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College marching bands have an important responsibility of entertaining crowds, boosting team spirit and keeping school traditions alive. Generally, schools stick to traditional marching styles, but have been known to use unique drill designs and creative musical arrangements to stand out from the others. The bands that stray from the traditional path and develop their own signature style are the most memorable and entertaining groups to watch. Out of all the fantastic college marching bands in the nation, these 10 are simply the best.
1. Longhorn Band – University of Texas
Nicknamed “The Showband of the Southwest,” the University of Texas Longhorn Band has a fan base the size of Texas. About 350 talented students make up the renowned Longhorn Band that plays at all home and away football games. For more than 100 years, the Longhorn Band has been entertaining fans with its innovative halftime shows that include striking drill designs and exciting musical arrangements. As much as the marching band likes to shake things up, it does place a lot of emphasis on preserving traditions, such as shaking the fringe on their uniforms, standing for the entire game and playing Big Bertha, the world’s largest bass drum.
2. Michigan Marching Band – University of Michigan
The Michigan Marching Band is a very important part of the University of Michigan’s longstanding and rich football traditions. This energetic and talented group of students has made halftime an experience unlike any other. Some of their most beloved traditions include the drum major’s signature backbend, the goal post toss and the performance of “The Victors” and The Blues Brothers’ hit song “I Can’t Turn You Loose.” Michigan has the rare advantage of having a marching band that’s just as good and entertaining as their football team.
3. The Ohio State University Marching Band – Ohio State University
Nicknamed “The Best Damn Band in the Land,” the OSU marching band isn’t bashful about being one the biggest and best collegiate bands in the nation. This uniquely all-brass and percussion marching band has a long, rich history of playing for all OSU military and athletic events. The OSU band was the first to develop and test several marching innovations, such as floating and animated formations, measured step marching and script writing. This innovative and trend-setting band plays for nearly one hundred thousand fans each game, where they rock the house with Ohio State classics like “Hang on Sloopy,” “Buckeye Battle Cry” and “Across the Field.”
4. Marching Illini – University of Illinois
The University of Illinois Marching Illini is one of the most highly regarded and influential marching bands in college history. This 350-person band goes above and beyond the typical college band performances. In addition to playing at every home football game and a few away games, this group also showcases their talents at the annual Assembly Hall Concert and the Illinois Marching Band Championships. Although conservative in its style, the Marching Illini is nothing short of spectacular and pure entertainment.
5. The Spirit of Troy – University of Southern California
Members of USC’s The Spirit of Troy don’t call themselves “The Greatest Marching Band in the History of the Universe” for nothing. Throughout the years, The Spirit of Troy has performed with several big-name musicians such as Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Fleetwood Mac, and strutted their stuff at the Grammy Awards, on American Idol and at the Summer Olympics. Not only is The Spirit of Troy one of the most visible marching bands in the country, it’s also one of the most entertaining spirit organizations in college history. One trip to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and you’ll see why this band has a top spot on this list.
6. Purdue “All-American” Marching Band – Purdue University
The Purdue “All-American” Marching Band has had a long history of being one of the most visible and creative college marching bands in the nation. The band is known for bringing its energetic spirit and original drill design to each and every Purdue home game. In fact, the “All-American” band was the first marching band to form a letter on the football field in 1907, called the Block “P.” In keeping with its innovative spirit, the “All-American” band likes to shake things up by playing rock and jazz songs, as well as using creative musical arrangements. Whether you catch the “All-American” band at a Boilermakers game in West Lafayette, Ind., or see them perform at the annual Indianapolis 500, this entertaining band will have you cheering along.
7. Pride of the Southland Band – University of Tennessee
The premiere “Pride of the Southland” Marching Band is one of the oldest collegiate band programs in the nation and certainly one of the best. “The Pride” has an important role of upholding game-day traditions and boosting the Volunteer spirit. The band’s trademark pregame show, featuring the opening of the T for the football team to run through, is a highly photographed and memorialized college football tradition. Between the clever show designs, energetic spirit and long-lasting traditions, the “Pride of the Southland” truly embodies what collegiate marching bands should look and sound like.
8. Marching 110 – Ohio University
Ohio University’s Marching 110, also known as “The Most Exciting Band in the Land,” brings excitement, good tunes and so much more to each football game. One of the founding characteristics of the marching band was its total membership of 110 band members, hence the name. But, since the band has extended its membership to 214 people, the number now refers to the 110% that each member is expected to give back to the organization. All that effort goes toward executing high-energy performances with demanding marching styles and unique show designs that excite audiences and inspire other marching bands to follow their lead.
9. Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band – Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University’s Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band is rich in tradition and school spirit. This corp-style band pulls from the traditional marches and precision of customary military marching bands, while adding its own complex maneuvers and unique drill designs that set it apart from other school bands. It’s this precise attention to detail and military structure that make the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band the chosen band to perform at presidential and gubernatorial inauguration parades and other ceremonial events.
10. Sonic Boom of the South – Jackson State University
If you’ve had the privilege of watching Jackson State University’s Sonic Boom of the South marching band, then you definitely don’t need an introduction. This electrifying marching band from Jackson, Miss., puts on a show-stopping performance full of exciting drill designs and diverse musical arrangements. The self-proclaimed “showtime band” has provided music for a wide variety of athletic and ceremonial occasions, ranging from several NFL halftime shows, a Motown 30th Anniversary television special and even an “EA Sports NCAA Football 2005″ video game. No matter how visible the Sonic Boom of the South becomes, they have managed to stay grounded in their commitment to playing good music and boosting school spirit.
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