10+ Values Marching Band Students learn

By John Gardner

See Teens At Their Best

This is a followup article to an article, “14 Ways to Volunteer for a Marching Band to Appreciate and Applaud what is Good about Teenage America”, which focused on ways to share your talents and abilities and experience the youthful, enthusiastic atmosphere around a marching band during competition season. This post focuses on some of the values marching band students learn.

Some larger competitions can involve dozens of bands with thousands of students with nothing resembling the level of supervision in a high school before or after school or as classes change. For the most part, band parents and the directors are the only ones with direct oversight….. and after a performance, most students are free to congregate back at the stadium to watch the other bands as they mix and mingle.

In uniform, before a performance, you’ll see focused faces as students prepare to do what they are there to do. You might see them move quietly and in formation from the bus area to visual and musical warmup and then to the stadium.

Band students learn dedication, commitment and
that striving for excellence is a worthy goal


Most marching band operations are very structured with responsibility and accountability. There are seniors, section leaders, drum majors, staff, directors (where do I put parents in this list) all with authority over the band student. Participants appreciate  compliance and cooperation.

Band students learn the value of,
and respect for chain of command


Unlike a basketball team with its starting five, there is no bench in marching band. Everybody is in. Everybody is a starter. Few other types of groups will involve people from varied backgrounds. There are children of doctors and lawyers marching with children of single-parents working multiple jobs or utilizing government help. There are the students who have their own cars and those who need rides, those with the iPhones and the free phones or no phone. You will find students in most bands from every church in the community and others who have never been inside a church. And yet, with all these differences, when they put that uniform on (actually, even before they dress)…..they are all on the same team, all equal. A good result requires the best from everyone. Students learn teamwork and cooperate with those outside their friend circle.

Band students learn to cooperate and collaborate
with those from different backgrounds and capabilities


You will see students cheer and applaud for good performances of other groups, including those with whom they compete. You’ll see them wishing each other good luck, especially when a band is transiting through the pre-show stages and passing others who have either already performed or have a while yet to go. In a recent competition, I saw a band applauding the same-county rival band and the new band that their previous director had transferred to. When our band was relaxing and enjoying a band-parent-provided soup & chili bar supper following a recent performance, a competitor band passed by, still in uniform, returning from the field following their performance. Our students applauded their rival until the last one had passed. One of their directors found me to tell me that, “Your students are a class act.” That is sportsmanship….or should I call it bandsmanship?

Band students learn good sportsmanship.


Marching band is a time-consuming extreme weather sport. Summer rehearsals are in extreme heat and often go 8+hours a day for multiple weeks before school starting in the fall. Think about the temperatures in September and then imagine putting on a winter coat, hat and gloves and running around a football field at a fast pace. But then, by the time mid-October comes, it gets cold enough that students are wearing under armor and other garments under the uniform to try to stay warm. Then, add periodic rain. Sometimes they have to move rehearsals in and outside to avoid it and other times they get wet. When school starts, add 8-10 extra rehearsals Mon-Thur, 4-5 hrs for a Friday football game, then 12-14 hours on Saturday for a rehearsal, travel and competition — sometimes two.

Band students learn to commit, persevere and endure.


You’ll see both excited and disappointed students as the results are announced, but they will display professionalism many adults would be good to observe and learn from.

Band students learn that there are no shortcuts to success.


Many students, seemingly for the first time in any significant way, are given tasks and responsibilities and held accountable for them. The band student is responsible for loading and unloading his/her equipment; instrument, gloves, show shirt, correct socks and marching shoes. Some students have “section leader” responsibilities, which for most is a first time they’ve had management and oversight responsibilities for others. They have to learn leadership and people skills. Often, at the end of a 4-5yr career, graduating seniors will talk about how

band “taught them” responsibility and accountability.


Band students learn that they are individually important.

There is nowhere to hide in a marching band. All students are active participants. In a typical Indiana marching competition, there are six judges watching and listening; four in the press box and two walking around the field going eyeball to eyeball with performers. Band students understand that a trained judge’s eye automatically goes to what is different; someone out of step, out of line, out of tune, and that an individual performance reflects on the total ensemble score. Seniors and section leaders learn how to balance their role as a mentor and teacher/trainer for the newbie members, while also ensuring that even the newbies get up to speed in time for performance.
Students are trying to follow the ‘dots’ from their chart/dot books that tell them where they are going. It is difficult to see the big picture from that spot on the field, so there are directors or instructors watching from farther back (and sometimes higher up) who will adjust a form or shape. Or perhaps it is to point out that an individual is playing too loudly and needs to balance and blend better with others around them. This is contrary to much contemporary educational philosophy which emphasizes only the heaping of praise on what students are attempting to do. Band students know better, and expect to hear how to improve individual performance. Achievement through excellence enhances self-esteem . The challenge for the individual is to “not take it personally”. I describe to students regularly that I highly value them individually, but that when we are trying to improve a marching performance, that they are but one small moving part of a larger machine and that my job (as a director) is to fix the part to improve the machine….no matter who the part is. Nothing personal.

