The Colorful, All-Consuming World of Marching Bands

Marching band was a strange blend of contradictions for me. There were the times of strong camaraderie and a sense of belonging, especially during football games. Then there was the darker side: the differing philosophies in what a marching band should be. It has always been my opinion that a marching band should exist for the entertainment of the spectators and to support the football team by maintaining a high level of energy in the stands–playing high-energy, peppy music and staying as rowdy as practical.

My marching band experience was not of this philosophy. In what seemed to be a misguided effort to advance his own career, our band director eschewed pep and pop for more “academic” music that would impress at competitions. Granted, the selections may be fantastic music, but the football field is not the appropriate stage for it. Instead of being a synergistic part of the “Friday Night Experience”, as many bands are, we were a tolerated farce–a nuisance that served no real purpose except to perhaps lull the opposition into slumber.

That being said, I still look back fondly on (most of) the experiences I had in the marching band. Despite the differing philosophies, the feeling of accomplishment when you put a show together and esprit de corps that you share often outweighs any malice I might have held against my superiors.

Pickering thought he was going to be band director when he grew up, but in college realized music theory wasn’t for him and found photography instead. Years later, he’s combined his passion for music and the camera in his series Esprit de Corps.

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