Music fans of high schools and higher education campuses and music educators debate whether or not that spirit-filled ensemble belongs in the athletic field by asking about it: is marching band a real sport? Partially.
Almost everyone loves the thrill of hearing and seeing a marching band, whether they are from their high schools or universities. They form letters or shapes on the field each halftime during their teams’ football games. They see them march down the streets during a festival or holiday parade in their hometowns. A bulk of them has color guards who brandish technicolor flags and catch mock rifles. Some of them have at least one majorette who spins batons with grace. Some others have a dance team, danceline, or dance squad, who sometimes form beelines and kicks their legs up to put some musical kickline troupes to shame.
Students, music fans, and music directors debate on an answer to this question: is that type of band a sport? Does being on color guard require you to do drills with a ball? Does being on a part of a group of mostly scantily-clad girls who wave their fringed hoops during parades require you to do agility drills like butt kicks? Does playing the trombone require you to execute much physical exertion against another person playing it?
The dictionary defines the word sport as an engaging physical activity or one used for pleasure. But many people think as sports as hitting a ball over a net, hitting a puck into a netted goal, or using sabres against one another – respectively as in tennis, ice hockey, or fencing. Most high schools list band under “clubs,” “extracurricular activities,” or “fine arts,” but rarely under “athletics.” Why do they list it as such and consider it a non-sport?
Humorist DJ Corchin noted that it’s not really that – being in it “requires athletic skills but so does performing in 42nd Street.” He calls it a “spart:” half-performing art and half-sport. It’s a sport because the bands of the type practice on the fields under the sun – in a few but long hours – perfecting and refining their formations and music just to beat other bands. Another reason is because they compete with other bands with their athletic skills and artistic execution – that’s what sports are about, anyway.
A lot of high school bands have a color guard, a danceline, at least one majorette with baton, or a combination of any. This example here is the Camden County High School Marching Wildcat Band from Kingsland, Georgia.
Band, as those who believe it’s a mere elective rather than an athletic activity, is a performing art. For the primary and main part, they play music ranging from light classics, their fight songs, to hip-hop tunes of today.
Furthermore, the color guards with their hyper-bright flags add color and interest to the ensemble. Majorettes who twirl batons foster their associations with the band. Dance squads or dancelines who dance with those streamer-hoops or pom-poms or wear boots or jazz shoes and kick to the music reinforce the scholastic spirit of the group, just as cheerleaders promote it separate from the band.
Is the college or high school marching band considered a team of athletes or just a mere musical ensemble in shako hats with dancing extras in jazz shoes and leotards? Some people say that playing a baritone saxophone or twirling a mock sabre makes a student a team player. Some others disagree – playing the mellophone or doing a jazz routine with a decorated hoop is just showing off by performing.
To some others like me, band is partially a form of entertainment that loudly displays school pride, as well as it is partially a school sport that requires dedication and teamwork.
Image by JMRosenfeld via Flickr