Calling All Marching Band Fanatics

Tuesday, November 02, 2010 - 02:43 PM

November is "Woodwinds and Brass Month" on WQXR. This seems particularly appropriate given the fact that each November we welcome some of our nation’s finest high school and college woodwind and brass players to the Big Apple to play in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And, as if that isn’t enough excitement for one topic, the American March King – composer John Philip Sousa – was born November 6, 1854!

So, let’s talk about marching bands.

I never played in a marching band. But, I have lots of friends who did. And, it seems to me that they had a great time. Many of them have carried the experience into their adult lives and have found ways to continue playing as a hobby.

For instance, there’s an ensemble in Dallas that I have performed with known as the Metropolitan Winds. It’s an all-volunteer adult group that plays everything from classical transcriptions to contemporary wind band literature and traditional military band selections. Most of the musicians were in marching bands when they were younger, and I’m here to tell you that they play as well as or better than many professional groups.

In this day and age when we spend a lot of time talking about the lack of music education in schools, let’s not forget our marching band tradition. Talk about a constructive way to keep kids busy! They stay out of trouble and develop a skill that has the potential to give them lifelong pleasure at the same time!

I’m eager to hear what you have to say about this topic. Did you play in a marching band? Do you still play today? And, what makes being in a marching band so much fun anyway? And, finally... Are marching bands different than they were – say – 20 or 30 years ago?

Hosted by:

Midge Woolsey


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Comments [74]

Carol from Florida

I played the bell lyra in my high school marching bank of 100 plus members. That was the only way I could get in the band as my dad would not buy me an instrument, and I already was taking piano lessons. When the band director found out he took back the flute I had been given to learn and put me on the bells. It was heavy--much larger than the ones I have seen pictured lately. But I wanted to be in the band crowd and follow the football team to their games, so I carried it. We had a lot of fun learning intricate formations for half-time performances. I really miss the sound of the bells in marching bands today. Where did they go? And why?

Jan. 07 2012 01:34 PM
Honora Raphael from Brooklyn, NY

It was very touching to read the comment about my father, Aaron Raphael, who taught music at James Madison HS (Brooklyn) from 1948 -1975.

He, like others of his generation who taught music in the NYC public schools back then, were solidly trained musicians with the highest standards who knew how to teach the generations of kids who came their way. And the repertoire that they taught was the best.

Professor Honora Raphael, Music Librarian, Brooklyn College

Apr. 28 2011 01:40 PM
Chris from NJ

Marching band has taken some interest turns, with the current trend toward "corp style" marching band. While it works in some places, it is interesting to note that a majority of bands in this region lose half their membership as they try to be a drum corp. It only appeals to 10-20 students in a group. This isn't Texas or a farming community! Many of these schools which once had 100-200 members are now down to 30-40 students in the name of competition! How can a music teacher justify competing and tedious rehearsals over membership? No wonder why so many music programs in this region are being cut and defunded! Noncompetitive show bands with 150-300 students are the way to go! Make it big, entertain the crowd, and have fun!

Jan. 10 2011 09:48 AM
Tom Croft

Dear Midge or anyone else,

Can you tell me what is happening with Clayelle? Is she called upon when there is no other coverage? Is she a pert-timer with a particular schedule?



Dec. 06 2010 06:35 AM

*side note* ( I believe this blog has received the MOST entries of ANY of the wqxr blogs!) And I thought I was the only marching band fanatic around......

Nov. 22 2010 02:54 PM
john favre from lake tahoe, nevada

every so often, i hear THE voice. clayelle dalferes. make it more often.

Nov. 20 2010 11:39 PM
Al Albinson from Milford,Pa.

Played in my high school band from 1956-1960. Had wonderful teachers who were ahead of their time in giving us so many experiences. Got into the all-conference band and placed 9th in NJ all-state tryout. Played a snare drum solo written by Paul Price. When audition was over we were introduced to the judges. Paul Price happened to be one of them!!.

The bands are different today. I don't really care for the drum and bugle corps style, but times are different.
It's a shame we don't see the bands at halftime during televised football game. Analysts and commercials have taken over. Played and taught percussion for many years after high school.
GREAT memories

Nov. 20 2010 10:55 AM
JBS from NYC

What a joy to hear that beautiful voice on WQXR. I add my sincere wish to those of the other Clayelle Dalferes fans that she be heard, hopefully, on a permanent basis. In the meantime,
welcome back!!!

Nov. 19 2010 05:52 PM
David Gaynes from Tucson,Arizona

I`ve played in three different high school bands, a bicentennial band, two regional bands, two college marching bands, and just got back from a homecoming weekend at The University of Southern California, where I performed in a 500 member alumni band.I think it is time for marching music to go mainstream! I recently starting a marching music is how I came across this article way out in Tucson.In 1975 though, I did play trumpet in The Lakeland Regional High School Lancer Marching Band with John Palatucci of Verona.

Nov. 17 2010 01:13 PM
Joseph B. Hegarty from Rahway, NJ

Thank-you Thank-you Thank-you for having Clayelle Dalferes back to the air! I hope and pray that she will get a regular day spot to call her own!!!!!!

