Marching to the Beat

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.

The Riverside, California, Tigers Marching Band passes in the 124th Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. Photo by Carol Highsmith, 2013. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/highsm.24478.

The Riverside, California, Tigers Marching Band passes in the 124th Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. Photo by Carol Highsmith, January 1, 2013. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/highsm.24478

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.

Washington, D.C. Band of 9th Veteran Reserve Corps, in shakoes and frogged jackets, at Washington Circle. Photo, April 1865. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cwpb.04235

Washington, D.C. Band of 9th Veteran Reserve Corps, in shakoes and frogged jackets, at Washington Circle. Photo, April 1865. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cwpb.04235

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.

Liberty Loans. Sousa's band playing for 4th Liberty Loan Drive. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1918. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.11401

Liberty Loans. Sousa’s band playing for 4th Liberty Loan Drive. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1918. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.11401

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.

Marching band at stadium. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1925. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.44925.

Marching band at stadium. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1925. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.44925

Marching band at Georgetown game. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1923. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.43474.

Marching band at Georgetown game. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1923. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.43474

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.

Bands on parade outstanding eastern Illinois high school bands. Poster by Federal Art Project, 1940. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3f05169

Bands on parade outstanding eastern Illinois high school bands. Poster sponsored by Federal Art Project, 1940. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3f05169

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