Q. What was I thinking when I agreed to rank the marching bands of the Mid-American Conference?
A. I wasn't. Here's why: there are two giant caveats to this ranking.
Caveat #1: It's difficult to record a video of a marching band, even when you've got good equipment, and a lot of what's online was recorded on cell phones. The sound, in particular, can be tricky to get. However, since I haven't seen all the MAC marching bands in person (yet...), I've had to rely on videos.
Caveat #2: Marching band styles vary, and what you like is largely a matter of personal preference. Corps-style marching bands dominate the MAC, though there are certainly military-style and show-band influences to be found in the conference, and occasionally even scramble band elements can be seen. De gustibus non est disputandum, after all.
With that said, I do have credentials to support my opinions: 8 years as a marching band participant and a degree in music. So if you disagree with me, your gustibus is probably wrong!
13. Miami University Marching Band
Here's a video of the Miami University Marching Band giving an uninspired performance of mediocre arrangements of some outstanding music. Also, Miami fans are henceforth forbidden from commenting on EMU's bad attendance.
12. Rocket Marching Band
I found a video on YouTube of the Rocket Marching Band performing Ernesto Lecuona's classic song "Malagueña". This makes a nice reference point because the piece has become a standard, and it seems like everyone and their mother has played it. (For reference, this is the definitive performance of the tune.)
11. Chippewa Marching Band
This video is somewhat typical of what I've seen from the Marching Chips: a reasonably well-written and tolerably well-played show is marred by poor marching.
10. Marching Golden Flashes
Like many of the other marching bands in this part of the ranking, there's not necessarily anything wrong with the Kent State Marching Band, they're just not as good as what some of the other schools in the conference field. Here they are playing at a high school stadium, and looking and sounding for all the world like a high school marching band.
9. Eastern Michigan University Marching Band
The EMU Marching Band has several former directors who are fairly noteworthy in the band world, but unfortunately, decades of a losing football program have taken their toll. Among other considerations, the band is about one-half to one-third the size of many other MAC marching bands. Unfortunately, this field-level recording was the best I could find online of "The Pride of the Peninsula". You'll just have to trust me -- and I've seen them enough times to know -- that they're an entirely decent marching band.
8. Thunder of the East Marching Band (Buffalo)
Buffalo was without a marching band for several decades, but in 1999, with the football team's ascension to Division I, the powers that be decided that a marching band was needed, and so the Thunder of the East, a fairly pure corps-style band, was born.
7. Huskie Band
Decent, but not great, and really, generally unremarkable.
6. Zips Marching Band
The Zips field one of the best-sounding marching bands in the conference, but although their marching is clean, their shows seems to lack the kind of visual effects or more difficult marching that would push them into the top tier of MAC bands.
5. Bronco Marching Band
If there were a Michigan MAC Trophy for marching band, Western Michigan would own it for sure. The Broncos are head and shoulders above Eastern and Central. Watch this video from a rehearsal in Waldo Stadium, and I think you'll agree.
4. The Pride of Mid-America (Ball State)
Halftime shows tend to be mostly rock and pop tunes. They did do the "Thriller" dance several years ago, and bonus points because their uniforms look a bit like Michael Jackson's red leather jacket.
3. Falcon Marching Band
Bowling Green's Falcon Marching Band has a reputation for sharp marching and a big clean sound. To me they're every bit as good as the next band on the list, but they aren't doing the sort of attention-getting shows they'd need to move up this ranking.
2. Ohio University Marching 110
Although the Ohio University Marching Band was formed in 1923, the band took its modern form with "The Big Switch" in 1967, when director Gene Thrailkill instituted the high-energy style featuring popular music of the day. The closest thing the MAC has to a show band, the Marching 110 claim to be the first marching band to perform in Carnegie Hall, and are frequently included in lists of the nation's best college marching bands. In recent years, videos of their halftime performances of Party Rock Anthem and Gangnam Style have gone viral.
1. Minuteman Marching Band
Although the Marching 110 is probably better known to the average sports fan, particularly after the attention they've gotten in the last few years, the Minuteman Marching Band is known -- within the band world -- as one of the nation's best. They are one of only four marching bands from outside the major athletic conferences to win the John Philip Sousa Foundation's prestigious Sudler Trophy, which has been described as "the Heisman Trophy of the collegiate band world." If you care even the slightest about marching bands, you owe it to yourself to seize any chance you get to see this band perform.Let us know who you're favorite bands are and why in the comments below.