Top College Marching Band Programs

11 of the Best Marching Band Programs in the Country

Mark time mark! These marching band programs from around the country are known for their impressive shows, marching technique, and musicianship. You may have seen them in parades, during half-time shows, or performing with some big-name stars. Many of these bands have opportunities for students who aren't music majors, so even if you're studying chemistry, engineering, or fine art, you are welcome to audition for these great bands. Most importantly, all the bands listed here balance band practice with studying--your education always comes first. The programs here are listed alphabetically by school, so there are no arbitrary distinctions between rankings.

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The IU Marching Hundred - Indiana University

Indiana University Band
Indiana University Band.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

The “Marching Hundred” Marching Band was founded in 1896. Made up of woodwinds, brass, percussion, and “The Redsteppers” dance line, the band performs at all football home games (IU is a member of the Big Ten Conference), a few away games, and several other special events on and off campus. Students are either placed in the main block or the reserve block, determined after an audition at the summer band camp. Students do not have to be music students to join the band—the majority of band members are actually non-music majors.

  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Size: 270
  • Uniform: Red top with white trim; red bottom; red and white hat with white plume
  • More Information: School Profile | Program Website
  • Admission: GPA, SAT, ACT Graph
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The Sonic Boom of the South - Jackson State University

Jackson State University: The Sonic Boom of the South

2C2KPhotography/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Jackson State’s “Sonic Boom of the South” is well known for its high energy performances. The band plays for halftime shows for Jackson State, and, in the past, for selected NFL games. The band is headed by five drum majors, and accompanied by a dance team known as the “Prancing J-settes.” The 250-member band is composed of brass, winds, and percussion. Their repertoire of upbeat, modern music is always impressive and entertaining.

  • Location: Jackson, MS
  • Size: 250
  • Uniform: Blue, black, and white top; black bottom; white hats with white plume
  • More Information: School Profile | Program Website
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The Pride of the Buckeyes - Ohio State University

OSU Sousaphone Line
OSU Sousaphone Line.

Prayitno/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

OSU’s band is set at 225 members (33 of them being alternates) and the instrumentation is entirely brass and percussion. There is also the Athletic Band, made up of woodwinds, brass, and percussion. This band plays at varsity sporting events, with the exception of their fall football games--the Marching Band performs at those games. The Athletic Band is also open to any interested students, whereas the Marching Band is audition-only. Both bands have a long legacy of high-energy, high-quality performances.

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The "All American" Marching Band - Purdue University

Purdue Marching Band
Purdue Marching Band.

David Bergin/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The Purdue University marching band, formed in 1886, was originally 5 members. Now, with over 370 members, the band includes woodwinds, brass, percussion (drumline), color guard, and twirlers. Purdue is known for its singular twirling line-up: the “Silver Twins,” the “Girl in Black,” and the “Golden Girl.” These twirlers are highly-sought after positions and are often considered the band’s ambassadors. The band was the first to break line ranks, to form a letter on the field (now a common practice, with much more intricate drill routines). The “Block P,” started in 1907, is now a signature move of the band, performed at every football game.

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The Human Jukebox - Southern University and A & M College

The Human Jukebox: Southern University and A & M College

2C2KPhotography/Flickr/CC BY 2.0 

Known as the “Human Jukebox,” this college marching band is highly regarded, and has won several awards for its playing and marching performances. Composed of winds, brass, full drumline, and the nine “Dancing Dolls,” this band is highly energetic and marches complicated drill patterns with a polish and flair. For the past 60 years, the Human Jukebox has performed in a number of parades, halftime shows, and, more recently, commercials and music videos. They have a strong fan base and were recently named one of the top bands in the country by USA Today.

  • Location: Baton Rouge, LA
  • Band Size: 230+
  • Uniform: Navy and light blue top; navy bottom; white and navy hat with white plume, gold half-cape
  • More Information: School Profile | Program Website
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The Fightin' Texas Aggies - Texas A & M University

Fightin' Texas Aggie Band
Fightin' Texas Aggie Band.