Nov. 16 2010 11:37 AM
Greg Kopia from New Jersey

I spent the best times of my early life in marching bands in both high school and college......40-50 years ago! Back then, marching band was all about school spirit and reving up the crowd; helping them get excited about a football game. I've recently watched my daughters go through high school marching band, which seems to have morphed into a competitive sport. Now the important thing is wining trophys at band competitions; bringing added spirit to football games is a secondary (and sometimes nonessential) part of the experience. I can't help but feel that something has been lost for the band members. It sure is still fun to watch and listen, though.

Nov. 13 2010 09:24 AM
Theodore Lawrence from NYC, NY

Marching Bands - Concert (Symphonic Wind) Bands

Some of the things that surprised me when I went to see the University of Cincinnati band director that summer evening were the sound of the concert band being rehearsed.

Before then I had never heard contra-bass clarinets. And, yes, there were more than one.

I had heard the contra-bassoon before and love the sound of it “growling” in the background. I had never heard clarinets do that, but here they were, and, such a very rich sound in the overall tonal picture.

I was graduating senior high school that year and needed a scholarship to go to the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. That meeting with the band director was for me to receive a scholarship by doing band arrangements, not only for the concert band but for the marching band as well. Composing music and arranging had peaked in my musical interests during my junior - senior high school years. Here was an opportunity to experiment, and get a scholarship.

There are other “odd-ball” instruments in the concert band, and at the band director’s discretion could be used in a marching band; such as a huge bass saxophone, bassoons, oboes, as many cornets as trumpets, flugel horns, alto horns (smaller baritone horn look-a-like-or french horn look-a-like) regular, soprano, alto and bass clarinets. One high school band had marching oboists and bassoonists. I thought the band director was attempting to strengthen the stamina of these musicians. Being an oboist/english horn player having stamina (strength of the embouchure) is very important and it doesn’t come over night. It comes with practicing.

Nov. 10 2010 02:14 PM
John Goodwin from Demarest, NJ

I took up playing the clarinet 1n 3rd grade & since 7 - 12 were in the same building back then (50s) several of us 7th graders were drafted into the Sr. HS marching band to fill out positions left vacant by graduating seniors in time for the Memorial day parade (Tenafly NJ). So, I had 5 1/3 years of HS marching band. I wasn't great on high notes so in 10th grade I was switched to bass clarinet, I love the woody sound of the clarinet family. I didn't play in college but after being drafted into the US Army in 1964 I wound up playing in a basic training band. That was good duty. Band members were first on the firing range then bussed back for band practice in the air conditioned PX/recreational complex at Ft. Gordon, GA. Once we played "Good Night Irene" for the General's wife. I don't play much these days but still have a great love for the reeds.
By the way, I disagree with Barry from NJ, I enjoy ALL the announcers on the WNYC family of stations.

Nov. 09 2010 02:48 PM
Carol Bartold from Bronxville, NY

I played baritone horn in my high school band. I was a trumpet convert so I played treble clef music. Anyone out there an alum of McDonald's All-American High School Band? I played in the band in the early 70s. We marched in Macy's Parade on Thanksgiving and in the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day. In those days Paul Lavalle was still conducting the band. Met some fantastic band members from all over the country and got to see behind the scenes of two incredible parades.

Nov. 09 2010 01:10 PM
Barry from New Jersey

I loved playing the trombone in my middle school marching band because we got to march in the front row, where we wouldn't hit the people ahead of us with our slides. However, we still tried to hit the twirlers in their behinds, and sometimes succeeded. (This is what seventh position was created for for trombonists apparently.)
(On another front, I turned on the radio yesterday and that incredibly affected announcer lady was back on the air - the one who pronounces consonants where there aren't any. Oy gevalt. Really been enjoying the last year without her presence.)

Nov. 08 2010 08:13 AM
Kirsten d'Aquino from Brooklyn

I alternated between oboe and french horn in school but was really a pianist, then in High School an organ student. I was assigned the glockenspiel whenever we had a parade.It wasn't the most pleasant sound but still fun. I get misty when a good marching band goes by in a parade today.

Nov. 08 2010 07:58 AM
David in Monmouth County from Monmouth County NJ

Regarding Sarah's posting:

I searched the blogs for another place to say this.
I found none, so permit me to go off-topic.


(insert fist pump here)

gotta get out my big horn, and play something suitable.

Nov. 07 2010 03:20 PM
Sarah from New York from New York

Dear Midge:

I don't know where else to post this comment, but please share it with your colleagues. It is GREAT to hear Clayelle Dalferes's voice again on WQXR this Sunday afternoon, and I hope she will be given a regular, permanent slot on the new WQXR, with her name.

Nov. 07 2010 02:50 PM
David in Monmouth County from Monmouth County, NJ

Like so many others, I have fond memories of marching in high school and college. I still play
on a regular basis. There are plenty of community bands out there, so if you've ever wanted to get involved in music again, find one and join up! You can play and have fun, just like the old days, and you get to help teach the next generation.

One of my community bands marches in parades. I still march! It is as much fun as you remember.

The major change I have noticed in field shows is the introduction of amplified instruments and fixed percussion. I do not approve. Everything in a marching band should be portable.

