The Plymouth-Canton Marching Band (PCMB) is a nationally ranked competitive marching band with 27 Michigan Competing Bands Association (MCBA) State Championships and three Bands of America (BOA) Grand National Championships. The band has also won hundreds of local competitions over the years. In 2011, the PCMB marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and marched in the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena California in 2016.
The Plymouth-Canton Marching Band is an extra-curricular ensemble. All students, freshmen through seniors, who wish toparticipate perform together. There are no auditions to join, though there are auditions for certain roles within the band such as marching the snare drum or spinning a rifle. This is one of the few activities where the seniors and the freshman play together, and where the students don’t spend their time on the bench. There are times where individuals have a period of inactivity as called for by the show design, but every student performs in every performance.
Marching students are encouraged to participate in the concert programs to hone their musicianship and to learn about a broader spectrum of musical styles and ideals. Sometimes it’s not possible to fit band into the schedule during the day so it’s not a requirement for joining the marching band. The Color Guard is open to all students at the park, whether they are musicians or not. Dancers and gymnasts do well with the guard.
Competitive marching in the MCBA and BOA circuits is not like marching a football half time show. These shows are more akin to theater where the shows have a theme that is played out on the field. The show will often include props, tarps to set the stage, and dancing as well as the brass, woodwind and percussion you see in most marching bands. Marching shows can also include lights, electric instrumentation and special effects.
There are four major sections to the band - the Winds, Percussion, Color Guard and Field Commanders. The sections are delineated mostly because the training is different for each area. Ultimately, all sections come together to form one cohesive marching ensemble.
Winds include both brass, such as trumpet, tuba or baritone, and woodwinds, such as flute, clarinet and saxophone. Some instruments are unique to the marching field. The iconic example is the sousaphone, which is a marching tuba. There are others, such as french horn players performing on mellophones and baritones playing on marching baritones which have forward facing bells to project better to the stands. Students often play a different instrument in marching band than in concert band, such as a flute player in Wind Ensemble playing sousaphone on the marching field.
Percussion is divided into two groups – battery and pit. The battery includes the snare drums, base drums, tenor drums (typically 4 to 5 drums mounted together, referred to as “quads” and “quints” respectively), and sometimes cymbals. These are the percussionists that march on the field. There are also a number of musicians playing in the pit, which is named for the sunken area in front of the stage in most theaters where the orchestra plays. The pit is where the larger instruments are played, such as tympani, large base drums, marimbas (similar to xylophones) and a myriad of smaller accessories such as a triangle or ratchet. This is also where the electric instruments and microphones for soloists are typically placed.
The Color Guard adds movement and color to the show. They engage in many activities during any given show including dancing, twirling flags, spinning rifles or sabers, or moving props. The guard wears costumes that support the theme of the show, and can at times change costumes during the show. The guard provides the extra flashes of color and movement to accentuate the performance.
The Field Commanders, which include the Drum Majors, are the student leaders who conduct during the show and provide leadership during rehearsal. These students are marchers who have shown exceptional leadership qualities and help to keep band playing together as one cohesive group.