Should Marching Band be Mandatory?

One member considers the situation


Photo by Noah Smith

Hats off to the Marching Band

The Patchogue-Medford High School’s music program is really exceptional. It offers an opportunity for students to learn a useful skill: singing, and/or playing an instrument. And, it also opens up a whole array of awesome extracurricular activities.There is the Pit Orchestra for the Musical, Jazz Band, or Tri-M Honor Society to name a few. That said, it’s no surprise that a significant portion of our school participates in the music program. It’s very likely you know at least one person who is in Band, Orchestra, or Chorus. The weird thing is where other music programs, like Orchestra, are seeing increased enrollment, according to Band Director, Mr.Johnson Band is facing a decline in numbers.

First off, I’d like to preface this by saying I’m biased because I am a member of Band. That said, this to me, is very strange because, as mentioned previously, the music program has all these benefits and Band itself seems like a pretty appealing option. So what’s causing this contrast in numbers? Well, the real “culprit” of this situation is almost definitely…the Marching Band.

The PMHS Marching Band is only in its second year since its revival by Mr. Johnson. We have brand new uniforms and equipment. We also run a new “Band Camp” hosted for a few hours a day, for a week right before school starts. Also, last October, the Pat-Med Marching Band participated in the annual Newsday Marching Band Festival for the first time in 20 years! So, if the Marching Band is all fancy with its competitions and shiny new equipment & uniforms, why would this be a reason for leaving? Well, you see, the main point of contention with the students is that Marching Band is mandatory. Unlike Chorus or Orchestra, the band has this totally extra activity and it’s required if you want to be in Band. But as you, I, and all of us know, doing nothing is WAY easier than doing something. So as of this year, all competitions, parades, and Varsity Football games that we play at are required and factored into our grades.

One side of this argument is that Marching Bands need to be big. Considering, most of the time, they’re playing outside, and pretty far away from their audience. You need a pretty large group just to be heard. So, you can see why the music director would want to make it mandatory in order reach the threshold to be a sufficient marching band. The other side of the argument is that Marching Band is a pretty sizable commitment, and when you, as most people do, have other things, like sports, the play, any other extra-curricular club, or a job, Marching Band can take valuable time from things like homework or sleep. All for something you may not want to do. Also, keep in mind that Marching Band is on top of all other required activities entailed in Band, like all the concerts, lessons, and NYSSMA activities. A complaint I’ve heard a lot is that the majority of your grade is earned OUTSIDE the Band Room which is a pretty valid argument. Taking Band is definitely a major commitment, even more so than the other music classes, so you really have to be passionate about it to sink that time in.

There’s no simple way to fix this problem with Band. It’s either force people into a good Marching Band, or create an optional, but possibly worse, one. However, it turns out though, I’m sure it’ll sound great.