Southern and Midwestern Marching Bands: ‘Some of the Hardest Working People on Campus’

The Briton Brigade circles the rock. During the performance, Assistant Band Director Matt Clarke hopped atop to give a speech encouraging the band (Photo by Naima Davenport).

Texas marching bands

Across Texas, various high schools go against Hebron High School in the University Interscholastic League and tournaments. Hebron was invited to perform in The Tournament of Roses in 2021, a high honor in Texas, and was University Interscholastic League (UIL) State Champions in 2021

Marching bands in the South consist of anywhere between 50 to 1,000 students. The largest high school marching band within Texas is Allen High School. Within UIL, there are regional, area and state band contests. Each section has set rules and events.

Marcos Bea, a senior from Nimitz High School, plays alto and soprano saxophone. 

“I’ve been in band for four years, and plan to stay until I graduate,” Bea said.

Bea also said their practices are “very strict,” adding that, “attendance, performance and close attention to detail is expected.” Bea said he practices three times a week from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. as well as one weekly rehearsal from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

“The bands in Texas are extremely competitive, which creates an atmosphere where bands are constantly working to improve,” Bea said. “The commitment to marching band here is unlike anything I’ve seen, even in other organized sports.”

Ethan Booker, a first-year at DeSoto High School, also plays alto saxophone and says he has a different approach to practicing in the band. 

“It really just depends on my mood. Sometimes it feels like it’s a little loose and it needs a bit more structure but other times it’s a bit overbearing,” Booker said. “But overall, it’s consistently structured.”

Booker said he practices at least 15 hours a week, but the friendships make the time spent worth it.

“I don’t think I would be here if it wasn’t for the friendships and the people,” Booker said. “This is hard and sometimes you need a group of people to go at it with.”

Booker said that the difference he sees between bands in Texas and Midwest states is the heat – which other states don’t have to work with. 

“It’s hot here for no reason,” Booker said. 

Sophomore Joshua Camera, also from DeSoto High School, plays tenor and alto saxophone as well as clarinet. He has been marching since he started high school and says band practice is fairly strict but still enjoyable. He practices daily to “further improve and develop (his) sound.”

Camera said his biggest motivation for being in band is becoming a professional. 

“I aspire to be like those professional players and people I see online on Youtube,” Camera said, adding he continues marching because of the members. 

“They’re all fun and like music like me,” Camera said.

For Camera, the difference between Texas and Midwestern bands is in their numbers.

“Bands in Texas are usually very huge and have big sounds and have very high production value. Do (the) Blue Devils count?” Camera said. 

The Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps is a very well-known drum and bugle corps based out of California. They have placed no lower than fifth place in any competition since 1975. 

At the college level, students in Texas marching bands said that effort was key. Courtney Johnson, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, plays mellophone and the French horn. She has played eight years in the band and has been marching for five. Johnson said she believes because football is prevalent at UT Austin, as a result, the band has to try just as hard. 

“The bands also have to match that energy, especially in college since everything is on a more grand scale,” Johnson said.

The Briton Brigade 

The Briton Brigade performing “Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani. They marched to the notorious campus rock during this song (Photo by Naima Davenport).

Albion’s marching band, the Briton Brigade, is comprised of about 30 members. At the football team’s final game of the season on Nov. 11, the Briton Brigade played throughout the majority of its duration. They were constantly shouting phrases of praise: “Let’s go Brits” was said so often it seemed like every person was chanting it.

Horton senior Maddie Woods is the Brigade’s first twirler in over a decade and is leaving this year. Woods said they have been twirling for about 12 years and competed professionally before starting college. 

Woods choreographs their own routines, either practicing independently or with the color guard. Woods said there are qualities they exhibit that help them perform. Woods noted that flexibility is a good physical asset, adding that mentally and emotionally having a good work ethic is also really important. 

“Don’t beat yourself up,” Woods said. “Perfection is okay, but not necessary.” Woods said the members of the Brigade work well in a group, adding that, “this last performance was their best yet.” 