Nov. 07 2010 02:42 PM
Barry Owen Furrer

While my ear has not been tuned all day to WQXR, if you're mentioning today (11/6) is the anniversary of John Philip Sousa's birth, perhaps your programming department could come up with a more fitting rendition of "The Stars & Stripes Forever!" other than what was played just before noon today? Not to take anything away from the incredible virutosic talents of The Canadian Brass, there are several fine, full band recordings of our official national march. For those looking for a nice representation of Sousa's compositions including various dances forms such as a fox trot, waltz, tango, polonaise, music for trumpet and drum, as well as the familiar and lesser known marches, I highly recommend "A Grand Sousa Concert" by the Non-Pariel Wind Band conducted by Timothy Foley. Should an orchestra be the vehicle to give Sousa more playtime on the air, might I suggest "Peaches & Cream" with The Cincinnati Pops under the late Erich Kunzel. In this writer's humble opinion, the finest recording of "Stars & Stripes" is by the Goldman Band on an album entitled "Sousa Marches in Hi-Fi." This recording featured several Sousa bandsmen including long time bass drummer, Gus Helmecke. Sousa declared that Gus was the greatest artist of that instrument - this was the day that the crash cymbal was attached to the top of the bass drum and played by the same person! I have never seen this album on CD only vinyl and having lost all my LP's during Hurricane Floyd, I would love to find this album on CD should it be available. An earlier blogger mentioned the NY City Opera bringing Sousa's 1909 operetta "The Glass Blowers" to Lincoln Center - this was in the Spring of 2002. What a fitting tribute it would have been to hear this over the airwaves today instead of Mozart's "Don Giovanni." BTW . . . The Sousa Band featured music from Don Giovanni at their concerts between 1894-1915 How progressive Mr. Sousa!

Nov. 06 2010 07:00 PM
John J Palatucci from Verona, NJ

It is great that WQXR, even in its diminished capacity, is dedicating this month to wind instruments. Sousa, although born in Washington, DC was a quintessential New Yorker who maintained an office in Manhattan and a home out in Sands Point, LI. Late in life, Mr. Sousa dubbed Dr. Edwin Franko Goldman, founder and leader of NYC's Goldman Band, his successor. How sad it is that today while WQXR celebrates wind instrument playing on its air there is no longer a standing professional concert band in the city.

Nov. 06 2010 06:36 PM
Ken Thompson from NYC

I played in school bands in Texas, from the 7th Grade through my first two years of college. I started on flute, then switched to tenor saxophone and later, baritone saxophone. Band is where I had my first exposure to Verdi, Rossini, and Wagner. I no longer play an instrument, but I am a dedicated opera nut to this day!

P.S. Sousa wrote an opera: "The Glassblowers" in 1909. New York City Opera performed it several years ago.

Nov. 06 2010 10:50 AM
Lee from Morristown NJ

It is so impressive and satifying to see so many posts from alumni of NJ music programs. What a wonderful tribute to the many fine programs the state has hosted over so many decades.

I attended Susquehanna University, and would like to pay tribute to the (venerable) James B. Steffy, our music chairman for many years and one of the great bandsmen of all time. He conducted a lot of festival bands in the US and certainly launched many fine instrumental teachers and musicians. Back then (30+ years ago) he kept our band playing British military-style. We were small, but what a dignified and exciting sound, especially since he'd cultivated a fine brass department.

While we're paying homage to Sousa, why not also remember the great Leroy Anderson, another underestimated composer.

And Rob from Dover -- you should be a copywriter. Or maybe a crime writer, a la Dashiell Hammett. What wonderful, colorful prose.

Nov. 05 2010 04:27 PM
Carol from Sleepy Hollow, NY

I was privileged to earn BA and MA degrees in music from the University of Illinois, which has a long history of outstanding bands.

Unfortunately, in the 1960's women were NOT ALLOWED to be in marching band! We've come a long way, indeed.

The U of I houses the Sousa Archives. Sousa was a close friend of an early band director and left many of his materials and instruments to the Band Department. You can see some of the collection at:

Nov. 05 2010 04:21 PM

* Quick counter reply to J. Christiano from Jersey* ( I just ordered a classic Sousa album on Ebay. So perhaps John, I'll send my older hi-fi version (vinyl that is) to Midge at the station. (A nice Christmas offering?) I'm sure when she hears THIS record of Sousa's greatest march hits, it will knock her sock's off! And maybe we''ll all hear abit more of the old march master at WQXR.....(lol)

Nov. 05 2010 01:50 PM
Kathy Heeney from Millington

A football game in Autumn is incomplete without a Marching Band. I just love to hear the cadence and watch the band make their formations on the field. For eight years I played the flute, at times even playing first flute and with a state band. My senior year my band director made me captain of the drill team because no one else on the team could read music. I taught the rest of the time to mark time. My hat goes of to Mr. Udell who chose to make first trumpet of our Marching Band a friend of mine who was in a wheel chair. The lesson of inclusion is beautiful. The young man was certainly qualified enough to play first trumpet. Mr. Udell ensured that every high school we marched at had a wheel chair platform on the field and had two other band members march behind our trumpet player to keep him in formation. If there were more teachers like Mr. Udell high school would be a kinder place to attend. He was so adamant about including everyone and taught more than just music. When other teachers said "a person in a wheel chair cannot be in a marching band" Mr Udell cheerfully replied "Oh yes they can!" I owe him my thanks for being brave enough to think outside the box and teach us life lessons that remain with me forever. Blessings, Kathy

Nov. 05 2010 12:08 PM
Kenneth Thomas

I played clarinet in the Yale marching band from 1949 to 1953 and marched at all the football games. For one game I was in a special formation in the middle of the field. The game was one of the first being nationally broadcast on TV and my mother was watching it in the Seattle area. According to my family my mother was suddenly right in front of the TV because she saw a close-up of me on the screen.

