Reply To: Parade Marching

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I have a 5th & 6th grade band that marches in the Memorial Day parade every year. Off the top of my head, here are some things to think about:
1) You will need marching drums, with harnesses. Be careful that the drums are not too big for your kids! Snares and Basses are the most important. It’s nice to have some cymbals too. I don’t use any sort of tenor drums with the little ones.
2) You’ll need to decide whether you are going to memorize music, or whether you’ll need lyres. Lyres are expensive, but since the marching parade is such a small part of my year, I generally do not make my kids memorize music.
3) With the lyres, I don’t use the folios. I simply cut up cardboard boxes and glue the music on to it.
4) You will need music – I made some simple arrangements of America the Beautiful, the various military songs, Yankee Doodle, and You’re a Grand Old Flag. I do two songs – I play America the Beautiful every year, and then I rotate the others. At the end of the parade I collect all of my cardboard music, and then I just change one song on the cardboard.
5) I also collect all of the lyres (I do this AT the parade – so that they don’t disappear).
6) Cadences – You can probably write this yourself, or ask a percussion savvy friend. Basic, easy to march to. Many of the lesson books have “street beat” type exercises in them that would work fine.
7) I use straps for my baritone players, and I have my bass clarinets use regular clarinets for the parade.
8) Make sure that you get (or have someone make) a banner, and of course you’ll need a flag to march with. I use orchestra students to carry my banner and flag.

The actual marching is the hardest part. I find that it is relatively easy to get the kids to play well. We work on the music in lessons, and in band rehearsals, but we don’t have much time to work on marching. We do work on it, but it takes a LOT of practice.

I teach my kids some basic marching band commands: Detail to the ready, attention, instruments up/down, mark time, forward march, halt.

I used to teach them more commands, but I found that these were the only ones that I used during the parades. Get yourself a good whistle!

Then of course, there is the question of what to wear. I have my kids wear polo shirts with a band logo on them. The kids buy the shirts, and then keep them. The shirts come in handy for other impromtu performances throughout the year, because everyone has one!

Make sure that you will have help picking up the equipment at the conclusion of the parade! Doing the parade is great PR for the band. It’s a nice community event, but it is a LOT of work!!! If you do not have any marching band experience, I highly recommend checking out some HS marching band practices to see how they do their commands/drill.

Hope that helps! Good luck!