Libra Academy at Linda Esperanza Marquez

Marching Band… a sport?

When the topic of marching band is brought up, many students assume how “easy” it is to go out on a field and play several songs that have to be memorized to near perfection. If marching band is not considered a sport, then ask yourself this: can you march 12 plus miles, while staying aligned with your rank and file (rows and columns)? Can you make sure your marching is coordinated with everyone else’s in the band? Can you maintain your sharp visuals, or play an instrument that could possibly weigh up to 40 pounds while marching? According to the Oxford Dictionary, a sport is defined as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”

“Well if band does competitions, then it is a sport,” said senior Henry Rositas.

“Since chess does competitions, then chess is a sport, too right?” senior Alex Morales added as he overheard Rositas’ answer.

But the question still remains, is marching band a sport?

It is widely assumed that marching band is just a performing art; many do not see the countless hours of hard work band members do everyday. Recently, LAUSD hosted its 43rd All City District Honor Band (All City), in which over 300 students dedicated not only their Saturdays in October, but also their winter vacation in December and January. The participants practice endlessly just to perform at the Disneyland Magic Music Days Parade, Bandfest, the 127th Tournament of Roses Parade and the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade. After having sheet music for as little as five weeks with songs packed to the page, the band members were required to have the six songs memorized.

“It may sound easy to memorize the music but when we received the sheet music, the directors expected us to know how to sight-read (reading and performing without preparation) and play the songs” commented Aldo Sierra, a drum major.

Along with the music memorization, these students condition themselves to march at high step (which is marching with your feet high at a 90-degree angle while having your feet pointed down) uphill, downhill and along jagged streets. Having six band members in the entire school of Marquez to try out for All City but then having only MaryJane Navarro (HPIAM), Aldo Sierra (HPIAM), Salvador Cortes (HPIAM) and Gabrielle Martinez (LIBRA) actually fulfilling and committing to all of the rigorous work.

Sierra, who participated in All City for two consecutive years felt that “many people wouldn’t have considered marching band a sport; but I would feel that they would understand that marching band isn’t just standing still and playing music. It’s more than that. We [participants in All City] have to march in uniforms that weigh 20 pounds for miles at a time.”

Marching with about 60 pounds would cause someone to build stamina and endurance to overcome fatigue. Kind of sounds like all sports, doesn’t it?

With Libra Academy consisting of predominantly student-athletes, the answer to whether marching band is a sport was quite surprising. Omar Juarez, a varsity football player, expressed why he believes marching band is a sport.

“Don’t you carry that thing [referring to the sousaphone weighing on average 40 pounds] on your shoulder? I know I wouldn’t be able to do that for so long, so yes marching band is a sport,” he said.

When conducting my interviews, hearing that a football player agreed that marching band was a sport was shocking primarily because football is viewed as one of the dominant sports in general. When asking Erick Vaquero what his thoughts were on seeing marching band as a sport, he commented that “it simply wasn’t a sport.” When I had asked why he didn’t see marching band as a sport he had no comment.

A former high school basketball player had stated “marching band is a sport because of the synchronization that is used during each halftime performance when the members are marching.”

Marching band is presumed to be just walking, standing still and playing music, but parents even realize that marching band is so much more. Parent Jaime DiJohn explained how she at first did not consider marching band a sport, but having her daughter participate in All City, made her realize all the behind-the-scene work that is put into each performance. Another parent, Efren Lopez, also stated how “band requires endurance to march, play and hold up the instruments while sometimes even dancing.”

In most sports, all that is required is to run and look for an opening to score, but how would marching band score if it’s a sport? Well marching band plays at least a five-minute competitive song while performing a field show. A competitive song has various rhythms that are typically harder and longer than songs played at football games. Depending on the size of the marching band, it is then split up into different categories which is similar as to how sport teams are split into divisions. Once each band has performed, judges nitpick every detail about the band. Was the entire band in uniform? Were they all in sync with each other? Were there any notes that were played wrong? If there is one mistake, there goes the marching band’s score.

One of the biggest misconceptions about marching band is that they do not do as much as other sports. Many say that marching band “just plays music”, “they don’t do anything”, “they just walk” etc. But understand the same amount of time and energy that goes into soccer or football or basketball goes into band as well. Are activities only considered sports if they are vigorous as football, actively running as soccer or as engaging like basketball? In reality, the answer is no. Band may not be as vigorous as football or action packed as soccer but it does require a lot of physical and mental fitness. Unlike most sports, band isn’t able to take a pause in the middle of their performance. All of those long hours of practice are then showcased to the crowd; if a member messes up the band director cannot call a time-out and recuperate. Take in consideration all of the work that isn’t typically seen when you assume band isn’t a sport.

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