Have you ever been to a high school or college football game? If you have, you were probably treated to a show at halftime. In addition to the gridiron action, many people look forward to seeing a unique act that combines music with movement. What are we talking about? The marching band, of course!

A marching band puts music into motion. Marching band members play a wide variety of instruments. Rather than sitting in a chair, though, marching band members play their instruments while they march and sometimes even dance.

Choreographers coordinate the movements of band members to create a moving piece of art that’s a feast for the eyes. Marching bands also often include other performers, including dancers or color guard groups, who carry or twirl flags or other items and dance to tell a story that goes along with the music.

Most marching bands contain a variety of instruments, including brass, woodwinds and percussion. Some instruments you’re likely to see in a marching band include flutes, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and drums.

Marching bands have been around a long, long time. Their origins can be traced back to traveling musicians who played at festivals thousands of years ago. The first true marching bands, though, were military bands.

Long ago, armies did not have the sophisticated communications devices that exist today. Early military groups used bands to help organize and direct the movements of troops on the battlefield. Musical instruments helped to coordinate complex military movements and keep soldiers together and in line.

As communications devices developed over time, military bands became unnecessary. The tradition continued, however, in the form of marching bands. Marching bands began to focus instead on entertainment and ceremonial functions.

Today, you’ll find marching bands playing at sporting events and parades. Marching bands can have a few dozen to several hundred members. In fact, some bands are huge! The Allen Eagle Escadrille — a high school marching band from Texas — claims to be the world’s largest marching band with over 800 members!

38 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (24 votes, avg. 4.63 out of 5)
    • Hey Taquirria! That’s a good question! Since marching bands have been around so long dating back to traveling musicians at festivals, we bet there were thousands and thousands of them! You can also think about how many different high schools and colleges there are out there nowadays. That means even more. Do you think it’s possible to count them all? Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

    • Hey Jack! We are glad you like the music! It was fun to listen to. Have you ever seen a marching band? You might see a marching band show at halftime during a football game. While the players take a break from playing, the marching band entertains the audience in the stadiums. What song do you think would be fun to hear a marching band play? You can also WONDER more about football with some of the other Wonders of the Day: http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/are-footballs-really-made-of-pigskin/. Thanks for the comment, Jack! :)

    • Hi Mikayla! That is a good question to ask someone who has joined the army! Do you know anyone or have you ever met someone in military service? We bet everyone has their own reason. This Wonder of the Day ‘What is the Medal of Honor?’ (http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-the-medal-of-honor/) features soldiers who do brave things for their country. That might answer part of your question, so check it out! :)

    • Lilly, we are so glad you liked the video! What was your favorite part? Have you ever seen a marching band perform? We bet it would be a fun show! Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

    • Hey Jaylen! That’s cool to hear about your cousin! Has he ever played in a marching band or does he like to watch them perform? What about you? Thanks for WONDERing, Jaylen!

  1. THOUGHT: I play football for Christian Park.
    WWOTD: I coordinate the sound.
    PREDICTION: I predict that I will keep playing football.

  2. THOUGHT: I thought the video was very inspiring and it did take work to do this challenge.

    CONNECTION: My connection is my sister wanted to do the marching band in the future but she gave up on it. I tried to persuade her to do it, but she gave up on it.

    PREDICTION: My prediction is that it is going to be about people.

  3. THOUGHT: I didn’t know that many people were in marching bands.
    CONNECTION: I saw a marching band before.
    WWOTD: I graphed on the coordinate plane.
    PREDICTION: I think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about weather.

    • Thanks for the comment, Elizabeth! Did you see a marching band at a high school or college football game? How many people do you think were in the band? It’s fun to WONDER about how the Allen Eagle Escadrille Band can coordinate 800 people! That would take a lot of practice, don’t you think? Thanks, Elizabeth! :)

  4. THOUGHT: Are there more marching bands you know than The Allen Eagle Escadrille band?

    CONNECTION: Last year in 4th grade, my gym teacher Mr. Stillman had a HUGE bass drum and I think he was in a marching band.

    WWOTD: The game Battleship is about coordinates.

    PREDICTION: I think tomorrow’s Wonder is about atmospheres.

    • Hey Tam! We WONDER about all different types of marching bands! Can you think of another one that you’ve seen or heard about? If Mr. Stillman was in a marching band, then you know about that one too! Thanks for WONDERing with us, Tam! :)

  5. THOUGHT: I really liked the video of that marching band.
    CONNECTION: My big brother was in a marching band when he was a freshman.
    PREDICTION: I think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about weather.

    • Hey Tiffany! What was your favorite part about the video? What instrument did your brother play in the marching band? Do you think you’d like to follow in his footsteps and play in a marching band when you’re a freshman? That could be a FUN thing to WONDER about, Tiffany! Thanks! :)

  6. THOUGHT: I thought that the video was showing me that it was the biggest band.

    CONNECTION: I have been to a big band in New Orleans.

    PREDICTION: I think tomorrow’s video will be about feet.

    WWOTD: A number that is a coordinate identifies a position relative to an axis.

    • Hey Tairyn! Thanks for the comment! What did you think about the big band you saw in New Orleans? Did they play a favorite song of yours? Happy WONDERing! :)

  7. Thought: I didn’t know that.

    Connection: My mama was in a marching band.

