Before the marching season can get started, there are tons of things to do. Marching band is really not a “season” but a year-round endeavor! As you gear up for the meat of the season, I have found that having “try-it-out” camps are a great way for incoming 8th graders to see if marching band is a good fit for them or not. We start these camps in late April/early May (although your schedule may be very different). Our camps last until we have a mandatory parent meeting where we ask students to make a commitment to be in marching band. Then, we begin our summer training.
Marching Band Camp Checklist
Several things need to happen to make all of this come together. Here are some thoughts about the process:
1. Make a List of Returning and Incoming Students
We have a meeting in February to invite 8th graders in to give them information about the program and our expectations. We collect info at that meeting and start a spreadsheet to include contact info.
2. Hold Auditions
Students need to know what classes they will be in and this also determines which part they will play in marching band. We hold these auditions in mid-April. Many programs do this in March due to the school needing the info earlier.
You need to let everyone know about the “try-it-out” training. Have middle school directors announce this or go over and announce yourself if possible.
4. Assemble a Staff
If you have the resources to have a staff, assemble them and have them attend all the rehearsals so students begin to know who they are and what they will be doing.
5. Learn Everyone’s Name
At the “try-it-outs” go around and learn everyone’s name! This is very important! When you learn a student’s name, they sense you care and are more likely to stick around.
6. Have a Parent Meeting
At this meeting, you will need to explain everything that goes into marching band including all of the expectations for the summer rehearsals and fall rehearsals. Make sure you outline the attendance policy and summer rehearsal and band camp rehearsal schedules.
7. Check out Instruments
Once you receive a commitment, check out marching instruments so students can start learning how to use them.
8. Hold a Mini Marching Band Camp
At this camp, do your best to figure out numbers for the drill writer. Hold auditions (both marching and playing) during this camp to initially evaluate how students are progressing. This is one of the most difficult things to do.
You want your drill writer to get started as soon as possible, but it might not be feasible for them to get started until late July or August due to students moving in and out or changing instruments, etc. You have to communicate with your drill writer to figure out what this will look like and what they need to get the job done. Especially, how much time they need.
Also, throughout this process, you will need to figure out if you will have alternates/shadows or not. If you have a large band, this might be feasible and will protect you if someone quits, moves, injures themselves, etc.
9. Practice Throughout the Summer (as You See Fit)
The practices in the summer are used to evaluate students and monitor their progress. Pass out the show music and begin learning it along with all the warm ups for the season. Develop a list of marching techniques that you want your students to know and make sure you have a plan to get to all of them before your mandatory band camp.
10. Schedule Mandatory Band Camp
Band camp is required. Ours begin two weeks before school starts (or whatever works for your schedule). Use this time to learn drill and put it with music. Also, try to bring in a sectional staff and have them work with individual sections or families of instruments on the music. Get yourself set up to march at least one movement of the show at the first football game to impress the crowd, students, school, etc.
Show Design and Other Long-Term Prep
As a part of your preparations, you should start designing your show as early as possible after the previous marching season. If you are doing a custom arranged show, I would recommend beginning the process in December by starting to develop an idea. Make sure you can get copyright clearance before pursuing the show. Then, have your arranger work throughout the spring to write the show and develop the show together with the drill designer. Focus on effect moments throughout and design accordingly.
Also, hire someone to write your front ensemble and battery parts for percussion. If your color guard instructor cannot write the work for the show, hire someone to write the work and then have your instructor teach it. Don’t forget to think about a body program for the band as well!
There are a lot of moving parts to a marching band program, and while the season only lasts for the fall, it is really a year-round process. Good luck!