Nov. 05 2010 11:49 AM
Christopher Dodrill from NYC

A very happy birthday to the March King.
Ms. Woolsey could at least pronounce the name of one of America's greatest Sousa proponents, Frederick Fennell, correctly. I wish I could include more complementary comments, but the QXR signal received here in distant Queens is so dirty, it's almost unlistenable.
Where's Duncan Pirnie?

Nov. 05 2010 09:18 AM
John J. Christiano from Franklin NJ

Tim from Port Chester NY.....

Yeah, we (the band) were razzed mercilessly by the football team at half time. However, the last laugh.....

I can still make music. I doubt if our quarterback can still take a hit from a couple of blitzing linebackers.

Nov. 05 2010 09:11 AM
John J. Christiano from Franklin NJ excellent point about Sousa's background. On many of his marches, you can hear the complexities of embedded counter-melodies (the piccolos in Stars and Stripes). These techniques could only be learned in classical music training.

And yet, the question remains unanswered, where is Sousa on WQXR? Guess I'll have to return to YouTube.

Nov. 05 2010 09:06 AM
Michael Gasper

I love the activity of marching music. I started in 1967 when I was 10 years old. I marched in several New Jersey Drum and Bugle Corps including the Garfield Cadets, The Epochs of Garfield and the Hawthorne Muchachos. I played the snare drum and then the marching timpani. Although no longer actively marchnig I still volunteer every opportunity that I have to help out at rehersals. You must see the performance and the emotion involved. There is music and choreography performed by young magnificent adults up to the age of 21. To this day it brings tears to my eyes when I watch. The friendships that developed back then have lasted over 35 years now as we still get togeather on a regular basis. The rukes and the perormances have changed over the years and are a site to behold. Check the Corps out on the web site, I think you will be amazed at this extraodinary group of people. You should get tickets to a show this summer if you have the time.

Nov. 04 2010 06:34 PM
Michael Meltzer

Mr. Senzer brings back memories of Madison and of Aaron Raphael riding down Bedford Avenue with a cello strapped to the back of his bicycle.

Nov. 04 2010 05:35 PM
Bruce from Morristown NJ

Midge, I've been playing an instrument in a marching band for 14 years. It doesn't get much airtime on WQXR, which is understandable as they are the bagpipes. My band marches in parades and also competes. What I really like about it is the diversity. I'm 54 and we have players in their sixties and some not even in their teens yet. The rest run the gamut in between. We include men & women. We have players from diverse backgrounds and ancestry. What other hobby can boast such variety and still get along and have a lot of fun, which is the main object? One thing different about bagpipe bands (which includes drums too) is all the music must be memorized, no sheet music to read from. I encourage anyone interested in marching bands, whatever type, to try it out. It's a lot of work but a lot of fun too.

Nov. 04 2010 04:06 PM
Tim from Port Chester NY, formerly Hackettstown NJ

In my high school, football was king. The marching band represented an opportunity to be somebody other than a "jock". I grew up playing the piano and singing in church choirs and choruses, but because of that musical talent I was recruited to the marching band and was taught how to play the snare drum. This gave me a group to be part of on Saturday afternoons, and I enjoyed belonging. The marching band also had other social benefits, such as bus trips to parades and the highlight of the fall season: the Military Ball held at one of the rival high schools on Thanksgiving Weekend. My courtship of a certain flute player was facilitated by those extra-curricular activities and remains some of my sweetest memories of my high school days.

Nov. 04 2010 03:37 PM
JEFF SENZER from Manhattan

I played trombone, under the baton of Aaron Raphael, while a student at James Madison H.S. in Brooklyn. At the time, we were the only Brooklyn band to march when we played at the team's football games. It was great being on the front line as the field was in such poor shape that the dust was everywhere.
I am a supporter of WQXR and, although I did play in a brass chorale during my first year at Hunter College in the Bronx (now Lehman) I haven't picked up the horn since.
Still, the memories of band, orchestra and dance band at Madison, remain and are brought back whenever I hear a piece I played.

Nov. 04 2010 03:10 PM
Nuno Guerreiro Josué from New York

Growing up in Portugal (I'm a Portuguese-American, much like John Philip Sousa), I had my first contact with music though a marching band (“Banda Filarmónica”, in my native Portuguese). And an old marching band conductor gave me one of the greatest lessons of my life early: things are rarely as they seem to be. After my friends and I protested that our instruments were incapable of producing decent music (we were six years old), the immensely patient elderly conductor looked at us, grabbed the trumpet from my hands, wiped it and started to play. We could barely believe the amazing sounds flowing from an instrument that had sounded so poorly just moments before in my hands. “How can you do that? What is that?”, we asked, after he finished. His one word answer to a gaggle of gaping kids around him would make us all into music lovers from that day onward: “Mozart”, he said.

