Transform your college experience with a marching band

Two hundred individuals paused to take a deep breath.

The band of marchers unexpectedly appeared on the football field, signaling the start of our performance. Striking the first note, an immersive experience enveloped me, focusing solely on that precise moment. The next ten minutes were consumed by thoughts of our delivery.

Post-game exhaustion notwithstanding – following numerous hours of rehearsal, showcases, and encouraging our team – we made a reappearance on the field, serenading the sparsely populated bleachers with our cherished tunes. Exiting the stadium, our energy level mirrored that of our entrance.

Despite the weariness that accompanies game days, I cannot envision a more fulfilling way to spend my Saturdays. Enrolling in the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo marching band stands out as one of my most rewarding choices, significantly enriching my collegiate journey.

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Significantly, the band fostered a community where I could authentically express myself.

For many, including Lindsay Gonor, a fourth-year liberal studies major and trumpet player at Cal Poly, the camaraderie within the band eclipses the musical endeavors.

“Band members, in my opinion, persist not solely out of a passion for marching, but for their fondness of musical instruments and the individuals involved. This certainly rings true for me,” Gonor remarked.

The inclusive and welcoming nature of this community unites individuals from diverse backgrounds. “It’s essentially a collective of individuals sharing common interests and some degree of peculiarities,” Gonor emphasized.

Participation in this community and the celebration of traditions such as the “praising the sun” stretch routine, acknowledging the mountain-faced entity dubbed “Big Lip Barbara,” and a lively rendition of our fight song upon dismissal, bring me immense satisfaction.

Unquestionably, the marching band radiates diversity across campus, particularly at Cal Poly, teaching members the essence of collaboration and teamwork to collectively pursue shared objectives. Valuable attributes like leadership, accountability, time management, confidence, and patience are honed within marching band members, skills transferrable to their academic pursuits and future careers.

Nicholas Waldron, Cal Poly’s associate director of bands, describes these acquired skills as “intangibles.”

“By ‘intangibles,’ I refer to organizational competence, effective communication, collaborative aptitude, empathy, and understanding,” Waldron elaborated.

While existing research demonstrates the benefits of engaging in extracurricular activities by cultivating essential skills, marching band uniquely occupies the intersection of a physical activity, performing art, and social unit, offering members an amalgamation of these advantages.

Beyond skill acquisition and relationship cultivation, marching band serves as a creative outlet aiding students in stress alleviation.

“One of the most underrated aspects of college life is the necessity of dedicated time away from academics,” Gonor emphasized. “Maintaining a pursuit outside your major is crucial for a balanced college experience.”

Reflecting on her journey, Yuke Billbe, a third-year biomedical engineering student and alto saxophonist at Cal Poly, acknowledges the role of marching band in alleviating her college pressures.

“Despite the academic demands, there’s always something to anticipate in marching band,” she noted.

Marching bands also serve as assets for universities.

In a study conducted by Adam Gumble, the athletic band director at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, marching bands prove as influential recruitment tools for universities.

Personally, when selecting colleges, the presence of a marching band was a primary criterion. Billbe also credited meeting band members as a decisive factor in choosing Cal Poly.

Even my roommate, though not a marching band member, acknowledges the spirited ambiance brought forth by the band as a motivation for choosing Cal Poly.

Gumble’s research further substantiates that band participation amplifies retention rates and nurtures a sense of affiliation with the institution.

Despite the significant time dedication required, marching band commitment proves worthwhile.

If granted the chance to revisit the past, I would not alter a single detail. Investing nearly every fall Saturday over the past seven years has profoundly molded my character, making my marching band experience invaluable.


Ashley BolterCalifornia Student Journalism Corps.

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