For those of us who are dedicated to excellence in marching band, the question of how exactly excellence should be defined comes up often. Especially for band directors who regularly attend competitions with their students, this issue is constantly present, as your band strives to meet the specific criteria required by the judges while also adding your own creative touch to the performance.
The short answer is that there is no universal agreed-upon standard for greatness in marching band. According to William L. Berz, writing for BandDirector.com, "Many conductors, especially in the band world, focus almost entirely on achieving technical mastery. They seek to produce the most accurate performance possible with flawless intonation and definitive accuracy." This intense focus on precision and technical skill is reflected in many of the judging standards at marching band festivals.
However, there is also a large contingent of band directors who believe that artistic expression and unique flair are more important than flaunting technical ability. Although, of course, a good deal of mechanical mastery of one's instrument is necessary before any individual artistic touches can be added, many directors hold that striving far past technical mastery is necessary to avoid a feeling of sterility in the final performance. These directors' bands are likely to focus more on dynamics, lyricism and creating excitement in the audience through enthusiastic, complex field shows.
Berz advises band directors to compromise between these two views by focusing largely on technical aspects during the early rehearsal stage, then moving on to a more artistic emphasis once a certain level of comfort with the pieces has been achieved.
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