Nov. 04 2010 01:55 PM

Sorry Midge, but I MUST add one footnote about America's March King. John P. Sousa's mastery of march composition comes in part from his CLASSICAL training as a musician. He was a member of Jacques Offenbach's orchestra in his younger years. And I personally believe this experience is at the heart of his passionate marches. When you listen to ''Stars & Stripes Forever'', '' Liberty Bell'' or even the 'Washington Post march, the style is VERY classical and powerful in its delivery. (Sousa uses many romantic era devises to propel his marches.) Thunderous cymbals, pounding bass drum, and joyful bouncy melody engulfs the listener. ( Is it Tchaikovsky?? ....Beethoven??) Quite a ''classical'' punch and a knockout at that! And to me , nothing ''feels'' like America like a rousing Sousa march. (Patriotic Bliss)

Nov. 04 2010 01:55 PM
rob from Dover (NJ) Tigers

I can see my sheet music whipping in the wind... barely held in place by the cheezy lyre stuck into the frozen throat of my alto sax...

I graduated to bass drum in my senior year when our halftime routine was based on the 1812 overture. I could produce quite the KABOOM! And I still have my sticks.

At our high school marching band was all-encompassing and took precedence over everything else in school -- and life. Starting with band camp in August I walked only "6-to-five" or "8-to-five" -- even when crossing the street (which I would occasionally do "on the oblique").

Several of my toes are still numb.

Nov. 04 2010 01:53 PM
R. Wayne Parsons from NYC

Yes, I was in band in jr & sr HS. We marched, but the big payoff was the concert band experience (the marching band was more or less regarded as a service bureau for the football team). We played band arrangements of classical compositions --- Schubert's Unfinished, selections from Das Rheingold, Tchaikovsky Sym 4 and lots others that I've forgotten. This was when rock 'n roll was taking over popular music. I felt then, and still do now, that the classical selections, even in band arrangements, were so far superior to rock etc that I developed a life-long passion for classical music --- it's still going strong after 50+ years. It was one of the great discoveries and experiences of my life. Any band director that only plays Broadway show tunes and such is doing a real disservice to his charges.

Nov. 04 2010 01:43 PM
Lou from Hunterdon County, NJ

Marching band and drum & bugle corps are perfect activities for many of the musically and creatively inclined. The joy of musical performance is amplified by the excitement of competition, in a way that mimics the world of sports. Friends made decades ago in high school and particularly college marching band and drum corps remain close to this day. For me, it also provided an introduction to classical music, beginning a path that ultimately led to becoming a WQXR listener and fan. I remain involved in marching band to this day as an instructor, and cannot say enough about the value of the marching band experience. Thank you for calling attention to it.

Nov. 04 2010 01:43 PM
Reginald Brown from Brooklyn

Not only was I in a marching band in high school., my senior year I became the first black Drum Major of Wyandotte High School, a federally recognized, historical structure in Kansas City Ks. My experience creating field formations for half-time shows came in handy as a choreographer. I had no idea at the time that I would have become a professional dancer.

Nov. 04 2010 01:38 PM
Melissa Yorks from Maryland, now- was Syracuse

I played the bell lyre in my high school band from '67-'71. It was the best part of my high school experience (along with Select Chorus.) I wasn't an athlete so it allowed me to be part of a competitive group. I LOVED the spring band competitions! And half time shows! Now they are more showy (we did military/drug and bugle corps type marching) and my band at least uses those marching xylophones instead of bell lyres :-(.

Nov. 04 2010 01:38 PM
Lisa Sulgit from NYC

My first management experience was as a rifle sergeant for a marching band. I had to create a working team for parades and contests.

Marching band teaches teamwork, leadership, cooperation & competition--and rifles and flags are fun!!

Midge was just saying on the air how no one has anything negative to say about their marching band experiences. Several summers were given over to band practices and performances. Probably kept us out of trouble.

I must admit, after literally marching in hundreds of parades, I'm not a big fan.

Nov. 04 2010 01:36 PM
Curt Ebersole from White Plains, NY

Yes, I was a member of my high school marching band in Elizabethtown, PA, and also a proud member of the Northwestern University "Wildcat" Marching Band. Although marching bands are deeply rooted in our American history and culture, they have changed, and changed a lot. From providing ceremonial music, to creating halftime diversions and spectacles, marching bands and drum corps now integrate high musical standards and challenging repertoire with demanding physical skill. For those of us who loved band as a teenager, the American community band movement is an enriching, patriotic, and fulfilling opportunity, both for the players and the audience members. As a former member of the Northshore Concert Band of Willmette (IL) and the Ridgewood Concert Band (NJ), and now as the conductor of the Westchester Symphonic Winds (Tarrytown, NY), performing and hearing quality wind band music is a high calling. Community bands offer access to so many brilliant composers, not just Holst & Vaughan-Williams. I am proud to have programmed works by Fisher Tull, Alfred Reed, John Barnes Chance, Frank Ticheli, John Corigliano, Arnold Schonberg, John Mackey, and many more who are so worthy of our time and interest. I hope WQXR might consider programming some works of these eminent composers; I am confident your listeners will applaud the diversity!

Nov. 04 2010 01:29 PM
Nancy Passow from Englewood, NJ

I played the flute in the high school marching band many years ago (class of '68) -- we did play Sousa and other traditional marching music. In concert band we played Holst (I still remember the piccolo/tuba "duet" in the 2nd suite). I enjoyed half-time shows, though our uniforms included white, plastic spats, which always had to be scrubbed clean after marching on a muddy field. And I learned lots about football from going to all the games.

