The explosion of the marching arts in our schools (‘So this is where my child is…’)

Friday night football—it’s a weekly ritual for most families in Central Pennsylvania during the fall season. The lights. The crisp air. The gridiron.

The high school marching bands.

When the halftime show begins and the band steps onto the field, what most spectators do not see is the enormous time and effort that goes into producing an elaborate seven-minute marching band performance.

And that marching band you see is probably growing.

Marching band, indoor color guard, percussion and winds make up the “marching arts.” These activities may have a short competitive season, but most students are practicing and rehearsing year-round.

The performers in these activities are athletic, they’re some of the brightest in their districts, and they’re pulling in their friends, too.

You’re also probably seeing marching band and its forms on television more often. This fall, executive producer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and FUSE TV brought Clash of the Corps to prime time television with a look inside the competitive world of Drum Corps International (The NFL of marching bands). And you might have seen Lady Gaga perform at the Super Bowl with her dancers throwing lighted neon “air blades,” a marching arts-inspired visual prop.

Most of our Central Pennsylvania scholastic performers rehearse two nights a week for three hour blocks, with some student rehearsing even more. And after Friday’s football game, many high school bands take part in marching band competitions held across the region. Competition days usually consist of another block of morning rehearsal followed by a competition in the afternoon or night. Some groups are practicing for 10 or more hours weekly!

Some might ask, “Why invest so much time in these short performances?”

First, through high school marching arts activities students are receiving both music and performance education, provided by the schools’ staff. Most schools pull in highly specialized consultants to teach a specific instrument to a section.

Second, marching arts students benefit from the life and values education that is achieved by participation in an intense, focused effort to obtain excellence.

Third, many studies indicate that performing arts students show higher levels of academic achievement in all disciplines than students who do not participate in the performing arts.

And lastly, our schools’ marching arts programs provide a valuable fitness regimen for students.

At East Pennsboro High School and Northern High School, where I help teach the percussion programs, the feeling of camaraderie is palpable. Fitting in is important to most kids, especially in their teenage years. The greatest thing I see is that lifelong friends are being made through music and marching arts.

If you feel the momentum within your child’s music program, embrace and encourage it. You never know: Your son or daughter could someday be on stage with the next big Super Bowl act.

Either way, the marching arts will help them discover that dedication and hard work enables them to achieve tremendous success.


Anthony Miranda is a graduate of Susquehanna Township High School in Harrisburg where he was a four-year member of the percussion section in marching band, concert band and orchestra. He has also performed with Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, various drum and bugle corps and has participated in various musical clinics sponsored by The Zildjian and Sabian cymbal companies. He is also a member of The Vic Firth drumstick Education Team, and is a percussion instructor at East Pennsboro High School and Northern High School in Northern York County School District. Anthony currently is an Account Executive at Bridgetower Media.