Oak Ridge, Sports, United States

Marching Bands, What They do and Why They’re Around

Ever since the American Revolution, marching band have always had a place to be and a purpose. At Oak Ridge, our band performs at football games, cheers on the basketball and volleyball teams, and even competes with other bands by performing field shows, jazz shows, concerts, but most importantly, marching. No matter where they are, their music would bring cheer or seriousness to the table. To some people marching bands are just attractions used to entertain audiences, however, they are more than that,  they go back past the Civil War to Switzerland. But how did marching bands influence history to where we are today? How did the colonies use these marching bands to win the battles that would let the colonies declare their independence and become what is the United States?

Civil War Band of the 60th New York Volunteers (Civil War Talk)

When the American Revolution was happening, bands consisted of drums, fifes, and sometimes brass instruments. The bands would perform various tasks, from performing small tunes to maintaining the order of battle by keeping everyone in line and formal. Music was also a form of communicating over long distances because there were no radios and messengers were too slow. Soldiers who had knowledge of the terrain would hear music and move to locations that corresponded with the music or while in battle where to shoot or where to move towards. In the camps, there were individual tunes were used command soldiers to wake up, eat meals, and perform camp chores. Music was provided to start and end the work day and if a certain was played, more fifers and drummers would join and the whole army would know what to do. The whole army would be disciplined by the band and the commands given. In the American revolution, marching bands would be doing things similar to the marching bands in the Civil War. For example. Col. Benjamin Franklin marched with over 1000 marching bands, fitted with fifes, drums, and other instruments. These bands would be used in special occasions or ceremonies. As for bands who were on the battlefield, they brought inspiration to the soldiers that defeated the British. A notable example of this was the Battle of Bennington. The Battle of Bennington, was one of the important turning points for the war. The bands fifes and drums were played well into the enemy’s positions and with the soldiers, inspired by the music, defeated the British.

American Revolution Marching Band (John E Simpson)

But how does this influence marching bands today? Oak Ridge’s marching band, lead by Drum Major Cary Patterson and Band Directory Paul Varoff, is one of Oak Ridge’s entertainment groups for the football games’ halftime shows. Directors of bands try to keep marching bands as close as to the real deal as possible. For example, we still use commands, such as “Band ten hut” or “Forward, March”, and the band would know what to do. We even still use tunes for different signals compared to the marching bands in the Civil War or the American Revolution. The band plays different tunes not to just entertain the crowd while the football teams are in a timeout, but also to signal different signals such as if it’s first down for our team and playing distracting noises every time it’s our team’s turn for the kick off. The band would play their songs to “hype up” the football team which lead to the football team to hype themselves up even more. The band is also one of the most disciplined groups in the school. Although they only have one day of rehearsals every week, they make it count. The practice marching and music with a new modern addition to the band which is color guard. The band also performs at marching competitions where they perform marches combined with music and occasionally field shows. The unity and discipline of the band is challenged with other bands on how well they march, how they’re music is played, and who well they’re together as a unit. Some marching bands even go out of their way to travel over the country. But the United States isn’t the only country to have a marching band, music was being played on battlefields in Switzerland and the tradition has traveled to America used in the Civil War and the American Revolution.

Oak Ridge Marching Band (Oak Ridge)

Music has overall played a big role in the military and have been around for thousands of years. Whether it’s helping soldiers get ready in the morning or marketing their meal and bedtime, Marching bands have made a huge impact on the military history and on soldiers lives today. In conclusion, Marching bands are not just for entertainment purposes but instead have a huge history with the American Revolution, Civil War and other famous battles in that time, so next time you take witness of a marching band, think back to all of the influences of the marching bands in the past to this day.


Article by Nick Biaggi, Adrian Ordanza

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