Fast forward to my children -- I spent eight years as a band mom providing hot chocolate and cookies at games (juice when the the weather was warm). I had one of the first rolling coolers for carrying ice and bottles of water for the parades we did. Although our HS is in NJ, we did several parades a year down 5th Ave. in NYC. One major difference between my band time and my children's, is that there is very little "traditional" marching music, much more music of today (or ten years ago, when my kids were in school). The fun thing about that is when I hear one of those songs on the radio (like "Lean on Me"), it brings back great memories. Also, there is a much greater focus on the drumline than when I was in the marching band.

I never regretted my time with marching band -- those were my best friends in high school. And I found the same things with my children -- some of the nicest people in school are in the marching band.

Nov. 04 2010 01:20 PM
Bill from Westchester County, NY

I played trombone in my high school marching band and later in college at Syracuse U. We played Sousa, as well as the theme from 'Maude' and 'Shaft'. My colleague and friend Russ arranged 'Eli's Coming' and music from the opera 'Tommy'. When in concert band and wind ensemble, we played Sousa, Copland, Bernstein, Husa, Holst, Elgar, Byrd, Schuman and Shostakovitch not to mention others. Wind band music is great and a very under recognized medium in the NYC area. It was a great experience that I will always cherish and I regret that so many school systems no longer have instrumental and/or choral music programs for their students as they did when I came along. Marching band is the best!

Nov. 04 2010 01:18 PM
Christine Katzman

I'm so excited to see this conversation about marching bands being hosted by a broadcast radio station. I played flute in high school and college. I enjoyed my time in the marching band and have continued my passion by starting Halftime Magazine, a print publication and online site for the marching arts. Check it out at

Nov. 04 2010 01:18 PM
JT in St. Paul from St. Paul

40 years later, my best friends are still the "kids" I marched with in drum corps -- to which I was introduced through marching band (and from which I was "excused" because I wanted to be in the corps over the summer; in those days band directors were less friendly toward drum corps -- now many band directors are drum corps alums!) ... Now my big hope is that, since the Big Ten is going to have a championship football game, there will someday be a Big Ten marching band championship, too ... how cool could that be?!

Nov. 04 2010 01:16 PM
Bonnie McCarthy from Verona, New Jersey

'67 graduate of Sprinfield North High, in Ohio. Gave me a feeling of being part of a group of eclectic, fun friends. Band camp was a riot. The mud, sweat and tears! The white bucks must be white! A lot of work but the memories are precious and we won a lot of contests back then. I still love to see the script OHIO of Ohio State performs. Nothing like it. What would the world be like without music and marching bands, Midge? Thanks for all your QXR moments. I listen all day at work and don't care if someone squinches up their nose, it's soft and soothing fo me.

Nov. 04 2010 01:16 PM
John J. Christiano from Franklin NJ

I played trumpet in our marching band and it solidified the love of music that I developed prior to my high school years. I also did a short stint in drum & bugle corp.

My greatest thrill was marching in the NYC and Newark St. Patrick's parades.

Unfortunately, never touched it again, trading in my horn for a tenor voice. No regrets.

Do I see glimmer of hope that we may soon hear Sousa marches on WQXR????

Nov. 04 2010 10:04 AM
BelowGrand from Lower East Side

Back in the day, the 1950s, I played clarinet in the Mountain View High School band. I played in the orchestra, too, but band was much more fun. We marched and played at all football games and in many parades. Sousa was well represented in our repertoir. All of the music was quite traditional--nothing jazzed up.

Nov. 04 2010 08:42 AM
Marge Hone from Irvington, New York

Marching band was never my favorite thing, but my terrific experience with high school concert band made me jump at the opportunity to play in a local group in Westchester. That group, the Westchester Symphonic Winds, is now in its 23rd season, is ensemble in residence at the Tarrytown Music Hall, and in fact has a concert this Sunday, Nov. 7, at 3:00 p.m. It is a wonderful group, led by a fabulous conductor, Curt Ebersole, and I'd be happy to send you a CD or two. The revelation has been that there is so much more wonderful band music beyond Holst, Vaughan Williams and Grainger, and while I'm always pleased to hear those, I'd love to hear some of the works of Mark Camphouse, Alfred Reed, Clifton Williams and many others. The literature is rich and just not heard that often.

Nov. 03 2010 11:26 PM
Josh Stein from Woodmere, NY

It would be interesting to hear some of our US malitary band recordings being played once in a while on QXR.

I have also played in marching bands throu out my adult life.

It can be fun and very tireing.

Nov. 03 2010 10:58 PM
Linda Finne

Both my kids were in the Bridgewater-Raritan High School Marching Band, but had (and are having) more fun with the Big Red Marching Band at Cornell - the only real marching band in the Ivy league. Here's a clip from a postgame concert - every section has its own dance.

By the way, the Cornell Marching Band will be playing at the Cornell vs Colombia football game, 11/13 at Columbia.