    WWOTD: A coordinate is a number that identifies a position relative to an axis.

    Prediction: It’s probably about how important weather is.

    • Thanks for sharing, Brandon! Do you think you would ever want to play in a marching band like your mom? You could practice songs together with your whole family! What instrument do you think you could play? Thanks, Brandon! :)

  8. That Was… slooooow moooootion aaawsooooome!!! :D

    I liked that video!!!

    The next Wonder sounds like it will be epic! Maybe it will be about weather…

    I noticed that the Wonderers are doing this:


    What does it mean? Hmmm, I wonder?

    • Hey Max! We are glad you thought the video was awesome! We agree! What was your favorite part?

      We have all kinds of WONDERers at Wonderopolis and some classrooms together make connections and prediction, as well as try out new words! Do you like to WONDER with your classroom? What’s a fun way you could do that? Have a great day, Max! :)

    • That is a great question, Texiana! In today’s Wonder of the Day, we found out they can play at sporting events and parades, so what do you think? Do you think it would be fun to have a marching band at a track event? Maybe you know of a high school or college student that can tell you if their school does. Let us know what you find out! Thanks, Texiana! :)

    • Thanks, Kaleb! We are so glad you liked it! Is this your first visit to Wonderopolis? What was your favorite part of the video? Have you ever seen a marching band before? Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

  9. We were shocked to see a “bad word” on the link for the 7 Amazingly Cool Marching Band Routines… I was showing this to my 4th graders and not only did the guy on the video SAY the word, but it was flashed up on the screen (Smart Board) in giant letters! This is the first time this has happened, and that’s what I love about Wonderopolis…I can show my kids the info and videos without having to preview first because it is geared towards kids. Please take this link down, and make sure there aren’t inappropriate things before using. Thanks so much for the WONDERful information and activities you share with us! We LOVE Wonderopolis!!!!

    Mrs. Morris’s Gifted Class (QUEST)

    • Hi Mrs. Morris, we are so very sorry about this mistake. Please forgive us for not citing this issue during our review process. We are so very grateful for the WONDERful educators and families who make Wonderopolis the place it is. Thanks for bringing this issue to our attention; the link has been removed. We really appreciate your help and all your support. :)

  10. Fantastic! Thanks for getting right on it! Can’t wait to share this with my students as a lesson of responsibility and accountability :) keep those wonders coming!

    • Thanks again, Mrs. Morris. We appreciate your help and we love how you’ve turned this into a great teaching opportunity. Check and double check! :-)

  11. i play in cadet band and once a year we go to Saskatoon for something called musicon. that is where i learnt to march with my bass clarinet. what are your comments on marching being easy? i must say it is pretty complicated but i like it. im also going to a cadet military band camp. do they still have actual military bands for the recruits and reservists?

    • It sounds like you have lots of fun being in band, chloe! Your WONDER about the military band would be a great nomination for a future Wonder of the day. Click on the “What are you wondering” tab on the left of the screen. Have fun at band camp! Keep chasing your dreams and WONDERing, chloe! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What’s the biggest marching band?
  • How did the marching band get started?
  • What types of instruments make up a marching band?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

We hope you’re marching to our tune today! Grab a friend or family member and check out one or more of the following activities:

  • Have you ever seen a marching band perform? If not, you don’t know what you’re missing. Check out one or more of the following videos to see some great marching bands in action:
  • Take a field trip to see a marching band perform! Ask an adult to help you figure out a great time and place to see a marching band. Perhaps there’s a parade happening in a local town. You might also check with a local high school to find out when the next time their marching band will be performing. It could be as soon as an upcoming sporting event! When you see the marching band, try to count its members. How many are there? You could also try to count how many different instruments you see. Have fun and enjoy an entertaining musical performance!
  • Ready to join a marching band? Even if you’re not old enough yet to join your school’s band, you can make your own marching band at home! All you need are a few friends or family members, some instruments, and a willingness to have fun. So recruit some band members and get busy finding some instruments. You don’t need real music instruments if none are available. You can always just make your own instruments from things you find around the house. For example, if you have a bowl and a couple wooden spoons, you now have a drum kit! If you have an empty soda bottle, you can make your own basic woodwind instrument. There are many other types of instruments you can make at home. Just use your imagination! Once you have a few volunteers and some instruments, get to marching! Pick out a simple song that you all know. “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” might make a good tune to start with. Practice playing the song together for a few minutes and then think of some basic steps to go with it. When you’re ready, try marching through your basic steps while playing. It’s probably going to be harder than you expect. Playing an instrument by itself can be hard enough. Doing it — and doing it properly — can be a real challenge if you’re trying to walk at the same time! As with all things, practice makes perfect. Most importantly, have fun! Try different songs and different movements. You never know when you might be inspired to join a real marching band one day!

Still Wondering

Check out ArtsEdge’s Brass Music: Treme Brass Band feature to learn about New Orleans’ long tradition of brass bands, dating back to the early 20th century. Consisting mostly of brass instruments like trumpets and trombones and percussion, brass bands played a blend of European military band music, African folk music, and jazz.

Test Your Knowledge

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