Richard Goldman has labeled two historical functions for bands, no matter their place or time: "military" and "popular." Throughout the development of wind bands, marches have served as a significant literature for these two functions. From ancient times until the late 19th century, bands supplied marching music for military operations. Civilian town bands that developed throughout Europe during the Middle Ages provided processional music for important civic functions that included religious holidays, parades, weddings, funerals and coronations. They were employed by the Church, towns or cities, and the courts of the aristocracy. Following the American Civil War, professional bands toured regularly to great acceptance, and marches were transformed from purely functional military music to art music. The bands of Patrick S. Gilmore and John Philip Sousa established programming practices that were designed to entertain audiences. Their concerts alternated between orchestral transcriptions, virtuoso solo features and original overtures for band. Marches served as encores between those pieces. Bands became an important source of entertainment during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. College and school bands that began to form during the early 1900's emulated the programming of Gilmore and Sousa, performing orchestral transcriptions and marches. Sousa was recognize by all early band members as America's greatest bandmaster. School bands experienced a shift of philosophy in the 1950's when Frederick Fennell introduced his wind ensemble concept of programming at the Eastman School of Music. The wind ensemble was smaller in instrumentation and allowed conductors greater flexibility to select literature from the 15th through 20th centuries. There was an increased emphasis on new music and on attracting composers to create substantive music for bands. The result was a great increase in the literature for wind bands. Many conductors, however, sought to part with the old identity of the bands of the early 20th century, and marches were programmed with less frequency.
The purpose of this paper is to : 1) investigate the history of marches, 2) discover the features of traditional march interpretation, 3) explore the pedagogical benefits of performing marches, 4) identify resources that would aid teachers in selecting, rehearsing and performing marches and 5) propose strategies for the preservation of march traditions. The author interviewed a group of Florida band directors who have had prestigious careers and recorded their beliefs, values, teaching methods and anecdotes regarding marches. The subjects generally agreed upon a "set" of musical variances that composer "march interpretation." Variances are made in the interest of creating contrast, and usually take place on the repeated section of a strain. The set includes changes in dynamics, instrumentation, register and articulation, as well as edits of percussion parts. The panel named the following as the greatest factors in learning to interpret a march: consultation of recordings (especially those of military bands), scholarly research (found in new editions of marches, in journals and magazines, or in certain books) and mentorship with colleagues. The subjects endorsed marches as a way to teach musical concepts that can be transferred to other pieces. They noted that broad concepts can be introduced efficiently because marches have less complex forms, are not as long, and break down more easily into sections for rehearsal. The subjects suggest that articulations, dynamics, form, ensemble sonority, intonation, tempo and rhythmic precision could be taught through a march. Specific recordings and books were identified that would be helpful to teachers in preparing a march for performance. The subjects recognized the importance of marches to the tradition and history of American bands, and hoped that they would continue to be programmed by high school and college bands. They noted that while many states and festivals include marches as part of a required repertoire, some band directors still consider the march as a "warm up" piece. Subjects said that this attitude can lead to treating a march with indifference. Some of the subjects also said that such an attitude causes directors to pick easier marches that are of lesser quality in order to spend the least amount of rehearsal time on a march. Others stated that the lack of marches programmed by collegiate bands has caused new middle and high school band directors to view marches as novelty pieces rather than substantial literature. The subjects suggested that teacher choose marches that are of high musical quality and plan to teach transferable musical concepts through the march. The also suggested that ban directors purchase new editions of marches that include full scores, full-size parts and research notes regarding historical context, composer biographical information and performance practices. They said that engaging the students in the historical background of the march will increase their knowledge and interest in the music. Research is suggested regarding march programming at the high school and collegiate levels. The idea of a "suggested list" of marches is also explored. This list would be compiled by experienced teaches, such as those who participated in this study, and would provide teachers with recommendations of marches of the highest musical quality, and would note new editions that include biographical, historical and performance information. Subjects suggested that the list also include editions of marches that directors should avoid, such as editions that have cut out portions of the music or altered the key from the original. Mentorship programs are discussed. March interpretation is largely an oral tradition, and effective mentorship programs which are administered by districts or state organizations could have implications on the continuity of the performance practices associated with marches, as well as the methods of successful teachers. The subjects recommended including marches as part of a balanced approach to programming, so that concerts are both entertaining and educational. The pedagogical and philosophical conclusions reached are that marches are unique and worthy of study because they provide, in the words of Paula Thornton, "educational value, historical significance and audience appeal."