18 Lessons Marching Band Teaches Our Kids: A Parent’s Perspective

My name is Penny Ray, and I’m a music parent. My husband and I have three teenagers: a sophomore who plays mellophone in her public high school marching band and French horn in the Wind Ensemble at school; an 8th grader who plays trumpet in the local homeschool concert band program; and an 8th grader on the autism spectrum who has not yet been introduced to a musical instrument.

My music experience is limited to the piano lessons that I begged for as a child (that proved piano was not my instrument) and to handbells at church beginning in my high school years. For most of my childhood, I attended a small, rural K-12 school with no band program.

That’s why I’m so glad my kids have the opportunity to march. In this post I’ll highlight 18 lessons that marching band teaches kids.

marching band stock photoMusicMusic affects the brain. Hearing it. Playing it. Especially playing it. The math involved in playing music keeps the brain active and growing. Music can uplift you when you’re down or dragging.

Neurological multi-tasking.Marching and playing at the same time is challenging, and marching band members meet the challenge of marching at one tempo while playing at another. The neuronal connections grown in marching band will benefit the students throughout life, for multi-tasking through college and in the workplace, and for multi-tasking as a parent.

Discipline. Long rehearsals. Memorize drill. Memorize music. Early is on time; on time is late. The discipline you experience and practice is a foundation for discipline later, through college, in the workplace, as a parent. The discipline of being a part of a team like a marching band is experience that you’ll take with you through life.

Teamwork. Every part of a team is important. Every part contributes. There is amazing satisfaction in coming together with a team, working hard alongside and with a team, to perform a show. And the teamwork is very different from that of a sports team, where the goal is to defeat opponents in games. In sports, teams try to go after an opponent’s weakness and to shut down an opponent’s strong scorer. The teamwork in marching band is about individual and group self-improvement, competing with self, comparing results with self over time.

Camaraderie. Shared experiences over time build relationships and friendships. A job transfer moved our family across the country as my sophomore was ending her 8th grade year. We moved in time for her to attend every practice with the marching band. She began her freshman year in a new school in her new state with a posse of friends from the marching band. Marching band was a wonderful bridge between two states

Time management. From July through November, a good chunk of time will be consumed by rehearsals, football games, and contests. You give up a lot of computer time, video game time, free time during those months. Time management experience will serve you well throughout life.

Sacrifice. Band members get an opportunity to see the benefits of sacrificing what you want to do (computer chats, shopping, goofing off) for the good of the team. There is personal satisfaction in knowing as you are walking off the field together that the group had a good show. Seeing your scores improve throughout the season or from year to year is rewarding. Awards, medals, trophies from festivals and competitions are sweet tangible payoffs to the sacrifices band members make throughout the season.

Resilience. Students mess up. They keep going. Judges make mistakes or make calls we don’t agree with. The band members keep going. Students learn that a bobble or a fall during a competition is not the end of the world. Resilience is a hot topic in psychology today, and being able to bounce back after a mistake or setback is an important skill throughout life, a skill that develops by being practiced and experienced, and (fortunately or unfortunately), there are lots of opportunities to practice in marching band. We parents watched in dismay as our band experienced a tempo tear during prelims of a competition and yet the band recovered and finished strong. I was as proud of them for their collective resiliency as I was by the fact that we made finals that day.

Flexibility combined with creative problem solving. Our band staff embraces feedback from judges’ commentaries. Instead of rigidly insisting that the show they put together at camp in July is perfect, they take constructive criticism seriously and make adjustments where needed. Our staff model flexibility and creative problem solving for the students; the students practice flexibility in tweaking the show until the show is the way the directors want it.

Manners and respect. Band members practice the habits of manners and respect. Students represent both school and community when at a performance or competition. Our band is expected to be respectful in all situations, from rehearsals to football games to competitions. While the parents are going nuts in the stands, the band members on the field remain perfectly still in situations where we all know they wanted to dance and scream.

Generosity. Our kids applaud other bands at competitions. Our parents applaud other bands at competitions. Applauding another band takes nothing away from our own band.

Education and history. The fine arts camp my daughter attended during two summer vacations names cabins after composers. Imagine our delight to make the connection that she stayed in the cabin named for Bizet and last year played a melody from Carmen with the marching band.

