Do College Marching Bands Compete

College Marching Bands

College marching bands are an integral part of the American collegiate experience and are famed for their captivating musical performances. But, do these talented ensembles engage in competitions to showcase their musical prowess and intricate marching formations? Let’s explore the world of college marching bands and uncover whether they compete against their peers.

College marching bands are ensembles of musicians that play at competitions, football games, and parades. Typically, percussion, woodwind, brass, colour guard, and majorettes make up these bands.

College marching bands play a significant role in fostering a sense of school culture. They give students a chance to show off their musical abilities and represent their school well. They also contribute to the development of a feeling of pride and community among teachers, staff, and alumni.

Do College Marching Bands Compete

College marching bands operate in a very different environment than high school marching bands, which participate in competitions. College marching bands don’t hold official national or international championships, but that doesn’t mean they don’t compete. These bands get to showcase their skill, artistry, and commitment to the art of marching music at several regional and state competitions.

What, therefore, makes some college marching bands decide to compete and others not? The budget of the school, the size and resources of the band, and the philosophy of the band director all play a role in the decision to compete. Some directors feel that rivalry makes the band stronger, improves their musicianship, and inspires them to reach new heights.

On the other hand, some choose not to due to the financial strain, the time commitment, and the potential for stress that competition can impose. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to compete rests with each college marching band, and there is no right or wrong answer.

How to Prepare for a Marching Band Competition

The first day of marching band practice is when you start preparing for a marching band competition. To perfect your performance, your band practices once or multiple times a week after school. You have to learn how to march, learn the show music, and put your marching skills and the show music together to create a show to compete against the marching bands of other schools.

You train your musical and muscular memories through weekly practice, which will help your body know where to go when you perform at halftime or in Marching Band Competitions. You can also practically play the show music in your sleep and concentrate on maintaining the calibre of your marching both individually and as a member of a larger unit. Consider your band’s weekly halftime show at home or away football games as a kind of dress rehearsal.

Every week, your whole band will march onto the field dressed in uniform, salute when called upon, and start to play. In a marching band competition, that is exactly what your band will do. The sole distinction is that, unlike other bands, you are not evaluated by professional marching band judges or pitted against other bands at every Friday night halftime show.

Still, consider halftime shows at football games to be a competition; your goal is to look and sound as good as you can while making as few mistakes as possible during the performance. You are competing against the performance you gave the previous week.

How Are Marching Band Competitions Scored? 

Marching band competitions are scored on a variety of factors, including music performance, marching technique, visual effect, and overall showmanship. The specific criteria and weighting of these factors may vary depending on the organization hosting the competition.

Here’s a breakdown of the key elements considered in judging marching band competitions:

Music Performance:

  • Accuracy of notes and rhythms
  • Quality of tone and dynamics
  • Musicality and interpretation
  • Ensemble balance and intonation

Marching Technique:

  • Precision of steps and formations
  • Execution of manoeuvres and drills
  • Body posture and carriage
  • Overall alignment and synchronization

Visual Effect:

  • Costumes and props
  • Colour coordination and movement
  • Choreography and staging
  • Overall visual impact and appeal

Overall Showmanship:

  • Entertainment value and audience engagement
  • Creativity and originality
  • Showmanship and stage presence
  • Overall impact and impression

Judges typically assign scores for each of these elements, with higher scores indicating better performance. The overall score is then determined by combining the individual scores. Some competitions may also have additional categories, such as general effects and percussion performance.

In addition to these objective criteria, judges also consider subjective factors such as the band’s overall energy, enthusiasm, and connection with the audience. These subjective factors can sometimes influence the final scores. Marching band competitions can be a highly competitive and demanding activity, but they also provide a valuable opportunity for bands to showcase their talent, improve their skills, and gain recognition for their hard work and dedication.

Marching Band Competitions Across The US

Every year during marching season, hundreds of marching band competitions take place across the United States. There will probably be a “state competition” in your state, but here are some other noteworthy marching band competitions:

  • Bands of America (BOA)

BOA is one of the most prestigious marching band organizations in the country, hosting regional and national championships across the US. Their competitions are known for their high standards and rigorous judging, attracting top-tier bands from all over the country.

  • Rainbow Invitational

The Rainbow Invitational is a prestigious marching band competition held annually in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is known for its invitational format, attracting only the top-ranked bands from around the country. The competition is known for its high level of competition and its focus on music performance, marching technique, and showmanship.

  • United States Scholastic Band Association (USSBA)

USSBA is a leading organizer of marching band competitions in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Their competitions are known for their focus on marching technique and visual effect, attracting bands that excel in precision and visual impact.

Others include;

  • US Bands Competitions
  • Mid-States Band Association Competitions
  • University Interscholastic League (Texas)
  • Pacific Northwest Marching Band Championships
  • Rainbow Invitational



Marching band competitions play an important role in the marching band community, providing motivation, inspiration, and a platform for bands to showcase their talents. They also encourage bands to strive for excellence, pushing them to improve their music performance, marching technique, and overall showmanship. Marching band competitions also serve as a valuable learning experience for band members, providing them with opportunities to perform under pressure, receive feedback from experienced judges, and learn from other bands.

Additionally, competitions foster camaraderie and a sense of community among band members from different schools and regions. Overall, marching band competitions are a vital part of the marching band experience, providing a platform for bands to compete, learn, and grow, while also contributing to the rich tradition of marching band in the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do college marching bands compete?

A: Yes, college marching bands do compete, but not in the same way that high school marching bands do. There are no national or international championships for college marching bands, but there are many regional and state competitions. These competitions are typically judged on a variety of factors, including musicality, marching technique, visual effect, and overall showmanship.

Q: What are the benefits of competing for a college marching band?

A: There are many benefits that a college marching band can reap from competing, including:

  • Improved musicality and marching technique: Competition can help to push a band to improve its musicality and marching technique.
  • Enhanced teamwork and camaraderie: Competition can help to build teamwork and camaraderie among band members.
  • A sense of purpose and direction: Competition can provide a band with a sense of purpose and direction.
  • Recognition and prestige: Competing can help a band to gain recognition and prestige within the marching band community.

Q: Ultimately, is it worth it for college marching bands to compete?

Whether or not it is worth it for a college marching band to compete is a decision that each band must make for itself. There are several factors to consider, and there is no right or wrong answer.

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