Nov. 03 2010 09:58 PM
Barry Owen Furrer

I would love to hear a future program dedicated to the life work of John Philip Sousa. Sousa over the years, has gotten a bad rap for being a composer of "just" marches - this is so far from the truth! While his total march output is approx 140, Sousa also composed 15 operettas, 70 songs, 11 concert suites, 2 descriptive pieces, 11 waltzes, 13 various dance forms, 14 humoresques, 21 fantasies for band, 8 instrumental solos, 5 overtures, 322 arrangements/transcriptions for band, 7 books including 3 novels and an autobiography, 138 articles for various publications, and 27 letters to the editor.
Sousa considered himself first and foremost, an entertainer who's philosophy on programming was "entertainment not education." Performing over 15,600 concerts with his own band in 39 years, Sousa in fact, did educate his audiences. His band was playing Parsifal ten years before it was staged at the Met. He brought music to nearly every town in America that could be reached by train, made four tours of Europe, and completed a 350-day world tour in 1910-11 visiting Europe, South Africa, Australia, the Fiji Islands, Hawaii, Canada, then making a cross-country tour from California to New York. Over the years, some of the Met's greatest singers sang with the Sousa Band and Anna Pavlova danced "The Swan" to the Sousa Band accompaniment at the old Hippodrome Theater. His 12-year career as director of the U.S. Marine Band is very important to the development of bands in this country as Sousa raised the standards of musicianship, improved instrumentation, and made the concert band a musical vehicle that could compete with any professional symphony orchestra playing the same or similar repertoire. Sousa brought music to the masses, was a genius on programming, and an American patriot. Most people don't realize Sousa's primary instrument was violin and he played under Offenbach at the Centennial Exposition in 1876. Also, in it's 39-year history, the Sousa Band marched only seven times! Happy 156th birthday Mr. Sousa!

Nov. 03 2010 08:42 PM

Sousa? All we ever seemed to play was badly written orchestrations of Guns N' Roses songs.

Nov. 03 2010 08:36 PM
joe damery from lexington, ma

our first high school band; following wwII, in 1946, had barely 24 members. yet when on, parade, or, at, halftime; we played with heart, and that really does make a difference. a favorite of the 40's, was, "our director", which had that great, trio melody, "oh wer'e a bunch of hayseeds etc.". that melody has been used by many, schools and colleges, and, is to this day, a favorite, while on the march !!!

Nov. 03 2010 05:15 PM
Jacob from New York City

Loved Marching Band…

My parents still travel near and far to watch my high school's marching band perform. They have no children in the band!

Certain people are impacted so profoundly by the power of a high school marching band. I am no stranger to the great memories playing on the trumpet line. Different than the vast array of school sports, the activity of marching band can capture one’s imagination and awe.

We never marched in the Macy’s Day Parade, but we were big, we were dedicated, we were champions. I have not marched or played the trumpet in nearly a decade, but Marching band was undeniably integral to a very formative period in my life. Even now, I owe so much to the West Orange High School Marching Mountaineers.

Four years ago, on what had originally promised to be a lazy, autumn Saturday, became the turning point in my life. My father was away on business, and my mother desperately wanted to go to the football game at the high school so she could see the band perform their half-time show. At this point, I most likely had not been back to see the Mountaineers in at least three or four years, but I would be lying if I said seeing the band that day was on the top of my "to do" list. Mothers can be very persuasive.

A familiar face was at the game.

Maybe I never paid attention. We were both in the marching band. We went to all the same schools. We grew up around the corner from one another. I always knew who she was, but I never really knew her. There she was, standing among the spectators.

We went out that night…

Been going out a lot of nights ever since…

Getting married.

Man, am I glad I went to see my marching band.

Nov. 03 2010 04:20 PM
jacob noah cutler from Valley Stream, NY

I played in the Boys High School band in 1939, 1940 & 1941. The band conductor was music teacher, Alfred Wienstien who had a beautiful baritone singing voice. We enjoyed hearing him sing "Give Me Ten Heart- Stout-ed Men and I'll give you ten thousand more. We had about 65 pieces, one of the largest high school bands at the time.
We plaid at school assemblies, special events and all the football games. At half time, we marched on the field doing various formations. A
couple of our favorite marches were the National Emblem March & Stars & Stripes Forever. It was a great time & wonderful experience.

Nov. 03 2010 03:01 PM
Martin Murphy from New Rochelle

I played clarinet in the Fordham University marching and concert band from 1960 to 1964. We marched in all the NYC parades and at opening day at Yankee and Shea stadiums. When I graduated in 1964 the band was short of clarinets so I continued playing. 46 years later (I am now 68), I am retired from a career in law and academia but am still playing with the Band. That makes a half century playing with a band if you count from my Fresham year in 1960. Our next concert is Sunday November 21.

Nov. 03 2010 03:00 PM
Bill Walters from Manhattan

I don't mean to blow his cover... but were you aware that Elliott Forrest played the Sousaphone in his Midland, TX high school band... I am sure he won't blow his own horn. Go Elliott!

Nov. 03 2010 02:15 PM

I was in the orchestra at school, playing violin. They also had a marching band, and they needed bodies. So they came to the orchestra members and said, obviously, we cannot take violins, but you know basic music, so pick something we can use. I wound up playing second clarinet.

Nov. 03 2010 02:12 PM
John from New York City

We played the Holst suite in my high school band (Manhasset, NY). Hearing it reminded me of a concert we performed where Bernard Herrmann was our guest conductor. I didn't appreciate it fully then, but now that I'm older, I remember the experience with great appreciation and reverance -- being led by such a master.

Nov. 03 2010 01:55 PM
Michele Prince from New Jersey by way of Fresno California

After playing Violin and Viola for 10+ years, I decided I wanted to be in the Marching band. So I took up mallets and played the Glockenspiel and learned percussion for several years. I was lucky to be in my High School band in 1976 as we participated in the Bicentennial parade in Washington DC that year. It was a great experience. I went on to play, do tall and short flags or dance in Jr college and 3 more years at the university level. Those were the best times for me.The band "family" was always there for you.