Band students learn to accept criticism, and that
self-esteem is raised through the achievement of excellence

With the extreme time commitment a marching band requires, students must learn to prioritize their time and use it efficiently, especially when it comes to getting homework done.

Band students learn time management skills.

When you ask people who were in a marching band years ago, they may remember how their overall band performed or competed, but probably not likely that weekly score or placing that seemed so important at the time. But they will remember the values they learned, which is why former band students encourage their children to participate in band as well. This is not the article to argue that band utilizes academics, multiple arts and significant athleticism….. but they get all that as well.
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Related articles you might want to check out:
And here’s an article published by American Music Parents called “18 Lessons Marching Band Teaches Our Kids
Thanks for reading,

17 yrs experience as a high school band director. 14 yrs as college adjunct faculty. 30+ yrs in the fundraising industry and 24 yrs as a small business owner. (Don't add all those up.). Experience in both the fundraising sales and education worlds give me a unique combination of perspectives in both. I love working with the youthful enthusiasm of today's teenage achievers and with those who work with them.Also 4yrs as proprietor of VirtualMusicOffice.com, which offers a wide variety of virtual services including web/blog design/hosting/managing, social media management (scheduling posts/tweets for maximum impact and brand enhancement) and small business consulting - specializing in school product fundraising.

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45 comments on “10+ Values Marching Band Students learn
  1. Hey man –

    Great article on the values of marching band! I am sharing with my marching band tech class this afternoon.

    Scott Humphries, Director
    Instrumental Studies and
    Music Education
    Manchester University
    604 E. College Ave.
    North Manchester, IN 46962
    T 260-982-5331
    F 260-901-8155

  2. Logan town says:

    Don’t forget memorization skills! Since MB I’ve been noticed at work how I remember so much after just little time doing it and I say “Marching Band taught me to remember”

  3. Well-Put, John! Great article – thanks so much for sharing!
    Bonnie Harmon
    Salem HS
    Salem, Indiana

  4. Thanks Bonnie. Much of the foundation of my teaching was developed down there in Washington County and a super talented artistic type I think you know. John

  5. You’re right Logan. If I do a re-write or repost, I’ll have to put that in there.

  6. Clark says:

    Frag the Lt. Band students learn that the chain of command has responsibilities.

  7. I, without fail, hire every applicant I interview that participated in high school band. With all the above listed attributes, getting out of bed and going to work might be the most important lesson learned. Great article.

    Chris Frick
    GM, Buca di Beppo Indianapolis

  8. Bill Ramey says:

    I am a band Dad. 6 years of High school. She started summer of 6th grade. Now second year at college. My daughter quit all other activities in HS to focus on band. When ask why. Her answer was I have friends in the other things. But Band is a family. My view kids are excepted for who they are into then”family”.

  9. Jerry says:

    John, is there a way I could contact you? I would like to get your permission to use your big ten:)
    Jerry Foster
    Academic Leader
    Florence Academy of Fine Arts

  10. konnie says:

    the families of band members are the most supportive and dedicated. There is no “season”, the commitment is year round, no summers off, no holidays off. The days of “walking” to school to participate is over. The logistics are a nightmare. Yet these parents make it happen. If the school participates in state sponsored music contests, the travel, time and expense involved for the parents is ignored or just expected by the schools. Often school boards demand the band “earn it’s budget” by extra community participation. So add, the band members appreciate their parents, and learn what it truly mean to support a child’s talent, ambitions and interests.

  11. Kristy Bryant says:

    A great article! Yet, so many people still want to talk about band geeks. I was blessed to be in color guard in high school due to coming from a smaller school I didn’t have to play an instrument. We put in long hard hours on the field. To this day when I hear drums I still need to “keep time”…

  12. Rose says:

    I’d like to add that marching band gave me a chance to see other places. I grew up in a small town and our band traveled to competitions, giving us a chance to see other places besides our little town. Then when I went to college, I made the marching band there, gained an instant group of friends and traveled across the US and to Japan as well. All this, just from playing in the band!

  13. Good point. I’ll have to add that to the next re-write. I have had students comment that a band trip was their first time out of state. Thanks for sharing. John

  14. Yeah, the “in time / in step” is a life-long result of band. Do you also keep time when listening to music as you walk down the street? If yes, then you are definitely infected….and there is no cure. For many students who either never started an instrument, or started and dropped out in middle school – Color Guard is a great way to get back in. So is Winter Guard and Winter Percussion. Thanks for sharing. -John

  15. Excellent point. Yes, I will add that to my next re-write. Thanks for sharing. John

  16. I have several methods:
    Google Voice: 260.786.6554
    Fax: 877.624.1798

    Please do use my big ten…. All I ask is that you attribute it and link or include my website: http://www.VirtualMusicOffice.com.

