A marching band is a group of musicians, usually woodwinds, brass and percussionists, that mix coordinated movements with the playing of music. These bands grew out of the popularity accorded to military bands, and in fact, march music was often composed for military bands. Today, many young musicians participate in a marching band through their schools, both in high school and college. There are even a few professional marching bands for adults.
The less experienced marching band, as from a secondary or high school, may participate in a few local parades. They may also have a dance team, or a flag team that participates in the march, and they almost always include a drum major. Until recently, uniforms were quite elaborate, with high top hats, and elaborate coats and pants displaying a school's colors.
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Today, one is more apt to see a local marching band that may have coordinating t-shirts and shorts. This represents less expense, and is frequently a more comfortable way to march. Traditionally dressed marching bands still exist, and are most likely to be found in schools that have a long tradition of band excellence.
Though it almost goes without saying, a marching band typically marches in a parade. The more elaborate bands may also perform moves and routines for sporting events during half-time. College football teams often offer entertainment by their local band as part of a half-time show.
A marching band should be both musically adept and skilled at moving as a single unit. Marching tends in most small school-based bands to be simply stepping along with the music. More experienced bands may use different marching techniques, most often the high military-type step or the glide or roll step.
With budget cuts to music programs, many schools no longer have these bands. These bands require long hours of practice in order to move as one, and many teachers lack the time or the inclination to devote additional hours to this cause. Instead, where school music programs exist, schools may offer chances to participate in bands that play performances which exclude marching.
Often, some of the best brass and woodwind band music makes wonderful marches. For example, most people recognize a Sousa march with ease, even if they are not musicians.
Though the art form of the marching band no longer has the same degree of participation, there are still competitions and parades for bands throughout the US. Large parades like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Rose Parade in Pasadena, attract many talented groups who are well worth watching.