Nov. 03 2010 01:55 PM

Well Midge, I'm REALLY happy to see your joy in a great American tradition. MARCHING BAND & MUSIC! As a teen, it was high school marching band that taught me both terrific music AND American pride. ( Theres nothing like slipping on the old cap & white gloves and pounding a big bass drum!) And of course, it was my introduction to the genius of John P. Sousa! There is nothing more American or patriotic than his AMAZING marches. ( In fact, his music is SO terrific, I think I'll add a second blog a little later in his honor since his birthday is this week) Your a musical Champ Midge! (Stars & Stripes Forever)

Nov. 03 2010 01:55 PM
Bill Walters

I didn't play in this band... but I watched them every week...

Nov. 03 2010 01:49 PM
Larry Russo from Clark, New Jersey

If it was not for band in H.S. I would never have had the great freinds, fun trips, attended the sports games and met some cute girls along the way.... :)

I wanted to play Saxophone, but there was a need for heavy brass- so I lifted my Tuba and marched in many many halftime shows, off the line productions, bandstand ceremonies and parades. Sadly soon after my class graduated (1985) I learned our music program diminished - what a shame it is for students to miss out on something so wonderful as marching band and a music program. I totally support the arts as I am an artist myself.

Today the Arthur L. Johnson band is back and the music program has been revived!

Thanks for letting me share this story~ be well !

Nov. 03 2010 01:46 PM
Scott from New York City

I marched and played in band through high school, but a terrorizing director sort of ruined it for me and I stopped. I continually regret going to a college where there was no marching band.

But right out of college I discovered a large network of adult bands -- the Lesbian & Gay Bands of America, and their New York branch, the Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps. Now I've marched in over a hundred parades, Presidential inaugurals, civic celebrations, and the like. But like another poster said, the other "half" of the season is just as important, and our concert band has played throughout the world, from Carnegie Hall to the Hollywood Bowl. [And as a co-incidence, our next concert at Symphony Space features the Holst First Suite for Band, now playing on WQXR.]

Who knew that band would be the most important aspect of my life, some 25 years after those terrible high school days?

Nov. 03 2010 01:45 PM
John Morgan


You guys are doing a great job. I'm a listener and supporter for more than 50 years. I need some suggestions on how a friend and colleague can handle a 1000 vinyl classical record collection so that some of the value can be realized. The classical music family lost a beloved professor and pinist in March 2010. He was well into his eighties. Question: What assistantce is there to help evaluate such a large classical collection? Thanks. Continue the great work.

Nov. 03 2010 01:35 PM
David Shaver from Orlando, Florida

You're missing one other really good bet here. I marched through high school and college, but that was not the main event for me. The "other" half of the season... concert season... that's what made me work hard to master both trumpet and trombone (which I still play by the way). We are lucky here in Central Florida to have two really great concert band groups, The Brass Band of Central Florida ( and the Orlando Concert Band ( Both of these fine groups are fully volunteer staffed and feature some of the best players I ever had the pleasure to hear. It isn't all about "The Thunderer" and John Phillips Sousa. There's an entire world of amazing music out there written for or transcribed for brass bands. We're just lucky to have the best of the best right here in Florida.

Nov. 03 2010 01:32 PM
Chris from Olympia, Wash.

I enjoyed my high school marching band (many years ago), but we were far from traditional. We considered ourselves a walking concert band and put the quality of the music performance ahead of fancy maneuvers.It was a great way to integrate music into the high school experience for the rest of the student body.

I attended a college with a very short name--only five letters. But the band was so small that when we wanted to spell out the name of the school, we had to do it one letter at a time.

Nov. 03 2010 01:28 PM
Imani Mosley from New York City

Marching band was a huge part of my life for many years. It gave me something about which to be truly competitive as the only team sport I ever really played was soccer, gave something for my family to do together (my parents were band parents and as I played pit auxiliary percussion, my dad helped move the instruments and they came to the football games) fostered love for my high school even more, even though our football team continued to lose, and gave me a real sense of family. It continues to be some of the happiest memories of my life. I tried to pursue drum corps after I graduated from high school but college kind of made that a non-starter. DCI is one of my all time loves and my friends in drum corps say it has been a very important and influential time in their lives.

Don't let anyone talk down about marching band. I made incredible music, got the thinnest I've ever been ;), and made a family.

Nov. 03 2010 01:08 PM
Brendan Plunkett from New York

I marched throughout my High School and College years and recently began Marching again with a Drum and Bugle corps in 2005 after a 25 year hiatus. The biggest difference between now and then in my eyes is use of technology on the field (amplifiers and voice overs etc). Drum Corps introduced technology initially and Marching Bands ran with the concept. The Phantom Regiment Drum & Bugle Corps from Rockford/Loves Park Ill is the best example of classical music used in the marching brass setting. is a great resource and great organization.

Nov. 03 2010 11:18 AM
Michael Meltzer

Granted that this is primarily devoted to winds, woodwind & brass, no problem. However, since Sousa is being celebrated, if you do not include the Vladimir Horowitz arrangement for piano solo of the "Stars and Stripes Forever" in your celebration, WQXR will never hear the end of it!

Nov. 02 2010 07:52 PM

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