MBDA Marching and Pep Band Guidelines

Minnesota Band Directors Association
Pep Band and Marching Band



As educators we know that students who participate in sports, play a musical instrument, or join a math or culture club are more likely to have a higher grade point average and are shown to have a 15 percent higher classroom attendance rate than their nonparticipating peers (NCES, 2015). We also know that students who participate in these activities are also working jobs, have family and/or faith-based commitments, and are often involved in many competing cocurricular and athletic activities. Pep band and marching band schedules are already demanding for students and families during the regular season, and the unpredictability of the postseason schedule makes the commitment exceptional. In the 1990s, pep bands and marching bands in the state of Minnesota were rightfully mandated to adjust imbalances in their performances to reflect growing numbers and successes in girls’ athletics; this expanded the number of potential performance expectations at athletic events. The Minnesota Band Directors Association has formulated a set of guidelines to help athletic directors, band directors, administrators, and parents understand how to serve the competing demands of athletics and music programs, with the interest of best supporting our active and engaged student populations.


Historical Overview

In the 1960s, there were two to three primary athletic events that pep bands and marching bands played for during the course of the school year. These were football, boys’ basketball, and hockey—all male sports. “Since 1972, when Title IX first opened up opportunities for women and girls, female participation in high school athletics has skyrocketed by almost 900%” (NWLC, 2011.) The expansion of girls’ athletics in the 1980s and 1990s increased the number of sports that students could participate in as well as the number of performance opportunities for athletic bands. During a given school year, there are currently more than thirty possible postseason, section, and state tournament games at which athletic bands may be asked to perform. Due to this increased number of boys’ and girls’ section and state tournament games, it is necessary to have a conversation about how and when to limit performance requirements for students, so that they receive equitable treatment academically, musically, and socially.


Curricular Expectation and State Standards

The primary goal of music programs is to focus on the state and national standards as renewed in December 2015 in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which defines a “well-rounded education” as one that includes a quality and comprehensive music education. The Minnesota State Arts Standards that specifically pertain to 9–12 music programs can be found on the MDE website at the following link: Minnesota Department of Education Arts Standards. These standards not only include targets and essential learning outcomes for performing, but also include student targets for creating music, connecting across cultures and time periods through music, and reflecting on individual and other musical performances. Athletic bands are co-curricular activities that can build on all of these standards, but they should not impede the performance, development, and assessment of student musicians.


Guidelines Summary

The guidelines below are set forth with the acknowledgement that many music and athletic programs put students first and are able to agree on similar sets of guidelines that value students in a variety of ways, but may vary to some degree to reflect the unique communities that they serve. Both student athletes and student musicians should be recognized and respected for their commitment to and role in athletic competitions as they perform to the best of their ability, give willingly of their time, and provide a service to their school and community. The below MBDA Pep Band and Marching Band Performance Guidelines ask that each school community reflect on how frequently and in what ways students and their directors are asked to support athletic events outside of the curricular day.





Regular Season Performance Guidelines

  • The number of band events should not exceed fifteen per year, excluding postseason games. A limit of one performance in a week should be observed, and no performances should be scheduled during school breaks. All performance calendars, especially those related to music, must be considered when asking athletic bands to perform at sporting events.
  • Athletic bands should not be expected to perform at a scheduled athletic event if unavoidable conflicts with other activities would not allow the remaining students to

perform in a manner representative of the band program. Athletic bands are truly successful when they have full instrumentation that represents confident musicians and allows for a rewarding performance. Athletic events offer an audience for band students. To expect them to perform ineffectively due to circumstances beyond their control has a negative effect on them, on their band, and on the school. The band director, as the person most connected to the needs and abilities of her/his students, should make this decision in consultation with the school administrator.

  • Pep bands or marching bands should not be required to perform at outdoor functions

when the temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (wind chill or air temperature) or when adverse weather conditions could place students or equipment in danger.

  • Bands should not be expected to perform past halftime at home athletic events. Bands generally are able to do the bulk of their performing before and at halftime of athletic events. Once the students in the band have completed their performance obligation, they should be free to choose whether or not to remain for the rest of the game and where to sit. Although remaining for the rest of the game may give the appearance of team support, such a practice, when required, commonly has a negative effect on the band students.
  • Due to their inexperience and musical and social developmental needs, junior high/middle school band students should not be held responsible for performing at pep assemblies and athletic events.
  • The band director, in consultation with the athletic director/activities coordinator, should be responsible for scheduling bands at athletic events. MSHSL Regions should not assign bands to play at tournament games based on the seeding of the athletic team.
  • The band director should coordinate and be consulted for any musical performance at an athletic event involving high school band members. Among school officials, only the band director has a true picture of the performance demands placed on the band students at any given time.
  • Bands should perform for an equal number of boys’ and girls’ athletic events.
  • All performing band personnel admission fees and transportation costs to athletic events should be paid by the school district or athletic department.

Postseason Performance Guidelines

  • With the addition of numerous sports for both boys’ and girls’ athletics, pep bands should perform only at the finals of section playoffs. Regions should not assign bands to play at tournament games based on the seeding of the athletic team.
  • Pep bands should perform at postseason football games rather than entire marching bands.
  • Pep bands should only perform for state tournament winning bracket games.
  • All performing band personnel admission fees and transportation costs to athletic events, including all postseason events, should be paid by the school district or athletic department.

Putting Students First: A MBDA Marching Band and Pep Band Conversation Checklist

As educators we must always focus on our students and their success both as learners and people. We must take into consideration the various sources of conflict that might prevent a student from participating in athletic bands in order to ensure the success of the individual student and the event. Please use these questions to help shape potential tough conversations with colleagues, administration, parents, and students.

  • Is the performance situation for the athletic band going to be successful?
  • Are there enough students in attendance? Do we have full band instrumentation? Will the athletic band in this situation provide a true representation of the school band program?
  • If students are not there, why and how do we recognize multiple expectations for our student musicians?
  • Are there multiple school event conflicts that students are being asked to choose between? How do we ask students to share time between the various activities they are involved in?
  • Do students know how athletic band impacts their grade (if at all)?
  • How are students and directors notified of the need for them to be at an athletic event?
  • Do we encourage student athletes to also be student musicians? Do we facilitate students’ ability to participate in both activities?
  • How are student athletes encouraged to support student musicians?