Marching to the Music: The U.S. Military’s Impact on American Youth through the Marching Band Movement, 1910-1990

Project Abstract

High school bands have evolved greatly since the first band boom in the early 1920s. Beyond the performance responsibilities and commitments to football and sporting events, bands have their own cultural elements that only band members, band staffs, and families of band students truly understand. This thesis will demonstrate that high school band culture since the 1920s developed alongside the changing fortunes of the U.S. military. Accordingly, U.S. military history shaped the evolving culture of high school marching bands and other youth performing arts groups while these civilian youth groups in turn embedded and reinforced elements of U.S. militarism in everyday U.S. life. To do so, this thesis will examine historical newspapers, volumes of Scouting, and early publications from the Winter Guard International and Drum Corps International organizations, with a primary focus on the interwar period (1920s and 1930s) and the period following Vietnam (1970s-1990s). Using local and national news sources demonstrates the increasing significance of youth marching arts groups to broad American audiences who read these papers and helps show how embedded these new traditions developed with American culture across the twentieth century. This study finds that through band uniforms, synchronized performances, music selections, and independent competition units, the marching band movement explicitly exemplifies the incursion of military influence into everyday American life, and specifically into the lives of America’s youth.


Conference Name (full, no abbreviations): 29th Annual James A. Barnes Conference

Dates: March 22-23, 2024

Sponsoring Body: James A. Barnes Club at Temple University

Conference Website:

Funding Type

Travel Grant

Academic College

College of Humanities and Fine Arts


History/ Social Studies Certification






Dr. Olga Koulisis

Academic College

College of Humanities and Fine Arts

This document is currently not available here.