Texas marching bands are nationally recognized and considered some of the best marching bands in the country. Texas is supposed to be known for its high school football teams; what is it about the marching bands that attract so much attention? Here, you’ll read about what makes these programs so strong and why you can find Texas marching bands in nationally televised events like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Click here to check out some examples of award-winning Texas marching bands.
The band director is an enormous part of what makes a marching band able to perform at a national level. A passionate, knowledgeable band director can push their kids to the next level.
Band directors choose the show music months in advance and meet with experts to perfect the music and the routine. They schedule private tutors for students and prepare all of the props that bring the show together.
In Texas, band directors are some of the best, and are paid accordingly. At some high schools in Texas, the band directors rake in a higher annual salary than even the head football coach. At Haltom High School, in a suburb of Fort Worth, the band director makes just shy of six figures, with an annual paycheck five grand higher than the school’s head football coach. The band, which made it to state finals, even has its own slick website and up-to-date social media accounts. The dedication Haltom’s band directors demonstrate isn’t unique.
Band directors across the state are members of the Texas Music Educators Association, an organization that has promoted excellence in music education statewide since 1920. Directors of the top-performing music programs in the state expect the support of the legislature and the best from their students. At Richardson High School, former band director Scott Taylor was known for challenging his students to play tough pieces while performing complex marching choreography. He was demanding but understanding, offering a skillset that led his band to win multiple titles during his 32-year tenure of directing. As Texas Monthly suggests, band directors like Scott Taylor are the “Halftime Heroes”.
Band camp starts a month, sometimes a month and a half, before the school year. Students start memorizing the show music as early as the beginning of summer or late spring.
During band camp, marching practice begins early in the morning and goes until lunchtime. After a break, students retreat inside to work on the show music during the heat of the afternoon. Their day isn’t over yet; students head back out once the sun sets for several more hours of marching practice. At Bowie High School in Austin, TX, band members dedicated the last two weeks of summer to band camp. The grueling fortnight of rehearsing stretched from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. This rigorous summer band camp schedule is pretty typical of most successful band programs. According to UIL rules, once the school year starts, band members may not practice for more than 8 hours a week outside of school hours. This makes intense band camps a crucial part of prepping for the season.
Along with the physical stress of marching while holding an instrument up for minutes at a time, students sometimes have conditioning (running and exercising) sessions in the morning or evening to make sure everyone is physically fit enough to survive the marching season.
Parent and Community Support
Parents are the unseen backbone of the Texas marching band programs. They provide support for students and ensure that the band director doesn’t have to worry about the extra things that go along with running the program. Along with support, parents donate their time, money, and effort to make sure their students have food, water, and things like matching practice shirts. Marching bands travel a lot for competitions, so parents help sort out travel costs like hotels, plane tickets, and reserving buses for the students.
Additionally, Texas communities are fierce supporters of local marching band programs. Often local businesses will donate money to band programs and support band fundraising efforts. In Killeen, TX, a smallish city close to Fort Hood, bands from the Killeen Independent School District come together for a collective fundraiser every fall. The Spirit Spectacular showcases the work of all four Killeen high school marching bands, who furiously prepared for the event during their summer band camp. Killeen residents, even those without kids in the band, look forward to the annual event which just marked its 36th year. The $6 ticket sales go to support all four band programs. Employees from Apple Moving, a local company providing cheap moving services in Killeen, TX, look forward to attending the event every year with their young families. “It’s an inexpensive night of family fun that we’ve turned into an annual tradition.”
Texas marching bands are strong because they employ the best band directors and leaders, practice hard for every competition, and have support from the community to push them up to the next level. Between districts, friendly rivalries form and urge marching bands to become better, just like they do for football teams.