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5 Life Lessons I Learned from Marching Band



As I listened to my high school band director give one last pep talk before an important competition, I realized how many life lessons are learned from marching band.  This art and sport encompasses and fosters many aspects that can be applied to every area of life.  Not only does marching band exercise the mind and body, encourage friendships, cultivate creativity and expression, and provide students with an opportunity to grow as people, but its foundations and lessons make it an extremely valuable experience.  The following life lessons are crucial to a successful marching band and are definitely beneficial in life.  (And I haven’t even mentioned that it’s tons of fun!)


1. Hard work.  When one is asked to describe marching band, hard work undoubtedly comes up.  Members practice hours each week, refining the music, marching, and details of the show.  Rehearsals can last all day in the heat or the cold, yet the band and color guard push through, never giving up.  I dare anyone to say band is for wimps!  Try giving your all during an eight-hour rehearsal and having to control your breathing to play your horn while marching, or coordinate movements with a flag or rifle while jazz running.  It isn’t easy.  Some moments of practice I wouldn’t have deemed “fun”, but we kept our eye on the goal and kept putting forth our best effort.  I don’t even need to say how valuable this work ethic is in school, a career, and life in general.

2. Discipline.  “Band ten hut!”  This command requires members to snap to attention and remain still and silent until released.  The band and color guard are taught to respect each other and the staff.  Listening to and obeying others is critical in marching band just as it is a valuable skill in life.

3. Teamwork.   Ever heard of a one-man marching band?  Even if a band consisted of only two people, they would have to work together.  Bands may have 50, 100, or over 150 members, all of whom must be aware of each other and work together, blending their sound, marching in step, and creating formations.  Teamwork is necessary!  In fact, if one person is missing, the formation is not complete. Each individual must know his or her own part but must rely on and trust the other members so that everyone fulfills his role.  A bunch of individual actions make up the whole picture.  Knowing the balance of individual and team can extend into everyday life.

4. Commitment.  Dedicating oneself to hours of practice starting in the summer and ending in the fall is quite a commitment.  Even if the going gets tough, band members support and encourage each other to keep going.  A band is not successful if members are not committed.  This can be translated to school projects, employee groups, and even families.  Commitment leads to success.

5. Priorities, aka winning isn’t everything.  Of course we all like to win!  But winning isn’t everything.  It’s ok to lose.  Marching band scores are decided by human judges who each have their own opinions.  There are no definite points given for a made basket or a trip past home base; this repeatedly teaches the band that an awesome performance does not guarantee a win.  I was fortunate to have a band director who reminded us that trophies are temporary; they will eventually be thrown away.  But the memories and feeling of walking off the field after a great show can be remembered forever.  I learned to strive to do my best not for first place, but for myself and my band.  Keeping the focus on the final product and the journey is more important than any award.  How a band gives its last performance is more important than what a judge thinks about it.  I believe that this mindset that the intrinsic reward is more valuable than the extrinsic one leads to more happiness and less stress. 


 I could talk about the benefits of music on the adolescent brain, the impact of band on self-esteem and belonging, and the physical coordination needed for the multitasking required of marchers.  All of this to say . . . marching band is a fun, valuable activity.  Call me a band nerd.  But call me equipped with the lessons I learned from marching band that will help me be successful.


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