Editor's Notes

Elise Eaton was recipient of an ORCA Travel Grant to present this research at 29th Annual James A. Barnes Conference, which took place March 22-23, 2024.


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.



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