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A Director’s Thoughts on Conditioning and Marching FUN-damentals

These thoughts were shared with the Wyandotte Band during pre-season rehearsals in early August:

As I have looked to raise the standard of excellence for this group, I found myself questioning my approach to several areas of my teaching philosophy, as well as the absence of “tried and true” techniques of marching band development. In my great concern for the social growth, the fun and the “teamwork” side of marching band, as well as to offset the rigid teaching styles of “more serious” competitive bands, I have ignored some of the more necessary “basics” of marching band development…”Body Alignment and Posture”.

There is a great DCI short video that was a part of an ESPN2 Finals telecast a few years back. In this video, a DCI Corps member was hooked up to heart monitor and breathing apparatus in order to test the heart rate and breathing patterns during the performance. The results of this video showed that the heart rate and breathing patterns of a performance in a top drum & bugle corps are comparable to that of a well trained Olympic athlete running the last leg of a marathon.

In showing this video to the Wyandotte band, it was clear to them that this “marching band thing” was not easy! It was going to take some real effort to get mentally and physically prepared for a great marching season.

Here is what I shared with the Wyandotte Band prior to beginning our summer rehearsals.

What can you do to be able to be successful in marching band?

Start doing daily exercises to prepare for pre-camp and this upcoming
marching season. We will call this “conditioning”

#1) Develop a routine…
  • do arm circle with your palms down for 1 – 2 minutes
  • do leg and back stretches for 1 – 2 minutes
  • run a mile with the goal to increase your speed
  • do more body stretches for 1 – 2 minutes
  • do 2 sets of 30 push ups or sit ups for 1 – 2 minutes
  • warm down with more stretches for 1 – 2 minutes

If you start with these basic exercises you will find yourself in better shape at band camp and experience must less fatigue throughout the band season….plus, I know you’ll like the physical results in your overall fitness and start to look forward to the exercise part of your day.

(Fellow directors, by doing these simple exercises with the band you eliminate the “I can’t” excuse, and find your self in better physical and mental health for the band season as well)

#2) Learn “the checklist”

This is a simple process that will set the standard for just about everything we do in pre-camp, band camp and the rest of the season with marching. Everyone should use Jeff Young’s simple exercise for improving posture…

The Checklist

  • Feet: Place the feet with heels together and toes apart.
  • Knees: Make the legs straight, but NOT locked.
  • Hips: Rotate the hips forward slightly and check the alignment of the spine by placing a flat hand on the stomach and back.
  • Spine: Lengthen the spine one vertebra at a time until you are two
    inches taller.
  • Shoulders: Rotate the shoulders up, back and down, but do NOT create tension. (Shoulders back)
  • Head: Make your chin level above parrallel to the groud and set your eyes on a point in front of you. (Head up…eye’s with pride!)
  • Arms: Make a fist with your right hand and cup your left hand over your nuckles, placing the nuckles of your right hand in the crease of the nuckles of your left hand. Elbow about 12″ apart (picture an equalateral triangle from your fists to your elbows.

This is the position that everything else will be built on.

More on this can be found on Jeff Young’s Dynamic Marching Website:

The development of the skill of marching must be approached methodically and with consistency. For most students at any age, the act of marching isolates the use of new muscle groups that students are probably not used to using, breathing patterns at a faster rate than students are probably used to, and an accelerated heart rate do to hard work, hot weather, and performance excitement.

Although the Wyandotte band has seen some growth in the last 7 years …(the membership has gone from 62 members to 90); and although the band has received higher praise from community members as well as adjudicators, and although our school staff and parents are more supportive now than in years past, the Wyandotte Band still has a mountain to climb. I believe pushing the individual to achieve personal goals of fitness and conditioning will have a major impact on this year’s band as well as future bands.

Mark D’Angelo
Band Director
Wyandotte, MI