    Glad you liked it.

  17. Thanks for sharing that. I may use your quote on my band page….

    Yes, I hear the “family” comment a lot. Your daughter was fortunate to have your support. I had a student from a very dysfunctional home-life tell me that band was her ‘real’ family.

    Unlike most organizations, band accepts everybody and puts them in the starting lineup and in the game, no matter their social standing or anything else.

    Thanks for sharing.


  18. Great to hear that from an employer. I have had local employers contact me to tell me they will hire anyone I recommend. Band students have complicated schedules to work around, and many have trouble finding jobs for that reason. But you support my contention that employers who hire band students and work with their schedules get the better workers.

    Thanks for sharing.

  19. Carol says:

    I loved this article!! I had children who were in band and now grandchildren who participate in band/color guard. I know how much hard works goes into a great performance. They put in hours and hours of work and basically get no recognition. They perform at sporting events, contest, concerts and graduations. It is not a seasonal sport/activity. They learn values that last them a life time. This is not a required class in school, it’s not a class you take just to get the credit but one the students enjoy. It also takes a great director with back up of the parents to pull all this off. Hats off to ALL who participate in this wonderful activity. This Mom/Grandma is very proud of you as are all parents.

  20. Tracey Pusey says:

    extremely well written, you hit the nail on the head. I saw my teenager improve as a human being right before my very eyes when he joined high school band. High school band gave me assistance as a parent, to prove to my kid that I am not crazy when I try to instill in him that a persons value, increases ten fold when you are part of something larger than yourself.

  21. Thank you. Yes, for many, band is what pushes teens to begin to realize their potential, to learn accountability and responsibility, and … as you say…. to be a part of something larger than yourself. Thanks for the comment and I hope you keep following.

    Consider SUBSCRIBING to this blog or LIKING the parallel page at http://www.facebook.com/hnhsbands.


  22. Thanks for your kind words. Many band students must endure a sea of criticism from those representing the vast levels of mediocrity in our schools. I saw seniors crying after their last home football game last night and will probably see them cry again at their final marching band competition in a few weeks. John

  23. Eddie Wright says:

    Great Article John.. I was a Trombone Player out of Dayton Marching Greendevils, Dayton, Ky. I remember all my times from when I was marching. I started marching in my Freshman year in high school and kept going up until i graduated from high school. Whenever i hear drums or music without the lyrics, It makes me go back to my marching days remembering everything. I will say this, I do miss marching band. I remember the long hours in the summer of doing nothing but learning the drills, fundamentals, music, and everything else that was involved. Kudos to you for making this article..


  24. Donna says:

    I enjoyed reading this. My son was in band from 6th-12 grade, graduated in 2012, enlisted in the Air Force, and was in the band flight in basic training. The chain of command comment is so so very true, as he is very respectful and and amazing individual that works as part of a valuable team. Band members take care of each other. on August 5th, our kids were on their way to celebrate a well run summer band camp, when they had a terrible bus accident, killing one student and injuring several. These kids….witnessed something we as parents try so hard to protect them from. My son told me later that these kids worked together getting everyone out that they could, and helped each other. and you know what they did? Our children, right there in the median of the highway, gathered up and prayed. That… is a close knit group. Band is so much more than tooting a horn or playing a drum.
    Band Mom, and former high school band member

  25. Donna says:

    I should have put in, on August 10th, 2010. Sorry bout that.

  26. Sad, but very true testimony. Thanks for sharing. John

  27. Thanks for the kind words…. Glad you had a great experience. John

  28. John Tolen says:

    I worked my way up to Drum Major in high school, then when I went to Purdue I joined the band. I saw the Big Bass Drum and knew that’s what I wanted to play. My dad almost told me not to join the band because he was afraid that it would take away from my academics. One of his close friends told him that it might be better than Dad could imagine for me to be in the band; that the Purdue music department is all voluntary since their is no school of music and, in fact, the average GPA for people involved in the band department at Purdue is higher than any other organization on campus (as it still is today). Not only that, but the close friendships that I would build would last a lifetime. Wow, he was absolutely correct! I am so glad that my dad listened to his friend and did not talk me out of band at Purdue. I marched on every Big Ten field except for Indiana and Minnesota, played in a halftime show at the new Hoosier Dome in a game against Notre Dame, went to two bowl games, and marched in the Indy 500 5 times. I went back for Alumni Band this year and enjoyed the companionship of over 100 people that I knew from when I was in band. There were 432 people in the Alumni Band this year which outnumbered the regular block! We have a Facebook group of 175 alumni dedicated to the Bill Moffit era, our Director from 1981 – 1988. In our group we share life experiences and provide support for one another in struggles and victories over life events, cancer, and other challenges. Some of our friends in band are closer to us than even their own siblings.

