Last year my school acquired the services of a local DJ to perform at the all of the home football games; a sacrilegious move in my eyes. No disrespect to all of the spin masters out there, but when it comes to college football, the marching band goes hand in hand with the barbecue grills at the tailgate and the cheerleaders on the sidelines. There’s just something about the triumphant blares of the brass, the precision of the drum line, the impossible agility of the majorettes (Will she drop it? WILL SHE DROP IT??? She’s totally going to drop it. SHE DIDN’T DROP IT!!!) and the pageantry of the color guard that signifies tradition.
I had a cup of coffee with my high school band, but in that year and a half, I can attest that being a functional part of a marching band is no simple task. While many people struggle to play an instrument sitting down, these mobile minstrels not only play, but do so while performing elaborate choreography. While the film American Pie portrays band camp as two weeks of adolescent sexual exploration, those who have actually gone through it would probably describe those 14 summer days as being closer to musical boot camp.
The movie Drumline only scratches the surface of what marching bands mean to historically black colleges and universities. At many HBCUs, the marching band’s halftime routine is more anticipated than the game itself. To see the level of talent, showmanship and excitement these bands bring to the table, do yourself a favor and check out any of the footage from the Honda Battle of the Bands competition that’s on Youtube; it is truly stunning.
Also, it would be a crime to pen an article on college marching bands without mentioning the self proclaimed “Best Damn Band in the Land”at Ohio State University. Through their choreography, this 192 member collective have formed moving cars (complete with a smokey exhaust pipe), bucking bulls, flying spaceships and even a moonwalking Michael Jackson during their halftime exhibitions. Once again, if you truly want to be amazed, look them up on Youtube.
Last season, our rich friends invited us to their good seats on the 50 yard line, five rows up. Late in the third, the team called a time out and the band rose to their feet. With the sun majestically reflecting off the horn section, the trumpets launched into a familiar cadence. It was the opening bars of Kanye’s “All of the Lights”. The hair on my arms stood straight up; my body covered in goosebumps. I thought to myself, “This is going to be so awesome when the beat drops and the drumline comes in!”Well that beat never dropped as the DJ started up the “Humpty Dance”and played right over the band.
In the name of two a day practices while wearing full uniforms in 90 degree summer heat, I beg of you, LET THE BAND PLAY!