“As a team, we’ve grown from adversity and it has made us stronger as a group,” Woods said. 

New Orleans sophomore Connor Deeros, who was formerly in a Texan marching band, works with the color guard. Currently, as a member of the Briton Brigade, he practices four to five times a week. 

Deeros said that a strong suit he brings to the team is his energy.

“I bring that big Texas energy,” Deeros said.   

He also noted that the band has an “unmistakable” bond, saying that it’s stronger than years past but not comparable to the environment in Texas. Deeros said he wishes people would mirror or feel his energy instead of depleting it. 

“Texas band feels more emotional: More driven connection, big brass blasting, people dancing in stands,” Deeros said. 

Houston first-year Paris Nguyen, the bass drum in the drumline, said that drumline practice is about an hour extra on top of practice. Nguyen noted how easily the drumline learns the music and how during practice it’s easy to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. 

“Because of that ability, it’s hard to tell when one member messes up. It helps us talk about issues head-on instead of just resenting people,” Nguyen said. “Forgiveness comes easy, every day is new.”

Coming from Texas, Nguyen said it’s her understanding that Southern bands tend to provoke more emotion from audiences – whether that be positive or negative, their influence is greater Nguyen said.

Coldwater junior Kathleen Quimby, a snare drummer, said her practice is three out of five days a week from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.  She added that their band can, at times, practice for over eight hours. 

Quimby said something the team needs to work on is the band as a whole putting in the same amount of effort into practicing.  She said the band is like, “one big family” which makes it easy for them to practice together. 

“Brits are full of energy,” Quimby said. 

Detroit junior Lucas Kinney is Albion’s marching band’s only tenor saxophone. Kinney said they played saxophone “HBCU-style” throughout high school. The adjustment to Midwest marching is something they said they are shocked by. 

“It’s hard because I want to play the way I was taught, but this is a completely different style,” Kinney said, adding that sometimes keeping tempo and staying on time with one another can get difficult.

To Kinney, the small size of Albion’s marching band makes the band more effective.

“There’s a big sense of community,” Kinney said. “Everyone gets along well which makes it easy to correct each other.”

Dallas first-year Yair Maya is a trombonist in the marching band. Maya did varsity band for four years and has been marching since eighth grade. He said that in Dallas his band was allowed to play solos in the stands, playing back and forth with other bands at competitions and even play solos spontaneously at football games. 

“Marching bands in Texas have a lot more creative leeway,” Maya said, 

adding that in Albion, “football game energy is extremely different.”

Maya said there are noticeable differences between Southern and Midwestern states, including the passion. He noted that in Southern states if you don’t know how to play music, you can freestyle or flare it up. Maya said the Briton Brigade differs in that and has a stricter curriculum that provides less room to make up solos.

“I enjoy playing music so it’s not a credit thing; regardless, zero credits, I’d still do it,” Maya said.

One thing he said he was sure of was the Briton Brigades’s dedication to inclusivity. 

“Albion is more inclusive and since it is a smaller band I can talk to anyone in the band. I’m not just limited to my section,” Maya said.

In faculty leadership of the band, Assistant Band Director Matt Clarke said that band students are dedicated to their work. 

“The band is some of the hardest working people on campus,” Clarke said, adding that the team has a strong sense of forgiveness with each other and when anything happens they stay together. 

 Clarke went to Michigan State University, where he practiced with the marching band for four hours daily. Clarke assumes Texas marching bands might have a limit on the hours they can practice simply because schools have different guidelines. 

“Texas marching bands are some of the best, they’re known for their marching bands,” Clarke said.

Regardless of region, the amount of work marching bands put in is heard in their sound. The differences between the Briton Brigade and Southern bands consist mainly of music and operation differences such as the time and skill put into practice. The similarities show both put in the effort and work to ensure a performance’s success. 

“Marching band is about community,” Clarke said. 

About Naima Davenport 6 Articles
Naima Davenport is a first-year from Dallas, Texas majoring in English at Albion College. They enjoy reading as well as jewelry making. You can contact Naima at knd11@albion.edu

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