    Keep up the good work with your band. They looked and sounded fabulous Friday night!

  29. Thanks John. So you’re local – cool. Thanks for the compliment. I may borrow your post and put it on our band site. I won’t name you unless you want me to give you credit (would be happy to do that). We’ve had several from HNHS go to Purdue. The train was just in Huntington a week ago for the wedding of a former HN Drum Major to a brother of two current bandsters. Wish us luck at state finals. John

  30. cami says:

    I loved your article. I enjoyed marching band and loved competing. Many do not realize how many hours are put in every week to make a show perfect. I would love for my kids to play an instrument and hopefully participate in marching band when they are older. Anytime I see a marching band I still have great memories of competing and the sense of family that came with it.

  31. Thanks Cami. I was just chatting earlier this evening with one of the six former band students who now have children in their h/s band that will be travelling to the same contest as my band in two weeks. Someone should do research about the percentage of band students who have children eventually participating in band. Several people mentioned family. Thanks for commenting. Hope you subscribe to the blog or follow the facebook page (VirtualMusicOffice). John

  32. Kathy says:

    I was in band as a kid at a DOD school that provided instruments. But when I moved to a new school, I couldn’t be in the band because my parents couldn’t afford to buy my instrument so I had to quit. My two oldest children, I couldn’t afford an instrument but my two youngest I could. I have told all my children, now that they have children, I will buy the instruments for their kids if they so desire. I have a granddaughter, a senior in high school, plays flute in marching band. I have another plays in the pit, a freshman.. I have a 7th grade grandson plays trumpet!! I have, so far, four more grandchildren to go, but are too young at this time. I love everything band has done for my kids and my grandkids!!!!

  33. Thanks Kathy. Sorry to hear that you had to quit and that your two older children could not participate. The cost of instruments is one of the biggest hurdles for getting more students involved in band. John

  34. Amy says:

    My son is a sophmore in high school marching band. It takes a high level of commitment to be a Band Mom, proving it by sporting a very red sunburn from Saturdays competion today. But I love our band, I love our kids, and I love the growth I see in my own teen. This article is so true…

  35. Excellent post, John – thank you! As a band member in high school and college, married to a drummer, having raised 3 kids who LOVED band from middle school to graduation, with one who degreed from NWMSU and is now the Maryville, MO high school band director with a vocal instructor wife, WE LOVE ALL our band experiences! Band people are solid, dependable, FUN people. Thanks for saying so and showing this wonderful workplace skills learning side! Take care and God bless. Keep playing!

  36. Seth Kilbourn says:

    What an awesome article!!! I know people keep adding but I will add one more. Marching band and really an instrumental music teaches self control. If something goes wrong during rehearsal, students can’t just take their instrument and have a tantrum and smash their instrument. They have to collect themselves, remain in control and work it out using other methods instead of just, “going off.” Thanks for posting, I used it today in class.

  37. I’m humbled and impressed to hear that my article was used in a classroom. Thanks for telling me that. And I like the self control part. I will use that on my band blog at http://hnhsbands.wordpress.com. John

  38. Thanks. Some, including the school where I took grad classes, believe we should teach “music for music’s sake”, but I also have heard from former students who say variations of “it is about more than just the music”. Yes, most music teachers have to know that the majority of their students are NOT going to go into music as a profession… so what do we leave them with? Thanks for sharing. John

  39. Thanks Amy. You’re the first current band parent I’ve heard from on this article (I think). I like the sunburn comment…..so true. Your son didn’t get a sunburn because he was wearing a heavy coat, right? Thanks for sharing. John

  40. CC says:

    Just graduated HS (did MB all four years as percussion. Section leader for two). I went through the trouble of duel-enrolling at two colleges this year. One for my degree work and one for marching band. (my degree college doesn’t have a band and they’re like 10 minutes away from each other).
    Every student definitely puts so much into band. Personally, I already have (permanent) back problems and continuing drum line through college is only making it worse. My junior year of high school our trumpet soloist performed at finals even though he had pneumonia. Everyone I know gives it their all in every practice, every performance, which just proves that marching band is one of the greatest things on earth.

  41. Thanks for sharing. Sorry to hear about your back problems. That you are dual enrolling is kinda extreme, but not surprising given your circumstances. Subscribe and keep following. Thanks. John

  42. Great article, band member that graduated in 1975.

  43. Jane Branham says:

    Band has also taught me to give forward. I am friends on FB with my chaperone from our Senior Band trip to the Rose Bowl Parade (35 years ago) – She loves to see the chaperoning pics from my five years of HS band with my kids (and still going). Those chaperones and band parents ALWAYS looked like they were enjoying it. When I became a band parent I learned how much work they put in but how rewarding it is. Your values listed above – spot on!!

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