Stout Addresses Marching Band Culture
Pat Stout, academic advisor broadcasting, wrote an excellent editorial for the McDonough County Voice in December. Stout’s editorial is about the best and worst of marching band culture. Here is the editorial as it appeared in the Voice.
Kindness and acceptance for students
Patrick Stout, column (#1018), December 6, 2011
“When I came here, I had no friends,” said a Western Illinois University student on Saturday. “After four years, I’m leaving as part of a family.”
Those words were uttered at the WIU Marching Leathernecks awards luncheon. Variations came in the farewell remarks of all the graduating seniors.
Some remembered their freshman days and told how, after accepting the invitation to join the band, they almost immediately received welcome e-mails from the leaders of the instrument section they’d be joining. Others told stories of older students who worked with them during their first August band camp, and who told them, “If you need any help during the school year, just let me know.”
The Marching Leathernecks hold a welcoming ceremony for each year’s new members. They hold a show closing ceremony after each home football game. The final ceremony allows each departing member to retire his or her uniform as they stand on Hanson Field.
Traditions are built and kept through consistent effort. The band director has a core cadre of graduate assistants and drum majors who enforce the traditions, supported by the section leaders.
The tradition of kindness and mutual support exhibited by the Marching Leathernecks stands in contrast to an ugly tradition revealed last week regarding the Marching 100 of Florida A&M University. There a student lost his life due to the behavior of a rogue group of students bent on maintaining hazing behaviors.
Robert Champion was a drum major with the Marching 100. They had tryouts at the end of marching band season and Champion was chosen head drum major for the 2012 season. He didn’t know that and died before he could find out.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department, according to CNN, said a group of band members punched Champion repeatedly. He later complained of shortness of breath, became ill, and then died.
The band director at Florida A&M said he tried for years to get rid of the hazing tradition. But because he didn’t, and Champion died on his watch, he has been fired. The university president has expelled five students, and an investigation continues at the state level.
Other band members, alumni, and parents have come forward: a trombone player who said she was beaten and kicked in 2007, a trumpet player in 1989 who was hit on the head and taunted with cruel songs until he had to leave school for awhile, and a former band member who told NBC News that he was paid to drop a lawsuit he filed against FAMU because of his brutal treatment.
Which school would you want your young musician to go to?