Marching word wall, Sept. 18

This is the first part in a multi-part series defining key terms about marching bands. Although marching band participants know exactly what most of the terms mean, many fans, including their parents, are baffled by the discussion sometimes.

This word wall will be posted on our main marching band page, here, for public information, and we’ll add two or three words a day. However, it’s also part of a contest. If you can improve on any of the definitions on the word wall, click on the word and submit a redefinition as a comment to the blog post.

If we think your definition is better than the one given—and it probably will be—we’ll update the definition on the word wall and give you credit. If you’re an Illinois marching band student who enters a winning redefinition, you may also win a prize, to be determined at the end of the marching season.

Grand champion

The marching band that wins the festival, usually because they received the top combined score from judges at the event in several categories. It is entirely possible that a band will be named grand champion but will not have achieved the top score in any of the individual categories. One reason for naming a grand champion is that at festivals, where several school bands compete for points, the bands are often grouped into classes by either school enrollment, band size, or a hybrid function of those two. The grand champion, then, is the band that received the top combined score, regardless of class.

Backward march

Moving backfield while keeping the instrument facing the home audience. Sometimes a band or a section of a band needs to move toward the back of the field, away from the main viewing stands or press box where judges are located. Since judges can’t score what they can’t hear, marchers often keep their instruments pointing forward and just take backward steps to move backfield. Julie Mack on mlive.com defined backward marching as a “tough skill to learn” and “one you will never, ever use again once your band days are over.” For one band, backward marching ended in a seven-sousaphone pile-up as marchers tripped over each other, one by one.

General effect

A trait used to score marching band and the trait that is most subject to bias and opinion. More specifically, the general effect score given by a judge is supposed to reflect how effective he or she thought the marching band’s field show was. Breaking down general effect, we have G.E. Music and G.E. Visuals. That is, how effective—or entertaining, or engaging, etc.—was the music, and how effective were visual elements of the show? Did the given aspect of the show contribute or detract from the overall entertainment value?

We welcome suggestions for new words for the word wall to help people understand marching band at a more appreciative level. To prevent spam, we can only accept suggestions for new words or redefinitions of existing words as a comment to blog posts. If your definition’s good, we’ll replace the word wall definition with yours and enter your name in a contest that may involve the awarding of prizes at the end of the marching season.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more biographical information, see the About page.