5 Genuinely Awesome Michigan Marching Bands—and How You Can See Them

5 Genuinely Awesome Michigan Marching Bands—and How You Can See Them

Photo courtesy of Michigan Marching Band via Instagram

By Claire Mainprize

September 7, 2023

What’s more all-American than a marching band performing at halftime? Not much, ‘Ganders. Not much.

Nothing’s more nostalgic than a peppy drumline, flag-yielding color guard, and feather-capped musicians playing unexpectedly hoppin’ tracks. Besides grilling hot dogs and baking apple pies, it’s just about the most all-American pastime there is.

These groups of brass, woodwind, and percussion musicians that get the crowd riled up through spirited tunes and fun formations on the field are a core part of American culture, and have been since John Philip Sousa led the US Marine Band in the late 1800s. 

These days, there are four different kinds of marching bands:

  • Military Bands
  • Drum and Bugle Corps
  • High School and College Marching Bands
  • Party Bands

The Mitten’s got all four bands—and here’s our list of five of the very best. 

University of Michigan Marching Band

Did you know that the University of Michigan has one of the top ten college marching bands in the country?

Their accomplishments are vast, including being the first Big Ten band to: 

  • Perform at the NFL Super Bowl (1973)
  • Perform at the Rose Bowl (1948)
  • Perform at the Rose Bowl and Yankee Stadium in the same season (1950)
  • Winner of the first ever Sudler Trophy, aka the Heisman for marching bands (1982)

The band is also one of the oldest in the country, as it held its first rehearsal in November 1896, with its first appearance on a football field coming just two years after that. To see the magic IRL, head to a UM football game (most of which happen on Saturday afternoons) in Ann Arbor this fall, or tune in online or on TV. You can also hire the Michigan Fanfare Band (made up of the top players in each section) to perform at your wedding, retirement party, or birthday festivities.

Michigan State Spartan Marching Band

5 Genuinely Awesome Michigan Marching Bands—and How You Can See Them

Photo courtesy of Spartan Marching Band via Instagram

We mentioned that UM has one of the oldest bands in the country, but it’s not the oldest—not by a long shot. Rival Michigan State University’s marching band was founded all the way back in 1870. Since then, it has performed in front of five different US presidents and at five Rose Bowls, two World Fairs, and one World Series. 

Of the 13 directors, the most famous was Leonard Falcone (1899-1985), who brought the then-small ROTC band into the national Big Ten scene. His indelible mark on marching band history is celebrated each year at the Leonard Falcone International Euphonium and Tuba Festival, aka Falcone Fest. 

To watch the historic, 300-member band perform, travel to an MSU home game in East Lansing or watch a game on TV or online—just have to cross your fingers that the commercials leave some room to see the halftime show. In the meantime, check out some of their videos online.

126th Army Band

5 Genuinely Awesome Michigan Marching Bands—and How You Can See Them

Photo courtesy of 126 Army Band via Instagram

The Michigan Army National Guard band—officially the “Governor’s Own” since 2013—has a three-fold mission: 

  • Instill the will to fight and win in the armed forces
  • Foster the support of citizens
  • Promote their national interests at home and abroad

They accomplish these missions through the joy of music. 

Although based in Grand Rapids, the band is assigned to the Michigan National Guard Headquarters in Lansing and stationed at the Belmont Armory in Belmont. They regularly travel across the state for parades and other events, so keep up with their Facebook page to see if they’ll be heading your way sometime soon. 

Rockford High School Marching Band

5 Genuinely Awesome Michigan Marching Bands—and How You Can See Them

Photo courtesy of Rockford Bands via Instagram

We wouldn’t expect you to travel far to see any old high school marching band, but this multi-award-winning group in Grand Rapids happens to be the best in the state. In 2022, the Rockford High School marching band took home the top prize at the Michigan Competing Band Association (MCBA) State Championships. They were competing in Flight I, the largest of the divisions, and became the only band in the whole competition to break 90 points. 

Moreover, 2022 was the fifth straight year the team took home top honors. They also performed at the famous Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California, on New Year’s Day 2023.

Although the band’s calendar contains tons of performances in their home city—with the first home football game scheduled for Sept. 15—they also travel around the state and even country rather often, so they’re bound to be somewhere near you this school year. They’ll definitely be at the 2023 MCBA State Championships on Nov. 4, where they’ll look to defend their crown. 

Legends Drum & Bugle Corps

5 Genuinely Awesome Michigan Marching Bands—and How You Can See Them

Photo courtesy of Legends PAA via Instagram

Based in Kalamazoo, the Legends Performing Arts Association is on a mission “to develop and enrich lives of youth through performing arts.” Their award-winning flagship program, the Legends Drum & Bugle Corps, is composed of members aged 16-22 from across the country. 

Each year, they perform at Drum Corps International (DCI) events across Michigan before competing at the DCI World Championships in Indianapolis. 

Now, here’s the bad news…

In a press release, the Legends Performing Arts Board of Directors announced their unanimous decision to go inactive for the 2023 season. 

“The escalating costs to operate a touring corps continue to show no signs of reversal and while we always do our best to find a way, the current economic and global conditions will be a challenge that will take more resources to provide a quality experience,” founder and CEO Ibe Sodawalla said. “The decision to be inactive is one that is not easy to make and is necessary for us to strengthen our foundation, limit our risk, and revisit our strategic plan moving forward.” 

We hope they can regroup and relaunch in 2024. For now, check out their powerful 2022 production “Three Special People” on YouTube

 

READ MORE: 3 Things to Know About Michigan’s Historic and Delicious Whitehouse Restaurant

Author

  • Claire Mainprize

    Claire Mainprize is a writer and editor who covers the intersections of pop culture, lifestyle, and spirituality. Find more of her work at ClaireMainprize.com.

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