Marching as a Sport

Marching Sport Defined

At HBCUs, marching band participants are akin to elite student-athletes who are scouted, recruited, offered scholarships like their student-athlete counterparts. They often enjoy campus status greater than their fellow HBCU basketball and football student-athletes. During HBCU football games, the relationship between the marching band and the football team is inverted as the halftime show is frequently the primary driver of attendance – not the game. As a result, the HBCU marching band should be treated more like the revenue sport like basketball and football and band members like elite athletes.

Show-Style Defined

Drum Major Entrance

The Drum Major is the leader of the marching band and is often the first person that is seen. They are the start of the show and usually the one that gets the crowd on their feet. Drum major entrance is a high point in the show band because the Drum Major usually put a s lot of thought into how they will enter the field different than any other Drum Major on the plant.

This take a lot of creativity and skill to capture the audience in a 16-32 count entrance that will set the tone for your entire bands performance. Also, since the DM entrance is usually a solo or small group performance then it must be high choreographed to maximize the moment. DM entrances have a lasting impression and are often talked about to year and years to come.

The High Step

The high step is used by many colleges and universities, including most Historically Black Colleges or Universities and Big Ten conference bands. Some bands use both high step and glide step, depending on the situation. “Tucking” or “ankle-knee” high step involves bringing the foot up to the inside of the leg to the knee before coming down  and  forward. This is the style used by most bands from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The “Chair Step” involves the lifting of the knee with legs directly in front, thighs parallel to the ground, and toes pointed  downward. When the leg is elevated, there should be a 90-degree angle with the body and the thigh, and a 90-degree angle with the thigh and the shin. 

The leg is then lowered, and this is repeated with the other leg. Most schools in the Big Ten Conference use this style. The “extended high step” requires the thigh to be parallel to the ground (perpendicular to the body) with the lower leg extended outward at a 45-degree angle from the body (135-degrees from the thigh) and toes pointed downward. The leg is then driven quickly back to the ground while the other leg repeats in this fashion. At the same time, the upper body swaggers 22.5-degrees left or right of center with each step. The most important part of this style of marching is known as “stop action,” which means all movement ceases momentarily at the apex of each step. This requires a band to have a great deal of stamina, but is effective visually.

Fast Cadence or Run-On
Fast cadence is a synchronized movement that allows all members to move from one position to another in a matter of seconds instead of minutes. When done properly is has every member of the band on the same quick step movement following other members to all arrive at desired destinations on the field. Bands during the time can increase steps from 40-60 steps a minute to over 120-200 steps a minute. Fast Cadence is a unique style used by show Style bands to enter the field or to change formations. Fast cadence mesmerizes the crowd every time it is performed and has a very difficult level of skill needed to execute it effectively.
Music Selections (rhythm & blues and contemporary popular music)
Show style bands are very unique that they take popular radio tunes and create marching band music for the crowds to enjoy. Students and directors usually spend multiple hours arranging all instrumentation to get the desired sound and to grab the crowd from start to finish. The goal of the Show Band music selection is give the crowd some of their favorite songs both new and old. Show band directors and students write songs from artist such as Michael Jackson, Earth Wind & Fire, Beyonc√©, James Brown, Boys II Men, Stevie Wonder, Rihanna, Tupac, Brian McKnight, and the list goes on and on. When it comes to playing music that get the crowd on their feet to dance and sing no one does it better than a show style band.
Concert Formations

Show Style Bands will often form an orchestra concert style formation on the field and play a very difficult musical selection to show case the musicianship of its members. The arrangements are sometime accompanied by a vocalist and is still focused on capturing the crowds attention and nothing more. Concert formations are very emotional times during the show and often allows the band to pay tribute or to honor someone or something very special. Concert formations are very popular in show bands and often have the crowd singing and in tears at the same time.  If a band wants to send a clear message this is where they do it at during the concert formation.

Majorette/ Twirler/ Dance Feature
All show Style bands take time out to highlight the ladies of the band in a separate musical selection just for them to dance to. The dance routines will have a wide variety of dance styles that keep the crowds mouth wide open and wondering how they do the things that they do. These young ladies keep the crowd on their feet while the bands takes a break from executing marching formations and drills.

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