrero quit baseball to play in his high school marching band. He writes that believes the marching band should be taken as seriously as sport.
Joseph Butz

With the band, there’s no bench, no-one waiting to take the field. Everyone gets to participate, and members don’t even need to know an instrument to join, although I have played drums since third grade.

At first, I regretted the switch, but I soon learned that my athleticism and strength weren’t wasted marching. The drums I play can weigh anywhere from 11 to 40 pounds and I have to carry them while walking lockstep with other band members.

For all intents and purposes, marching band is a sport. The Georgia Scholastic Association explicitly recognized it as such. The famed Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight said that the marching band practiced harder than his players.

I believe American culture needs and wants the marching band. People fought hard to keep the bands playing on when performances were canceled in the name of social distancing. When the pandemic slashed Wilkes University’s budget and they sought to sacrifice the band, a university of 2,300 students managed to collect over 1,500 signatures to save it.

Marching Band at Rose Parade
The Arcadia High School Marching Band participates in the 123rd Annual Rose Parade on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

As well as being popular at games, the marching band combines arts and athletics. It allows interscholastic competition without the extreme pressure of sports and, unfortunately, the prospect of paying for college; fewer than 10 percent of colleges and universities offer marching band scholarships. I think music isn’t valued as highly as sport.

News outlets follow band developments like they do the sports themselves. Along with the games, journalists have reported that Ohio State Band was playing at home for “the Game”—the football game between Ohio State and Michigan—for the first time since 2018, and that the University of Texas’ band now has the largest drum in the world. There are numerous other stories about the bands.

But, as much as the band gets embraced, it’s also derided. It’s the recurring joke from the movie American Pie: “one time, at band camp.” We band members are called geeks; there’s even a musical play called Band Geeks that celebrates misfits. We’re teased as not being athletes, even though I’d argue that we are.

I don’t regret quitting baseball. Teasing us doesn’t make sense to me because the public appreciates marching bands. They’ve withstood the test of time. It’s good-natured ribbing, for sure, but I wish the public would grudgingly admit the truth: marching bands are cool.

Vincent Guerrero is a sophomore at high school in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

All views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

Do you have a unique experience or personal story to share? Email the My Turn team at myturn@newsweek.com.

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