By Jennifer Liyanage and Katie Ryu
Football games are a seemingly necessary aspect of the American high school experience. The cheering crowds, skillful passes and plays, and cheer stunts can create a Friday night to remember. However, there’s a fundamental element of these games that often goes overlooked: marching band and drumline. The rumble of the tuba, the rattle of the drums, and the chime of the marimba resound through the stadium, however they are often not noticed for their own skill. Granada Hills Charter’s (GHC) marching band never fails to expertly deliver a pep tune or march with synchronized precision, making them the unrecognized contributors to the acclaimed “football game experience.”
Unfortunately, that lack of recognition extends past football games. Marching band isn’t viewed as a sport, and its members aren’t viewed as athletes despite being fully deserving of the title.
An athlete is someone who is trained or gifted in exercises and competitions involving physical agility, stamina, and/or strength. Students in the marching band certainly qualify for this. Not only are they attentively taught proper techniques for breathing, marching, and movement, they also practice and compete for hours on end.
At GHC, band director Brandon Cunningham trains his team intensely. Band members must attend mandatory Monday practices on the field that last from 5:30-9:00 P.M., Saturday practices from 9 A.M. to 4 P.M., and even pop-up rehearsals scheduled at Cunningham’s discretion. During these practices, marching band reviews their music and marching fundamentals. They also focus on building stamina with regular runs around the track and specific stretches.
“I have to roll my marimba from the band room to the field for most practices, which is kind of far, and even though I don’t participate in many exhausting physical activities, it tires out my body after standing for hours on end,” junior percussion player Sarah Cortez said.
The primary factor that appears to differentiate marching band from conventional sports is the skillful incorporation of instruments. The woodwinds, brass, and percussion seem to indicate one thing: band kids are not only legitimate athletes, but athletes with musical ability.
These athletes need a significant amount of stamina and upper body strength during the entire show to maintain marching formations and keep correct form while playing music. It is approximately 100 performers marching in perfect, trained synchronicity.
“I feel like a lot of people think it’s like playing your instrument and that’s it. That’s a misconception. They don’t realize that we have to constantly use peripherals to keep in contact with the rest of the band and keep in formation. Band is an artistic sport. It’s the portrayal of a story through teamwork, musicality, and athleticism,” junior saxophone player Nicole Mkrtytchian said.