Proprioception. That body awareness thang. Marching backwards, marching sideways while facing straight ahead without checking your neighbors’ locations requires you have a good sense of where you are in space and helps students experience and grow in this area.

Trust. When you’re marching backwards, or sideways, you must trust that your bandmates are doing what they’re supposed to do so that you don’t crash into them on a trek across the football field during your precision marching.

Lots of practice hours. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell tells us that 10,000 hours of practice at anything = success. During marching season, marching band students get many more hours of playing music than most non-marching students.

Music programs give our students practice and experience in skills that reach far beyond musical notes and instruments. The kids don’t realize that they are getting experience in so many non-musical life-skills that will have positive impacts as they become adults. Our band director often quotes the Harris Poll that found that 73% of CEOs from Fortune 1000 companies were involved in music programs in high school. When I think about the different areas of development that marching band reaches, I can see why. I am glad that my children have the opportunity that I did not have and watching them and their friends grow into adulthood will be a joy to watch from a front row seat as we parents and teachers see the ways in which marching impacts their lives over the years.

» The original version of this post is here.


penny rayABOUT THE AUTHOR: Married for 26 years, Penny Ray has three teenagers including a set of twins where one twin is on the autism spectrum and one twin developed typically. She is an accidental homeschooler of two children at the moment, with the other in public school. A United States Southerner by birth, she spent more than 20 years away from her beloved South before returning to it recently. Her interests include the things that her kids do: marching band, theater, baseball, baseball, baseball, figure skating, special needs cheerleading. She writes about autism and special needs at Homeschooling, Autism, & “Stuff” and at Homeschool Mosaics.

Share This Post

BK hall of fame feature

Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps Hall of Fame – Accepting Nominations

Nominations for the first Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps Hall of Fame are now being accepted by the Hall of Fame Committee for the ...
Read More →
Ascend-logo_elevating_below860x280.png

Bliss Coleman Appointed as Director of Development

Ascend Performing Arts, a leading organization in the performing arts community, is thrilled to announce the appointment of Bliss Coleman as its new Director of ...
Read More →
BKX24 staff David wp

BLUE KNIGHTS WELCOMES DAVID WALKER

Ascend Performing Arts is excited to announce that David Walker has joined the Blue Knights family as our new Ensemble Coordinator! David is a freelance ...
Read More →
Staff Announcement Visual Consultant

Rosie Miller Queen Joins Blue Knights

Ascend Performing Arts is excited to announce Rosie Miller Queen as Visual Consultant for the Blue Knights DBC! Rosie Miller Queen has been a seasoned ...
Read More →
Colorado Gives Day

Support Blue Knights through Colorado Gives Day

Support the Blue Knights through this annual statewide movement that celebrates philanthropy through online giving by making donations possible no matter where you live!
Read More →
Staff Announcement Color Guard Leadership

BLUE KNIGHTS COLOR GUARD 2024 LEADERSHIP TEAM

Ascend Performing Arts and the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps announce the artistic Color Guard Leadership team for 2024. James Gabonay, Color Guard Coordinator ...
Read More →
Scroll to Top

Want to Stay up to Date?

Sign up for our newsletter, the Knightly Newsbrief, to stay up to date with Ascend and all things Blue Knights. 

Email Address(Required)
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Ken Adams

KEN ADAMS

Mark Arnold is one of the longest-serving Directors in Drum Corps International, serving as Executive Director of the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps since 1985 and as CEO of Ascend Performing Arts since 2010.

Under his leadership the Blue Knights organization has developed into one of the premier Drum and Bugle Corps in the history of the activity, recognized Internationally for excellence and innovation in the performing arts. Through the years the Blue Knights has expanded its programing and now serves thousands of young musicians and performers annually in multiple performing ensembles, events and educational programs under the umbrella of the Ascend Performing Arts.