Stuart Seeger/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

This woodwind, brass, and percussion band is the largest military marching band in the country. Students in the band must be a member of the Corps of Cadets in order to be in the “Fightin’ Texas Aggies,” as the band is commonly known. Known for incredibly complex drill maneuvers and precision marching, this band maintains its high standards for all incoming and returning students. Students are required to audition for the band and are encouraged to attend the “Spend the Night with the Corps” event, to learn about the band. 

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The Marching Illini - University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign

The Marching Illini
The Marching Illini.

William Murphy/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The “Marching Illini” consists of around 350 members, (including the drumline and guard) with a portion of that group playing the pre-game and half-time shows at home football games. Students in the band are not required to be music majors; the MI boasts members from every academic discipline on campus. Students are required to audition for the band, both in music and in marching, and then, once admitted, must enroll in the marching band course for credit. There are plenty of opportunities to travel, as the MI performs at various games and events around the state--at college games, high schools, and National Football League games.

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The Michigan Marching Band (MMB) - University of Michigan

Michigan Marching Band
Michigan Marching Band.

Brad Muckenthaler/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The Michigan Marching Band is composed of woodwind, brass, and percussion, with a full color guard. The “Performance Block” performs the pre-game and half-time shows at football games; the “Reserves” join this group to play in the stands during the games. With a stellar drumline, classic formations, and a rousing song repertoire, Michigan's marching band is a tough act to follow. 

  • Location: Ann Arbor, MI
  • Band Size: 350
  • Uniform: Blue, yellow, white top; blue bottom; white hat with blue and yellow plume
  • More Information: Program Website
  • Admission: GPA, SAT, ACT Graph
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The Trojan Marching Band - University of Southern California

USC Marching Band
USC Marching Bnad.

Itsacherrylife/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The Trojan Marching Band consists of woodwinds, brass, full percussion drumline, and color guard. They currently perform at over 350 engagements year, including (in recent years) international travel. Membership numbers vary, and a contingent of the band plays at every football game, both home and away. They have performed in several films, TV shows, and live events, including the Superbowl, the Grammys, and the Oscars. With only about 30% of the band members being music majors, any students who play an instrument are welcome to audition for the world-renowned group.

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Band Size: 300+
  • Uniform: Cardinal red, yellow, and white top; cardinal red bottom; Trojan-style helmet with cardinal red plume
  • More Information: School Profile | Program Website
  • Admission: GPA, SAT, ACT Graph
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The Longhorn Band - University of Texas - Austin

Marching Longhorns

Klobetime/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Longhorn Band incorporates woodwinds, brass, percussion, and a full color guard in their energetic and enthusiastic ensemble. The band performs at all in-state football games, many other athletics events, and various pep rallies and parades throughout the school year. Students do not have to be music majors to participate in band, however, students in the band will be enrolled in a year-long course for the band.

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The Pride of the Southland - University of Tennessee

Pride of the Southland Marching Band

Joel Kramer/Flickr/CC BY 2.0 

One of the oldest collegiate marching bands in the country, the “Pride of the Southland” was founded in 1869. Part of the military department of the university, the band was originally strictly cornets; now it is comprised of brass, winds, percussion (no bells or xylophones), a full color guard, and majorettes. The band is split into pep bands, taking turns playing at all home games—both in the stands, and during halftime—away games, and several special events on- and off-campus.

  • Location: Knoxville, TN
  • Band Size: 300
  • Uniform: Navy blue top with orange overlay; navy blue bottom; white and orange caps with white plume
  • More Information: School Profile | Program Website
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Your Citation
Wager, Liz. "Top College Marching Band Programs." ThoughtCo, Jul. 30, 2021, Wager, Liz. (2021, July 30). Top College Marching Band Programs. Retrieved from Wager, Liz. "Top College Marching Band Programs." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 30, 2023).