A Guide to Catching Pennsylvania’s Top Marching Bands in Action

A Guide to Catching Pennsylvania’s Top Marching Bands in Action

Photo courtesy of Ben Stanfield

By Kalena Thomhave

September 25, 2023

Whether affiliated with a school or community organization, or a professional entity all their own, these Pennsylvania marching bands energize crowds no matter the venue. 

Marching bands do much more than provide halftime entertainment and take to the street in parades.

Whether affiliated with a school or community organization, or a professional entity all their own, these Pennsylvania marching bands energize crowds no matter the venue. Some play on national television, some play the high school football field, some take to the streets to amplify the voices of those protesting for social justice.

We’re highlighting some of the top high school, collegiate, and other marching bands and drum and bugle corps that you can see perform in Pa. Whether you want to watch bands in competition or you’d rather clap along at a game or community event, these  ensembles always combine fun music with incredible showmanship.

Pennsylvania State University Marching Blue Band – State College

The Pennsylvania State University Marching Blue Band regularly performs for tens of thousands of people in Penn State’s Beaver Stadium. The band originally formed in 1899 and today has more than 300 student members playing brass, woodwinds, and percussion or twirling flags and batons. Catch the Blue Band while at a Penn State home game. The band recently performed a halftime show inspired by jazz music.

West Chester University Incomparable Golden Rams Marching Band – West Chester

The “Incomparable” Golden Rams Marching Band at West Chester University, made up of more than 300 students, appears at home football games as well as area parades. In fact, the band will march in the 2024 Rose Parade on New Year’s Day. You can watch the band at West Chester University football games this fall as well as at the Collegiate Marching Band Festival in Allentown on Oct. 1.

Shippensburg University Red Raider Marching Band – Shippensburg

A Guide to Catching Pennsylvania’s Top Marching Bands in Action

Photo courtesy of Bill Slattery Jr.

Shippensburg University in the Cumberland Valley southwest of Harrisburg is home to the Red Raider Marching Band. This marching band is a corps-style band similar to the styles of drum and bugle corps. Shippensburg doesn’t have a music major, so the 160+ members of the Red Raider band are all in it simply for the love of marching band. Check out the band during their halftime shows or across the state at marching band exhibitions, like the Collegiate Marching Band Festival.

Pennsylvania Interscholastic Marching Band Association Bands – Southwestern Pa.

Some of the best marching bands in the state are actually high school bands. You can find talented youth musicians and marchers within the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Marching Band Association (PIMBA), a group of high school marching bands in southwestern Pa. Norwin High School is known as one of the best bands in the entire state. So too are the bands at Kiski Area High School and Moon Area High School. Check out these fantastic high school marching bands at the PIMBA championships on Oct. 28 at Moon Area High School.

USBands Area Bands – Southeastern Pa.

USBands is an organization that hosts competitions between high school marching bands in order to give the bands a platform to better themselves and showcase their hard work. Many high school bands from southeastern Pa. participate in USBands competitions, which take place throughout the fall. You can watch USBands’ Pennsylvania State Championships on Oct. 21 in Downingtown, featuring high school bands from West Shore School District and Mechanicsburg Area Senior High.

Philadelphia Freedom Band – Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Freedom Band combines band music with social justice, as they are made up of both amateur and professional musicians committed to supporting the LGBTQ community. You can find the band marching at various area parades throughout the Philadelphia region. In particular, you can see them, bright and early, marching in Philly’s 6ABC Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Parade.

May Day Marching Band – Pittsburgh

The May Day Marching Band is an activist marching band that hits the streets of Pittsburgh to bring music to the community. The band is made up of musicians of all skill levels—you could join them no matter your level of experience. You can find them at parades, protests, fundraisers, union rallies, bike rides, and community festivals like PITTONKATONK.

The Cadets – Erie

A Guide to Catching Pennsylvania’s Top Marching Bands in Action

Photo courtesy of Scutter

The oldest drum and bugle corps in the country is based in none other than Erie. The Cadets have been performing since 1934 and were a founding member of Drum Corps International (DCI). Musicians in DCI are between the ages of 17 and 21 and go through grueling auditions to join the corps. The Cadets are on tour in July and August, so plan to see them in summer 2024.

Reading Buccaneers – Reading

Founded in 1957, the Reading Buccaneers are an all-ages drum and bugle corps and were a charter member of Drum Corps Associates. The Buccaneers perform in community events, parades, and weekend exhibitions rather than going on long, demanding tours. The Buccaneers participate in competitions each year; they just won the 2023 DCA World Championship. In fact, they’ve won 15 times since 2005. Rehearsals for the winter season begin in November.

Steel City Ambassadors – Pittsburgh

The Steel City Ambassadors are an alumni drum corps, meaning that the group is made up of alumni members of any age of other drum corps (however, one doesn’t actually need to have marched in a drum corps to join). You’ll find them performing around Pittsburgh, particularly in parades, though the Steel City Ambassadors also appear in competitions during the spring and summer months.

 

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