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Smithsonian Institution
Midwestern CrossroadsAmericans Old and NewMidwestern CrossroadsSouthern FusionLouisiana, Where Music is King
St. Charles
  When it comes to non-professional musicians performing regularly for large crowds, no musical style even approaches the popularity of marching bands. Village bands have been a center of social gatherings in the Midwest since at least mid-18th century. They played everything from light classical music to waltzes and other dance tunes. It was John Phillip Sousa, "The March King," who first put a uniquely American stamp on brass music, making the first commercially successful band recordings in 1890.
       School bands, playing during football games, have become a ubiquitous tradition throughout the United States, and many professional musicians got their start taking "band" for high school credit. The St. Charles High School Band is typical of contemporary marching bands, playing everything from band standards to modern show tunes, and "Louie, Louie." The musicians start practicing in the spring, and work through the summer to be ready when football season hits. Then they take the field, marching in intricate formations while playing precise, brassy arrangements.
       Though the Midwest hosts many hot band competitions, that is not where the St. Charles players feel most comfortable. "We're not really a competition band as much as we are just an audience band," says one teenage player. "You stick us in front of our home audience, we perform twenty times better because we've got them all yelling for us and all cheering for us. At competitions, they're just out there judging you the whole time. It's not as fun."

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