How to be a Good Section Leader in Marching Band

Quote of the Day:

Tommy Lee


I did the marching band all throughout junior high and high school. Music was one of my favorite things in school.
Tommy Lee


Great, you were just made Section Leader by your band teacher. Now what? Once you have become a section leader, your main goals are to keep your section happy, out of trouble, and to play a good show.

Let’s look at some steps to help you be the best section leader you can be.


Understand what being section leader means. Being a section leader is harder than being a non-section leader; not only do you have to worry about your music, but you have to worry about the music of your section. It also doesn’t mean you get to be some dictator; you have to help your section. It’s a lot like being an administrator on a website; you’re a regular editor, but with a mop. You are there to serve the people in your section, not to rule over them.


Lead by example. Not only will this let your section know what to do, but it is also a very kind method of leadership. You were most likely chosen because of your playing or marching skills; now is your time to pass these on.


Get on friendly terms with your section. When you become friends with your section, they’ll be more likely to listen to you, and you’ll get a better feel of their playing ability.


Learn your music. As section leader, you’re expected to know it before everyone else. If you don’t know your music, how can you help others with their music?

How do you get to be the best? You have to practice sight reading. You want to be able to play the piece of music very accurately the first time you see it. This will be a good example for you to set with your section.


Hold sectionals. Sectionals are time when your section is the focus, not the entire band. Find the difficult passages and go over them with your section. This is called target practicing.

Ask the people in your section what part of the song looks the most difficult to them. Start with those measures. Once they see that it isn’t as difficult as they thought, the rest of the music will seem like a piece of cake!


Help your section when they need it. Let them practice, but if you see someone struggling with a part or playing it wrong without realizing it, go and help them.

Catch the people in your section playing it right! Give praise when you hear the pieces being played correctly.

Hold your section to their promises. If someone said they’ll learn a passage by next Tuesday, they better have it down when next Tuesday comes rolling by. If they don’t, ask them why they didn’t. Ask them off to the side. Don’t ask in front of the entire section. Education by humiliation is not the answer.


Be understanding. If someone can’t make it to the sectional because their grandma died, let it go and tell them you will see them at the next rehearsal. People do have lives outside of marching band.


Don’t be afraid to goof around with your section, as long as they’re behaving themselves. You’re still a member of your section, and your extra authority doesn’t mean you can’t take part in the rest of the section’s festivities. In fact, spending more time with your section only makes you a better leader.


Keep your section under control. This doesn’t mean order them around, but when they get out of hand, let them know. If necessary, seek help from another section leader or the band teacher. Remember, rehearsal time is limited and essential to the success of the whole band. Keep your section quiet and focused so they don’t miss important instruction.

Lastly, remember the team. No matter what goals you may have for your section, don’t lose sight of what is best for the entire band. Each section must work together to achieve what is best for the entire ensemble. Your band directors and drum majors goals should take priority over your own. Also, being a section leader is a privilege, not a right. Remember… with great power comes great responsibility, as said by Uncle Ben.





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