Marching Band Freshmen and Newbie Survival Guide

By John Gardner

The following comes from a band handbook I wrote.

All first year participants in Marching Band are Newbies. Consider the terms rookie, freshman and newbie to be interchangeable.

We love our newbies and couldn’t have a band without them.

Band is FamilyThe biggest challenge is for newbies to grasp the concept. Some come to us after being big, bossy 8th graders in the Middle School…and now they are….rookies. Our eighth graders get to spend time in both worlds.

We do not emphasize “chair” placement in Marching Band. In some cases, there may be a freshman who is musically superior to an upperclassman, but the one thing freshmen and newbies don’t have is experience. You need to listen and learn and experience Marching Band.

Some advice for newbies to enhance their rookie year experience:

  1. Be quiet and learn. Do not talk in rehearsals. Other than asking a question or asking for help, speaking should come from directors, staff, drum majors, seniors or section leaders. The upperclassmen with experience know what we expect and know what it takes. Newbies do not…yet. You will become experienced, but you are not there yet.
  2. Respect your elders, including your upperclassmen. Marching Band does have a chain of command type of hierarchy and newbies are not at the top – yet.
  3. Come to a drum major or director if you ever think someone is harassing or mistreating you, because that is absolutely forbidden. It just doesn’t happen here….and it won’t.
  4. Never, EVER confront or challenge a director in anger during rehearsal. We will make mistakes and perhaps even falsely accuse you of an error in rehearsal. The best thing you can do is cooperate at the moment and come talk to us during a break – or privately. If we are wrong, we will admit it and apologize to you publicly, if appropriate. Remember, though, that in a rehearsal, a director cannot lose an authority-questioning or disrespecting battle.
  5. Don’t take it personally. We do a pretty good job, I think, of showing all band members that they are important to us and that we care about them individually.

We want to hear about what is happening in their lives, including outside of band. It is okay to come talk to us about boy/girlfriend issues, job situations and even something where you want a sounding board in addition to or outside of home.

BUT WHEN WE ARE IN REHEARSAL, think of yourself more like an important part of a big machine. The machine only functions properly if each and every part is working. If you are out of line, out of step, out of interval, out of horn position, are playing something incorrectly or not playing…..we WILL point that out to you because you affect the machine.

A judge’s eye is always looking for something different, so the best thing is NOT to draw attention to yourself. If you ever think that we are ‘picking’ on you, please come say something. That is never the intent.

And remember…. you are only a rookie / newbie one year. Then YOU will be one of those upperclass people. Hang in there. Survive well. Let us help you help us.

Your Director

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, 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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