The modern collegiate marching band experience started in the late 1800s out of a campus military band tradition. As the popularity of football increased in the United States, so did the desire to include music and entertainment at contests that were taking place on American’s college campuses. Much of what college bands have done at their most fundamental level over the course of their history has not changed. For example, they perform at football games, play school music, and perform marching drills on the field. The types of performances, style and repertoire have all developed, but the overall role has remained the same.
The size of the school or National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) football classification does not impact marching band activity’s basic function to rehearse several hours a week and to perform at football games. Some collegiate marching bands can perform at small NCAA Division III school stadiums with seating capacities with a few thousand, while others from NCAA Division I schools can perform at stadiums that approach and may even exceed 100,000 seats. Based on traditions and practices at a school, on game days the commitment for members of the band can be as brief as a four hour commitment or as long as nine hours (Fuller 1995). Pep rallies, parades and other such events may constitute extra performances on game days as well. Additionally, some bands may also perform at pep rallies, away games, parades, professional sporting events, and as an exhibition band at high school band festivals and competitions or showcases of collegiate marching bands.
Future school music teachers are sometimes required to participate in the collegiate marching band at their institution. However most students who choose to participate in collegiate marching bands come from a variety of academic programs. In spite of the large time commitment in both rehearsals and performances, college marching bands continue to typically be the largest student organizations on their respective campuses (Villella 1996).
Research to date has addressed student involvement in college/university activities, athletics and organizations in general, e.g. Astin’s (1984) investigation or focus specifically on certain demographic groups such as Reed’s (1993) work. Other research investigated profiles of collegiate and university band programs (Brozack 2004, Fuller 1995). Other research provides profiles of students who participate in marching band (Villella, 1996 Young, 2001). Madsen, Plack, and Dunnigan (2007) explored the topic of motivation in regards to if a collegiate marching band functions as a recruitment tool. However, there appears to be little research regarding broadly the motivations of college students to participate in marching bands.
The purpose for doing this inquiry was to seek out why students choose to participate in college or university marching bands. What collegiate marching band experiences do students enjoy the most? Does institutional loyalty take a role in student’s choice to participate in the activity? What factors influence a student’s choice to participate in the activity? Exploration of these questions can have many benefits to understanding for directors for the purpose of recruitment and retention.