If you know marching bands, please critique this rubric

<p>I realize that this is not a Music "major" question per se, but thought that some of you on this board may have insights into marching bands or know others who do.</p>

<p>My HS son, who is a good student and passionate about playing snare in the marching band, is interested in looking at selective universities that have strong marching bands. It's difficult however to assess the quality of a school's marching band program, so I thought I'd create a five-point scale to post on the CC boards for his universities of interest, and ask any current or former students from those schools to attempt to categorize the band there. Please let me know how you'd edit the following 0 - 5 scale, organized from least to most intensive:</p>

<p>0 No on-field performing band</p>

<p>1 A student-run "scramble" band that plays loosely and performs satirical shows (e.g. seven of the Ivies, Stanford, Rice)</p>

<p>2 A student-run marching band that performs as a fun extracurricular (e.g. Cornell)</p>

<p>3 A professionally-directed but non-competitive marching band that is open to all participants regardless of skill level (e.g., Duke, where the main draw of the marching band is that it's a prerequisite to getting into basketball games as a member of the Pep Band)</p>

<p>4 A serious performing band with membership by audition (most bands at schools with major college football programs might fall in this category)</p>

<p>5 A band that is nationally-recognized as one of the top marching band programs in the country (e.g. Michigan, Ohio State)</p>

<p>Is this a useful and accurate categorization? Can you improve it?</p>

<p>This is probably a reasonable scale with respect to time commitment, and with how closely the band in question resembles Ohio State's marching band. But I would suggest that there's more to it. For example, being part of a student-run band provides some benefits that a faculty-run band doesn't. (I will note that at least some of the Ivy bands are professionally directed.) Also, the more the band director runs everything, the more impact that director will have on how much fun the program is. So you might want to consider his or her personality, just as you would if you were looking at a sports team.</p>

<p>Professionally-directed scramble bands? Wow. I thought the main concept of a scramble band was to "stick it to the man," so I never envisioned them with a formal director. Hunt, what would you see as the benefits of a student-run band?</p>

<p>The main benefit, I think, is that it's a lot of fun without being a huge time commitment. But what I was thinking of is that the kids learn some leadership and organizational skills, too. In the Yale Precision Marching Band, which I was in 30 years ago, and which my son is in right now, the students write the script, create the formations, and generally arrange the music. The director--who is also the director of the audition-only Concert Band--primarily conducts the rehearsal (at least, I think it's still that way). The drum major conducts on the field.
In terms of "sticking it to the man," most of the Ivy bands have toned down their act over the years, but even in my day it was mostly fairly juvenile humor and not really all that anti-establishment. Don't get me wrong--some people who are used to traditional bands HATE the scramble bands. At U.Va., they hated it so much that donors gave money to fund a "real" marching band and the student-run scramble band was exiled.</p>

<p>Marching band is a major consideration for my son also, so we've also assessed bands at the schools he's applying to. We just watch videos of the bands' performances online. DS knows from what he sees whether the band is of a quality he deems acceptable. To a lesser extent, we also get a feel for the program from their websites. I'm not sure your rubric really addresses quality of the band as much as it characterizes their program. For instance, we have identified bands in the 2 through 5 categories that my son respects for the quality of their performance and others in the 2 and 3 categories he rejected for bad form (only he can see, IMO!). I guess my son is more interested in the quality of the band's marching and taking for granted that the program is good. (Which, admittedly, is probably not the case all of the time.)</p>

<p>That said, I'll watch the thread with great interest! :)</p>

<p>
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We just watch videos of the bands' performances online. DS knows from what he sees whether the band is of a quality he deems acceptable.

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</p>

<p>That's a pretty good approach.</p>

<p>I think looking at the band's website is a good idea--that's one place where the difference between a student-run and faculty-run band will also be apparent, and you can get some idea of the tone of the leadership of either kind. I will confess that looking at videos of the performances of the scramble bands is not likely to persuade somebody with a critical eye toward marching form.
There are a few other factors you might consider: What is the role and status of the marching band in the university community? Do you get class credit for being in it? (This might be helpful if it's a large time commitment.) Does your son want to be a music major? If so, find out whether music majors typically perform with the marching band.</p>

<p>I thought so until you brought to light the issue of the quality of the program!</p>

<p>Now I'm remembering that my nephew's slick and successful band had the director from hell. DS has had such a positive experience in HS, I never considered the program could be bad even if the band is great.</p>

<p>Do you happen to know when the audition bands do their auditioning? DS was mildly surprised and a bit more frightened to learn that U Michigan's band will want to hear him play ALL the scales for his instrument...guess it's time to learn 'em!</p>

<p>
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What is the role and status of the marching band in the university community? Do you get class credit for being in it?

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</p>

<p>Good points! DD was in the choir at Berkeley and got credit, while the band members do not! Choir was a big time commitment, but I'm sure band is too. The band is much beloved and obviously the kids enjoy themselves, so it's not for nothing, but credit should be considered. (Hmm...credit vs. beloved...maybe it is fair!)</p>

<p>If the band is for credit, you may be able to access student reviews of the director.</p>

<p>Son is a music major at USC who is not in marching band but has two roommates who are (non-music majors). When we visitied for an interview weekend the marching band is part of what they bring out to impress the applicants. The director seems a little over the top and I know that Son's roommates came to campus a week early for "band camp" and practiced three times a day for 3 hours. Son walked by and saw them standing with one foot in the air for some time, so it is a bit boot campy, but also a lot of fun and a big part of the USC spirit is associated with the marching band. Band has recorded with Fleetwood Mac. Band drumline performed at Grammy's last year I think. Both roomates are traveling to the Notre Dame away game (visit from far away girlfriend happens that weekend by coincidence). Overall perception I have is that the roommates are passionate about the band and like it.</p>

<p>What are your son's academic interests? Looks like you are looking for a selective university and certainly there are no shortage of lists that rank. However some universities have programs that rank very highly nationally but the overall university ranking might be second tier. For instance, my son and daughter are members of the Ohio University Marching 110 (not to be confused with fine marchers at Ohio State); the third year for my son in a band that keeps most of its members 4-5 seasons.</p>

<p>If a prospective student is interested in broadcasting or journalism and a few other specialties than Ohio University would be in the mix for top specific programs coupled with an outstanding marching band experience.</p>

<p>If you are ranking universities by overall selectiveness with top marching bands in no particular order I would include these 6 bands as tops among selective schools: UCLA, Michigan, Notre Dame, USC, Ohio State and Wisconsin. OSU is becoming more and more selective every year and in the sciences will stand with the best. The Badger Band clashed with the university administration and could be considered radical--but I have long enjoyed their enthusiasm and the sound they put out when performing. It's a good bet that in each of these organizations a trip to a bowl game is an automatic.</p>

<p>Another university with a great band is WVU. Many music majors participate and the level is high.</p>

<p>I agree with Cello-Mom. Look at West Virginia University. The marching band is called "The Pride of West Virginia" and is well respected around the state. This year they are marching about 370, and participation is on a tryout basis. Guard, feature twirlers and percussion are especially selective. The website is WVU</a> Marching Band.</p>

<p>WVU has a great atmosphere and many majors to chose from. Band is a for credit class and they have a great staff. If you have questions call the school and talk to Jay Drury or Chris Nichter. I'm sure they would be happy to talk to you. Good Luck!</p>

<p>Ah, yes, West Virginia. It was, in part, mockery of WVa. in 2002 that got the U.Va. pep band banished and replaced by the "Marching Cavalier Band."</p>