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. It’s the flashy uniforms, the articulate steps, and amazing choreography that gets everyone going. All around the country bands perform crisp drills and blare incredible music until the whole stadium is rocking. Most commonly seen at college football games, marching bands 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. We’ve considered animated formations, choreography, famous performances, and crowd enthusiasm to showcase our favorites. 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
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. It’s a full-time job, and their dedication shows every game day.
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 34 times!
Even those without in-depth marching band knowledge probably know about the famous “Dotting of the I”. It’s exactly what the Ohio State University marching band’s pregame show is known for. 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. The band is famous for its astounding drill. If you’ve seen the viral videos of them doing the Michael Jackson moonwalk across the field or Link’s trusty steed Epona (from the Legend of Zelda games) gallop towards the end-zone, then you know that they’re the real deal.
This historic band started out as a cornet-only ensemble over 110 years ago but has grown into a full-fledged marching band. They’ve performed for the presidential inauguration every year (except 2013) since 1965. This amazing band is well-known for its circle drill and its kaleidoscope-like formations. These are the exact elements that wow any audience who sees them.
Back down to Texas for another massive band! The Longhorn band is one steeped in tradition. They favor a traditional style of marching along with performing classic tunes. “Rawhide”, “Ghost Riders in the Sky”, “William Tell Overture”, and “Deep in the Heart of Texas” are among some of the favorites. Full of pride and tradition, the band is also known as the “Showband of the Southwest” for a good reason.
Believe it or not, Purdue’s marching band was formed a year before the football team! Since then, the Purdue All-American marching band has been going strong. It is the most prominent 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.
The Blue Band had very humble beginnings–in 1899 it was founded with only 6 members total in the drum and bugle corps. Now 320 members strong, the Blue Band features instrumentalists, silks, 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. Talk about fame!
The University of Michigan Marching Band has some accomplishments to admire. They were the first Big Ten marching band to perform at the 1948 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the first Big Ten band to perform at the 1973 NFL Super Bowl, and the first marching band to perform in both the Rose Bowl and Yankee Stadium in the same season in 1950. They were also the first marching band to win the Sudler Trophy – known as the Heisman of the marching band world in 1982. Their achievements are well-earned and everyone around the world can see why.
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!”
What Makes a Great Marching Band?
Choreography, instruments, and crowd enthusiasm all come together in a great marching band performance. Whether you’re watching a pregame or halftime show, marching bands are an essential part of college sports. Combined with the cheerleaders, mascot, and fans, the ensemble truly creates the game day culture. Every performance is filled with school spirit, a fast cadence, detailed script writing, and more. Your college experience will be enhanced when you join in on the fun. Whether you’re at a home football game or an away game, you can enjoy a great performance.
Eager to march with or cheer on any of these bands? Enter your information into our college match tool! You’ll see your admission odds and potential financial aid packages for any college in the country!