Due to many portrayals depicted in television, film, and modern pop culture, the stereotypical image of marching band has persisted: introverted music kids clumsily playing in the bleachers at a football game, while the players and cheerleaders take the spotlight.
“Everyone else thinks that it’s not that hard and a nerd sport,” said a freshman and first-year member of the marching band at Fair Lawn High School.
However, the reality behind this misunderstood ‘not-a-sport’ is a complex one that requires even its youngest members to meet a certain level of maturity and skill. Marching band can be extremely demanding--both physically and mentally--as there is a lot of work that generally goes unrecognized.
Marching Bands participate in competitive circuits organized by USBands, in which top judges gather from all across the nation. The organization take visuals, ensemble, auxiliary and many other components into consideration, as they determine a champion. The process requires a grueling amount of passion and hard work to outshine other teams and win first place.
Schedules are intense as the season kicks off in July, with nine-hour days for two consecutive weeks, taking place in August. Most teams endure the heat, ditching comfort to take advantage of their break from school for more time to practice. When school starts, competitions start too, and students can spend up to fifteen hours at marching band on Saturdays alone.
Although these hours may seem excessive, they are necessary and if anything, sometimes insufficient, given the amount of time required to memorize such a wide set of material.
“We learn the music, we learn the drills, and then we learn how to put the music to the drill, slowly, one little section at a time,” said Jamie Szeinberg, director of the Fair Lawn Marching Band for seven years.
Learning to merge these two agendas, one physical and one mental, together on the field is very tedious work. It requires hours of rehearsal to ensure that teams are musically sound and visually on point. Not only does everything need to be executed correctly, but it needs to be executed in unison.
Timing is crucial to a marching band’s performance. For this, students depend on the drum major who conducts and keeps the tempo for the entire band.
“If I even miss like, one millisecond, everything could be thrown off and the whole marching band could tear,” said Fair Lawn High School senior and current drum major for Fair Lawn High School’s Marching Band.
Aside for the drum major, a wide range of responsibilities are expected of all members, which truly sets marching band apart, taking teamwork and accountability to the next level.
“There’s no bench player and starters. Every single person that’s part of the Marching Band-which is about 68 people-is a starter. Everybody is important...and has to perform equally in order for the program to be successful,” said Szeinberg.
Contrary to the stereotypes, marching band requires a wide range of skills. There is an entirely different side of marching band that many are unaware of since most do not pay much attention to the band once it steps off the bleachers. However, marching band is a major commitment and requires tremendous dedication. While demanding, even stressful, band can shape young students into responsible and productive young adults.
“I think we deserve more recognition because we truly do a lot,” said a sophomore at Fair Lawn High School and member of the marching band.
The Fair Lawn Marching Band is currently participating in competitions all around New Jersey and is preparing for the upcoming Nationals held at the Metlife Stadium in November.