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America’s Best Marching Bands

Photo used under the Creative Commons license courtesy of UWMadArchives


Personally, these shows represent my favorite part of a football game, apart from the opportunity to eat pizza and scream at the TV, of course. Like so many people, I love the subtle timings and creativity present in the shows. The sheer excitement of seeing a group perform such exquisite team work is almost enough to get me off my butt and down to a game to cheer in the rain.

With the football season looming, now’s the time to get your team ready for the marching band parades. There are plenty of opportunities around to practice on school tours and a trip to a live game represents a great experience for high school students.

But where better to look for inspiration for your own marching band show than the country’s best bands? Some are so legendary that they barely need an introduction, but some in this list are a little more, shall we say, rebellious. Either way, they all have a particular flavor of their own.

Sonic Boom of the South – Jackson State University

With plenty of jaunty high-steps and drill designs, this formation is always exciting and full of school pride. They have a moderately high profile, and have performed at several big television events, including NFL half-time shows. Boasting around three hundred members, this band shines in its ability to keep on playing great tunes and by delighting fans and rivals alike.

Stanford University Marching Band – Stanford

This is one band that always attracts a lot of controversy, but I like their irreverent attitude. This scatter band usually picks current topics and turns them into satire. Recently, they have gotten into trouble with BYU for making fun of polygamy and also attracted the wrath of Notre Dame for mocking nuns. Some people dislike their antics, but they continue to push boundaries and retain their creativity.

The Sprit of Troy – University of Southern California

The fact that the members of this band call themselves ‘The Greatest Marching Band in the History of the Universe’ says it all: they are undoubtedly arrogant, but we’ll humor them a little because they have good reason. They are a true showbiz band, and have performed with some great artists over the years, including Michael Jackson, and regularly preen and pose on big award shows like the Grammys.

The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band – Texas A&M University

These guys are pure class – in three words, clean, polished and professional. The band is steeped in tradition, which works well with the University’s military M.O. Their use of complex drill designs and precise military structure has earned the band places at presidential parades. A sense of occasion accompanies their shows while their formations have a liquid-like quality. Truly, this band is the cream of university troupes.

The Wisconsin Marching Band – Wisconsin University

This is another renegade band, but they’re a lot of fun. Although allegations involving: hazing, liquor and sex meant that they were forced to wait on the sidelines during a game against Ohio, they still have a rousing ritual that they perform at every game: the fifth quarter. This is a great example of a band working its ass off to get every person in the crowd participating, something which many bands don’t seem to care about enough.

The Marching 110 – Ohio University

The name refers to the 110% that each member is expected to give during each performance. They are also referred to as: ‘The Most Exciting Band in the Land!’ which is a fitting moniker for a band known for a high-energy marching style, dances and fiery team spirit. This is a team to watch on your school tours as until 2006 they were pretty middling, but their ascension since then has been extraordinary.

Lalage has organized school tours for high school students and continues to delight in watching a marching band show in action.

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