Compared to athletes, band recruiting marches to a different tune.

In college athletics, the recruiting process is fairly cut-and-dried, in that college coaches offer high school recruits scholarships based on their athletic abilities. However, for a college marching band, the recruiting process can be a totally different experience. That’s because many marching bands don’t recruit and, of the ones that do recruit, each one may take a different approach. And when you throw in the fact that whatever marching band scholarships there aren’t available until you actually enroll in a school and make the band, the concept of “marching band recruiting” can be quite confusing. So, to help ease that confusion and give you a better understanding of how marching band recruiting (such as it is) actually works, take a few moments to read through this overview.

Marching Band Scholarships Are Actually Rare

There are roughly 370 colleges or universities in the United States that offer marching band scholarships. While it sounds formidable, that’s actually less than 10% of all colleges and universities. Further, the bands at those schools can be established bands with 350 members or small-school marching bands that are just getting started and may have 150 members or less. On top of all that, the scholarship amount can range from $10,000 to $200, there may be a limited number of scholarships available, and the competition for them can be fierce.

The Process Is Reversed

For many high school student-athletes, a spot on a college team is mostly guaranteed when a coach offers a scholarship. However, to receive a marching band scholarship, you almost always have to be enrolled in that college and you have to audition to make the band.

Some large college marching band programs may occasionally recruit an elite high school musician with a scholarship offer, but it is exceedingly rare. And if you’re among the large majority of high school musicians who don’t receive a scholarship “offer,” that means you’re better served to pick the college or university that suits you best, audition for the band, and then when you make the cut, inquire about any potential scholarships, grants, or financial aid.

Marching Band Recruiting Serves A Different Purpose

For college marching bands that do “recruit,” the focus isn’t on coaxing a particular musician to join that school’s band. Instead, in most cases, college marching bands recruit primarily to attract more musicians to simply audition for, or participate in, that school’s band. In fact, for larger college marching bands, band days, summer band camps, and clinics also serve as recruiting tools. You get to see how a band works, meet the director and members, and see the facilities and campus, and the band gets to introduce itself and the school to plenty of prospective new members.

Every School Is Different, Every Band Is Different

In case you haven’t noticed already, every marching band might be different depending on the school. Some bands may be large, some bands may be small. Some may have scholarship money for band members, others don’t. Some may require an audition, others accept anyone who can play and march. One school’s marching band may cover all your expenses, while others may require you to pay for your uniform or instrument. Some offer course credit for band, others provide honorariums at the end of the school year. It’s all of these differences, as well as many others not mentioned, that make marching band recruiting a hit-or-miss affair.

When you look at it as a whole, the marching band “recruiting” process is confusing because basically, there is no set “recruiting process” akin to what you might be used to seeing for high school athletes. That’s why it’s most important to pick a school based on what’s important to you besides marching band. Then, when you find the school that fits you, have an online profile ready and a highlight video, sign up or audition, and then seek out scholarship opportunities. Every college band marches to a different tune, so make sure you find the school that’s right for you first. Then, see how you can step up, and march onward, with the band.

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