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What are the Differences Between High School and College Marching Band?

Marching in your high school's marching band can be both an amazing experience and a... not so amazing experience. For many students marching in high school means being made fun of by classmates, long bus rides on school buses every Friday night without air conditioning, old/smelly uniforms, small crowds and a band that does more "oozing" around the field than marching. Sound familiar?

Sure, some high school band programs are incredible and are pipelines to DCI and college bands, but for the student who might be on the fence about continuing their college band career, here are some major differences that await you at the next level.

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Size: The average college marching band today is around 220 members. There are monster bands that have over 400 and some that are less than 100, but on average you are looking at at least 220 people in a college marching band.
And that means the opportunity is there to make a ton of friends and perform with a big sound.

Talent: Many bands have an audition process and have to turn away hundreds of prospective members every year. However, that means that the quality of marcher around you is extremely elevated. You will pushed and you will work hard, but you will see that all the effort turns into an incredible performance.

Blue Line Media ImageTravel: It is very common for high school bands to take a "band trip" each year to somewhere fun. You fundraise your butt off all year long to afford to go. You march in a parade, maybe perform at a bowl game or at an amusement park and then bus back. It's a blast, definitely, but in college fundraising is left to the professionals and all you have to do is enjoy the trip. Oh and did we mention flying the entire band on a charted plane or nice air conditioned charter buses? Bowl games across the country every year if your team plays well? Trips throughout the season to games against rivals? Basketball and volleyball championships across the country in pep bands? Performances at BOA? Halftime at NFL games? Yeah that happens.

Tradition: Marching in a college band also means carrying on a tradition that in some schools is over 100 years old. You will be performing the same pre game show that has been performed by generations of marchers before you that still today makes alumni cry when they watch it.

Blue Line Media ImageThe Tunnel: Nothing really can prepare you for the first time you march out of the tunnel at your first home game. The roar of 60,000-100,000 fans is electric. I don't think I played very much that first time because I was so awestruck. Everything gets taken up a level at night games. Sure, you marched at night under the Friday lights, but trust us, it's different.

Rehearsals: Marching in high school could mean 2 practices a week with a game on Friday it could also mean rehearsal every day! If you're lucky you might march 2 shows all season, but most only march one and perfect it throughout the year. At many big football schools the band performs a new halftime show every week! This gives you the chance to perform new drill, new music and entertain crowds in a new way each week. It is awesome walking into rehearsal on Mondays and being handed all new music, but with that comes a major time commitment and rehearsal 4 to 5 times a week 2-3 hours each time. It's a major time commitment, but it's worth every second.

For those of you that have been working your butts off in high school and a little burnt out there are lots of schools that offer band opportunites that are much less work and a lower time commitment. This gives you the benefit of still performing and marching, but without much pressure.

Special Perks: Did we mention they give you a lot of free food and t-shirts? No joke, half my wardrobe are free t-shirts I got in band. Can't remember the last time I bought a t-shirt actually.

The People & Fans: You will meet some of the most amazing and influential people in your life. You might even meet your future husband or wife!Blue Line Media Image There's also a good chance that your college band Director will be your favorite teacher ever. They're pretty special. However, the biggest difference is the fans. Gone are the days when your mom is able to scream your name and you can hear her loud and clear during the game. You will be surrounded by thousands of people who are on the edge of their seat watching you. Even in class you will realize that the idea of college band is cool and students that you interact with will think very highly of you being in the band. NO more being made fun. In college kids run up to take their picture with YOU! It's a big change, but you'll get used to your new found celebrity status.

Blue Line Media ImagePerformance Horns: Gone are the days where you will perform with your own horn on game days (well at most schools). That old beat up thing you call a trumpet, never has to be used at a performance again. It's time to look good and sound good and college bands are well equipped with high quality instruments for you to perform with. We like to call that Band Bling.

Super Fun:
Did we mention that college band is super fun? At many big football schools with big bands it is all about fun. There are no competitions. It's about putting on a great show each week and entertaining your fans. For bands that march one major corps style show each year, the fun level is through the roof. Imagine putting on an amazing show without the stress level one would find in a competitive drum corps.

Access: You will quickly realize that being in your college band gets you into a lot of really cool places both at games and non band related events. Ever wonder what it's like to sit in a luxury box for a game? You're in. Want to see the President of the University's house? Yep, you're in! Your uniform and being a member of the band will give you access to things other students and fans will never get to see, just don't abuse it. In high school you're lucky they even let you perform at the games!

Scholarships: Did we mention that you could even get a scholarship for being in band? At some schools every single member of the band gets one! Your parents will thank you.

The final difference between high school and college band:

Blue Line Media ImageThe Facilities: Prepare to be amazed. Imagine an entire building dedicated to just marching band. Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but it's true. At many universities the marching band has it's own building and sometimes they even have their own indoor practice facility. One word...heaven.

Let us know if you need any more convincing. We hope to see you on the field this fall! Share this with someone you know that is planning or maybe not planning to march next year.