Miami University Marching Band performing at Yager Stadium
Miami University Marching Band performing at Yager Stadium

Best Kept Fitness Secrets of Miami's Musicians: Music In Motion

Miami University Marching Band trains for peak performance

First of a three-part series, Best-Kept Fitness Secrets of Miami's Musicians

By Karen O'Hara, university communications and marketing

Marching band formation at Yager FieldThere’s a reason the 250-member Miami University Marching Band (MUMB) sounds so good and marches so crisply at those fall football games. In order to participate in the season, every member must attend pre season week (a.k.a. band camp) right before school starts.

That’s in southwest Ohio. Seventy-two percent humidity and temperatures in the mid-80s are the norm.

Rehearsing and training under those conditions helps members build the stamina and ability to perform at a high level for relatively sustained periods. Marching band music is typically high tempo, approaching 180 beats per minute (three steps a second). Halftime shows can run up to eight minutes long.

According to Dr. Stephen Lytle, Associate Director of Bands, “The stylized movement the band members must execute requires them to sustain specific control of motion and fine motor skills. Coordinating with that is, of course, the musical performance demands. For wind players, managing high volumes of air at a rapid pace or controlling specific muscle groups in the thorax and face are demanding. For percussionists, physical demands are felt in the hands and arms.”

A typical 12-hour day of MUMB pre season week starts and ends with physical conditioning, including some aerobic exercise and extensive stretching. The afternoon is devoted to music rehearsals, including individual instrumental sections, followed by a full band rehearsal. The Shakerettes, twirlers, color guard, and drumline all have their own specific trainings that occur throughout this week.

MUMB members are a hardy bunch. Senior alto saxophonist Andrew Barrett, a veteran of MUMB, confirms that aside from periodic water and meal breaks, the band does indeed spend their entire time practicing music in the sun, setting drill for the show, or working on their technique.

“And some members try to squeeze in even more practice time than that,” Andrew says.

All of that conditioning pays off when it’s time to take the field. But it’s not time for the band to relax just yet. Throughout the football season, the band continues to practice Monday through Friday from 4:15 p.m. to around 5:50 p.m. And of course, there are all of those football games...

Are you tired yet?

Read parts two and three of the series:

Best Kept Fitness Secrets of Miami's Musicians: Sunrise Salutations for Singers

Best Kept Fitness Secrets of Miami's Musicians: Mind over Movement