Below are 10 things to consider when choosing your Marching Band Show. This is not a top ten list, but more about a dialog for you to think about. As a former HS Band Director and show coordinator, I found this list to be helpful in choosing an appropriate show. One year we had 6 trumpets, and 4 of them were thirds! With that band, we picked a show that was not dependent on the trumpet section, for obvious reasons. Here is the list:
1. The age of your band
This is one of the most important things to consider when thinking about the possibilities of your show. Will you chose material that is heavily intellectual like Medusa or a simple musical idea like a show based on the music of Billy Joel . If you have an older band, feel free to use their knowledge and skills to play something more challenging technically or emotionally. With a young band, consider music that is easier to play with less individual parts. This will help your younger players to achieve more.
2. The size of your band
We would all love to have large bands that can play any style of music. However, most of us have normal size bands or even smaller sized bands. Think about the stamina of your players. You should never play the Pines of Rome with a 40 piece band. Likewise, Russian Christmas Music doesn’t sound the same with a small group. If you have a small group, look for arrangements that are designed for reduced instrumentation.
3. Your instrumentation
Is your group dominated by a particular section? Are you Brass or Woodwind heavy? If you have a nice size band, but don’t have a lot of trumpets, don’t pick a jazz show. If you have an amazing woodwind section, find a show that will showcase their talents. If your drum line and pit is amazing, look for ways to let them shine.
4. The strengths of your program
This goes hand in hand with instrumentation, but also has to deal with their visual skills. I had a band that came to me and said that even though they were small in size that they were used to a heavy visual book. While this is rare, I looked them up on YouTube and sure enough, they marched their butts off! As a writer, this was something that they were very proud of and was a definite strength. Think about what sections of the band you would like to showcase and then find opportunities for them to be the focus.
5. How many hours you rehearse
This is something I wish more directors would think about. We all have demands on the students that we teach. In smaller schools, students are typically shared among activities. I worked with a school that could not plan anything on Wednesday nights, because it was a traditional family night in their area. If you rehearse for a limited amount of time each week, choose a show that is attainable by your kids in that amount of time. Do not bite off more than you can chew! Likewise, if you have multiple weeknight rehearsals, sectionals, and even Saturday rehearsals, you are probably already at a high level and the kids are used to maximizing rehearsal time. Find a show that fits and go for it.
6. The personality of your kids
Take into account what types of music your kids enjoy playing. I’m not saying that you should do a pop show, but match the show to your kids’ personalities. If your kids are more classical minded, try to find a classical based show. If your kids are more into modern music, look to find something in that vein.
7. The ability of your Colorguard
This to me is the most overlooked consideration. I have seen bands try to pull off a show that needed a strong guard that did not have one. Do not put your guard instructor in a position that they have to carry the show visually when they have a young guard. Pick music that is more appropriate to their visual level. Likewise, if your guard competes in WGI in the A, open or world level, find a show that will let them add to the visual enjoyment. Look for places that they can take the focus and make an impressive effect on your program.
8. The instructional level of your staff
This is sometimes a sore subject among directors. (and often overlooked) Your staff is just as important to your program as the kids. You need to pick a show that the staff can understand and implement. I have seen young band directors choose a show based upon what a drum corps did in the previous seasons. This is not always a bad thing, but the corps had a great staff to help teach the concepts. If your staff is new or inexperienced, choose a show that they can teach to the kids. If the staff has a hard time understanding the demands of the show, they will not be able to teach it to the kids. If you’re lucky enough to have a large staff, make sure you have them all on the same page as to the direction of the show. If you have no staff, choose something that you feel comfortable with teaching. Don’t try to be something that you are not.
9. The community that you live in
While this may be odd to think about, let me explain my thinking on this. Community support is important when running a program. We have to answer to our administrators as well as our parents. Think about your community and their values. Do not select a show that may be against those values. If you are considering a show that may be controversial, talk it over with your administration.
10. Your show budget
Yes we all struggle with budgets. There are good shows out there for reasonable fees. You can go the custom music route and pay upwards of $2000 – $5000 for a show. You can purchase a stock music show for around $150 – $400. You must also keep in mind the drill design costs. A DCI level writer will cost you way more than a local or regional writer. At The Marching Warehouse, we can help you put together a nice show that can fit your kid’s personalities, needs, and experience for a reasonable price. Here is a link to our current show ideas. If you have other ideas, we can help put them together for you.
Thank you for taking the time to read these considerations. I wish you the best as you choose the right show to for your group.