The end of August reminds me of the sweltering hot days I spent as a teenager in band camp, marching back and forth across the black pavement of the high school parking lot, attempting to learn field formations while simultaneously playing only half-remembered music. Though well past my marching days, I still appreciate a well-executed marching band performance.
Modern marching bands evolved from the military band where instruments were originally used to direct troop movements on the battlefield. As this task became less essential, military bands took on an increasingly ceremonial role.
In 1880, John Philip Sousa was appointed the leader of the U. S. Marine Band, creating what was widely considered the finest military band in the world. Forming his own civilian band in 1892, he became known as “The March King”, popularizing march music across America.
Marching bands became increasingly popular at sporting events in the early 20th century. The first marching band field show performance was in 1907. I really enjoyed seeing these Harris & Ewing photos taken not quite 20 years later.
With the season moving from the heat of summer to the crispness of fall, I will be sure to watch with enjoyment the marching band shows during football half-times or parade performances, a tradition of entertainment carried forward through the years.
- Enjoy films of marching bands from the 1890s found in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division.
- Explore the selections from various divisions found in the Library’s John Philip Sousa Collection.