Opinions, Column

The March(ing Band) for Class Credit

Boston College football has been hit or miss this year. As a member of the marching band this season, having to play during major losses can make it difficult to enjoy my Saturdays. To cheer us up after such disappointing games, our band director often repeats a cute mantra:

 “Whether the Eagles win or lose, the band always wins.”

I’ve discovered that this is far from the case. BC’s administration has denied the band commonplace academic and financial opportunities that would recognize the time and effort that its members put forth. Being members of one of the most decorated college marching band programs in the Northeast, students in the BC Marching Band (BCMB) should receive some form of academic or financial reward—whether through scholarships or class credit. 

BC is the only institution in the Atlantic Coast Conference that does not provide either scholarships or class credit to members of its marching band. Out of the 14 non-BC teams in the ACC, 10 of them provide at least one credit hour per semester for marching band students, while eight provide annual scholarships for each member of their band. Five of these 14 schools even offer both financial stipends and class credit for marching band members. From these statistics alone, it is clear that BC is lagging behind by providing neither form of support to its own band. 

If the BCMB is just an extracurricular, one might ask the question: Why should marching band members of any college receive more support than members of other student organizations? The reason, as will be made clear soon, is the immense time commitment. Having been a part of several student organizations at BC, I can say with confidence that the BCMB is one of the most time-intensive non-sport organizations that you can join. Like any other college marching band program, our season begins with a 10-day “band camp” in August, which involves 13-hour days of constant playing, learning drill, and marching in preparation for the upcoming football season. 

This momentum continues throughout the season, as we practice twice a week for three hours apiece during the fall semester. We must also attend special events for the band and miss other opportunities as a result. Every year, the BCMB performs at all home football games, Superfan 101, Pops on the Heights, and oftentimes, a bowl game. Attendance at these events is mandatory, which means that BCMB members miss other extracurriculars, tailgating, and even much of their Thanksgiving Break and Winter Break. All for the band. The amount of sacrifice required in the BCMB necessitates compensating marching band members with some form of academic or financial support.

While both scholarships and class credit are lacking in the BCMB, implementing a scholarship program would be difficult. Given that the BCMB regularly has over 170 students, providing each member an annual scholarship would mean that tens of thousands of dollars would need to be raised every year by the program to give to students. Without a major donor or income source to use for such a fund, forming a lasting scholarship for the BCMB as it exists would be nearly impossible. 

Still, class credit is a very reasonable goal for the band. After all, the vast majority of ACC teams provide marching band as a one- or two-credit music elective. Most of these programs are either in a pass/fail format or allow students to opt out of receiving credit if they fear it will harm their GPA. If adopted, either of these methods would be a stress-free way to give BCMB members more flexibility in their schedules while being rewarded for their time in BC’s largest student organization. The academic administration at BC should not be concerned that giving class credit to the BCMB could take students away from other arts and music programs—marching band is an exhausting effort that I would highly doubt any non-marching band students would consider doing in place of a proper arts class. It has a defined culture, both mocked and admired by many, and is simply harder to do than other arts classes that one could take to fulfill their arts core. BC, like its ACC counterparts, can reasonably include marching band as a music elective with class credit. 

The Screaming Eagles are often lauded as the “most visible student organization on campus.” As a mediocre trombone player in my freshman year, I would tend to agree—not for myself, but for the many amazing band members I’ve met in just a few months. The BCMB dedicates hundreds of hours every year in practices for the purpose of entertaining thousands of students every game day and has been missing out on proper compensation for years. It’s time to let the Screaming Eagles be rewarded for their hard work in the form of class credit. 

Featured Graphic by Liz Schwab/ Heights Editor

December 5, 2021