In addition to shaping the course of Ascend Performing Arts, Mark also has played an integral role in the ongoing development and successes of Drum Corps International as a collective. He served as chairman of the DCI Board of Directors in 1994 and again from 2008 to 2013. Mark was honored as Corps Director of the Year in 2004, and was the inaugural recipient of the George Bonfiglio Chairman’s Award at the 2012 DCI World Championships, which is given to an individual each year who demonstrates extraordinary leadership and service on behalf of DCI and its performing drum corps.  Mark was inducted into the DCI Hall of Fame in 2014 and the Blue Knights Hall of Fame in 2019.

Prior to his position with the Blue Knights, Mark was the Assistant Director of the Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps from 1978 through 1983, serving alongside Director Jim Jones, one of the founders of Drum Corps International and an inaugural member of the DCI Hall of Fame.  Mr. Arnold has a degree in Music Education from the University of Wyoming and taught High School Music in Wyoming and Nebraska from 1979 through 1985.
Mark Arnold

MARK ARNOLD

Scott Factor has served on the Ascend Performing Arts Board from 2012 to 2018 as a voting member in various positions including Vice-Chairman. Since 2019 my role has been in an Advisory position.

Outside of Ascend Performing Arts i am Senior Account Executive for Baxter HealthCare.
Scott Factor

SCOTT FACTOR

I am currently an Ascend Board Member-at-Large.  I have been a volunteer with the Blue Knights since 2013.  I have been serving on the BoD since 2019.  I retired from the United States Postal Service in 2010.  Although I have never marched drum corps I am an avid fan of the activity and thoroughly support our members in any way that I can.  “We Go On”!!! 

Neil Corvino

NEIL CORVINO

Board member Kathy Black is an attorney in New Mexico practicing as a full-time litigator focused on employment and civil rights defense. She came to the law as a second career after twenty-five years in high tech with NCR Corporation, doing everything from operating systems programming to Vice President positions in engineering, customer services, and sales. She earned her JD from Lewis & Clark Law School and her BA from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Ms. Black is active as a percussionist in the Albuquerque area. Way back in 1978 she marched with the Guardsmen, including at DCI Finals in Denver.  After many years of being just a drum corps fan, she was elected to the Drum Corps International Board of Directors in January 2016 and served on that board until January 2022, including three years as chair. 

Kathy Black

KATHY BLACK

Bryant’s path to the Ascend Board of Directors, which began in 2021 as a member-at-large, traces back to his childhood. Watching the Reading Buccaneers senior drum corps practice near his grandparents’ home ignited a lifelong passion, and a student of all thing’s percussion.

Years later a family move to Colorado provided Bryant with a platform to display his passion, both on the stage with the nationally acclaimed Green Earth Percussion Ensemble and on the field as a snare drummer with the Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps until his age-out year in 1984.

In his professional career as the Senior Director of Strategic Accounts at Yokohama Tire Co., Bryant credits the principles instilled by the marching arts and years on tour for his success. On a personal level, the arts played an even larger role, where Bryant met his wife, Stephanie. The Rankin’s currently make their home in South Carolina, enjoying time with their grown children, two incredible grandchildren, and their beloved brown lab, Zoey.
Bryant Rankin

BRYANT RANKIN

Retired, Director, Office of Research and Analysis, Colorado Department of Revenue Ms. Archibeque served 26 years in the area of statistical analysis for the Colorado Department of Revenue and Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Her skills in this area assist the board in developing a strategy for statistical analysis in the area of program evaluation. She has also been a significant volunteer managing and working with volunteers for the organization and will assist the board in understanding the complex nature of the organization. Her personal experiences as a minority and female can inform and promote a more inclusive environment and agenda for the projects that the board supports.

Janet Archibeque

JANET ARCHIBEQUE

Rob Batchelder was appointed to the Ascend Performing Arts Board of Directors in May 2023, and currently serves as Vice Chair. As a member of the Senior Foreign Service, Rob has represented the United States overseas in India, Poland, Germany, Argentina, Nicaragua, Jamaica, and Namibia during a diplomatic career spanning nearly 30 years. He currently serves as Managing Director for Visa Services in the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs in Washington, DC. Rob marched in the Blue Knights hornline in 1987 and 1988, and he was Drum Major in 1989. He and his family live in Alexandria, Virginia, but his heart still yearns for Colorado.

Rob Batchelder

Rob BATCHELDER