When halftime rolls around, football players hit the locker rooms while the band takes the field—it’s their time to entertain and shine. Marching band halftime shows are a staple of American football and a highlight of Game Day for many fans. All around the country bands perform crisp drills and blare incredible music until the whole stadium is rocking. They are the pride and pinnacle of school spirit.
There are hundreds of amazing marching bands all over America, but we wanted to highlight some of the best. So whether you’re a casual viewer or a hardcore marching band fanatic, here are 10 spectacular college marching bands.
The 10 Best College Marching Bands
They say everything is bigger in Texas, and the marching bands are no exception. The Texas Aggie Band is a 400+ member military marching band–the largest of its kind. Known for its big sound and precise, traditional drill, this marching band can practice up to 40 hours per week on top of their school schedule. That’s some dedication!
Known as the “Hollywood’s Band” the Spirit of Troy has been featured in dozens of movies and TV shows, including Forrest Gump, the Little Rascals, and Hello Dolly! Even off-screen, this band is seriously impressive. It also boasts the most performances at the Rose Bowl than any other college band–at 33 times!
Even those without in-depth marching band knowledge probably know about the famous “Dotting of the I” for the OSU marching band’s pregame show. It is a tradition that goes back to the 1930s, where someone stands as the dot of the I in the Ohio script formed by the band. The ensemble is one of the largest all-brass and percussion bands and is famous for their astounding drill–such as making Michael Jackson moonwalk across the field, or Link’s trusty steed Epona (from the Legend of Zelda games) gallop towards the end-zone!
This historic band started out as a cornet-only ensemble over 110 years ago but has grown into full-fledged marching band that has performed for the presidential inauguration every year (except 2013) since 1965. They are well-known for their circle drill and their kaleidoscope-like formations that wows any audience who sees them.
Back down to Texas for another massive band (with about 375 members!). The Longhorn band is one steeped in tradition, favoring a traditional style of march along with performing classic tunes like “Rawhide”, “Ghost Riders in the Sky”, “William Tell Overture”, and “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” Full of pride and tradition, the band is also known as the “Showband of the Southwest” for good reason.
Believe it or not, Purdue’s marching band was formed a year before the football team! Since then Purdue’s All-American marching band has been going strong. It is the largest Big Ten marching band and boasts a few impressive alumni, including Orville Redenbacher and Neil Armstrong who played the tuba and baritone respectively.
The “110” in its nickname is in honor of the original 110 members of the band, which is now 245 members strong. Today the 110 represents the “110% effort” that goes into memorizing music, drill, and performing. The Marching 110 has performed in over 40 NFL halftime shows, in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade twice, and on several international stages. And boy do they love to dance!
The Blue Band had very humble beginnings–in 1899 it was founded with only 6 members total in the drum and bugle corps. Now 310 members strong, the Blue Band features instrumentalists, silks (aka color guard–and one of the few college marching bands that have them), majorettes, a featured twirler, and of course a drum major. They’ve performed in many bowl games, internationally, and have even been featured in fashion shows and magazines.
This band has some accomplishments to gawk at. They were the first Big Ten marching band to perform at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena (1948), the first Big Ten band to perform at the NFL Super Bowl (1973), and the first marching band to perform in both the Rose Bowl and Yankee Stadium in the same season (1950), AND the first marching band to win the Sudler Trophy–known as the Heisman of the marching band world (1982). Their achievements are well-earned.
Honorary Mention: University of Iowa Hawkeye Marching Band
Of course, we have to give a little shout out to the Hawkeye Marching Band since College Raptor is located in the heart of Hawkeye territory—Iowa City (and a few of the writers, including yours truly, were members of the band—Go Hawks!).
With bright yellow uniforms, it’s hard to miss this fun-loving band. HMB entertains every crowd and showcases both nostalgic and new music. The band has earned some high praise, CNN says they are “One of the top ten best college marching bands in the nation!” Kirk Ferentz, head coach of the Hawkeye Football team, says, “We gain a significant advantage playing at home in familiar surroundings with friends, fans, and the band cheering us on!”
There are so many incredible bands that we just couldn’t feature them all. Maybe keep an eye out for Part Two that highlights even more amazing college marching bands across the nation.
Eager to march with or cheer on any of these bands? Enter your information into our college match tool to see your admission odds (and potential financial aid packages) for any college in the country!