NOTE: This is a very popular post on MusTech.Net – I have written an additional article and presentation on it here:

Please read this article first.



Most people don’t think about it; but, if you happen to be a marching band director, you KNOW it -successful marching band directors have the same skill sets as successful Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). CEOs must be forward thinkers and planners; they must be experts in resource and time management, they must be motivators and innovators; and above all, they must be goal-oriented, inspirational, and visionaries.

Forbes published an article, by Joel Trammell, in June of 2014 (The Three Qualities a CEO Must Have to Succeed), that pinpointed three qualities that a CEO must have to succeed:

  1. Credibility
  2. Competence
  3. Caring

In order for any CEO to succeed, Trammell states that all of these traits must be present in the CEO and must continually complement each other as the CEO manifests himself or herself as a leader. Perhaps falling under Trammell’s “Confidence” quality, two other “Cs” likely come to mind with regard to being a successful leader: “Confidence” and “Creativity”. Without confidence, a competent CEO can come across as timid, and creativity remains supreme with regard to true innovation, solving problems, instilling motivation, and maintaining excellence in all things.

Directing and operating an excellent marching band program is akin to running a successful business and is strikingly similar to the job of a CEO. Although music directors leading other types of music ensembles (concert band, choir, etc.) share a number of responsibilities similar to their marching band colleagues, there can be little doubt that the administration and logistics involved with operating a marching band are not only far greater, they are Herculean in comparison. Due to the many different competencies that marching band directors must acquire throughout their careers, they often find themselves being sought after to begin second careers as school administrators, university executives, or for other types of management positions. Their highly developed skill sets in administration and management mirror those found in highly successful top-level executives and include:

  • The ability to find key talent and maintain it:
    • Marching band directors must nurture, develop, market, find, and maintain and retain talent (i.e., both students/performers and their team) -it is not uncommon to see band directors utilize various software and techniques to track and manage these needs
  • The ability to manage multiple inventories and “spec” future needs:
    • Marching band directors maintain, manage, and distribute, product inventories, personnel rosters, transportation manifests, and also manage expense items, capital items, practice smart banking principles; they prepare and manage budgets on a regular basis, including short-term planning and strategic planning for long-term improvements and needs
  • The ability to pursue development opportunities and secure funding:
    • Marching band directors are always raising money and seeking new sources of funding -whether it be through local, state, or federal sources, or through seeking additional revenues through their communities and networking connections, or by starting capital campaigns through such programs as or via social media outreach -developing partnerships with local vendors and area businesses are a must for the successful band marching band program
  • The ability to triage and make the best use of existing resources through strategic decisions and smart implementations
    • Marching band directors must have the ability to discern and prognosticate what they can accomplish in their given circumstances: ever-changing personnel, ever-changing student abilities, ever-changing schedules, ever-changing funding sources, as well as diverse inventories that vary from year-to-year; they must make good decisions each day regarding a variety of different needs and demands -the best directors use rigid, proven methods that work, but also are pliable with regard to their abilities to creatively meet needs as they evolve and arise -they must be able to think quickly and solve problems immediately using sound judgments based upon gained experiences and available data
  • The ability to lead effectively:
    • Marching band directors must lead through example and must become exemplars themselves -they must know their products from the ground up, they must know how to both demonstrate and inspire, they must know their organization’s current limitations, and they must take the lead in moving it forward and making it better each year; they must have a direct vision of where they want to finish, what goals that they are trying to accomplish along the way, and create a solid path to get there -a marching band director must be mission and outcome-driven
  • The ability to communicate effectively:
    • Marching band directors have the need to communicate with many different entities and through many different channels; they will do this through both digital and traditional ways and must decide which approach is best suited for each circumstance
      • They must communicate with their students (main workforce) -from musical communications to personnel needs and scheduling, to individual feedback and group feedback; marching band directors even employ CAD style drafting techniques (for drill) and both military and artistic style instruction to their students on the field
      • They must communicate with their bosses (administration, boards, and stakeholders)
      • They must communicate with their vendors (buyers)
    • They must communicate with their community (consumers)
    • They must build and maintain a positive culture throughout all levels of those they communicate with and also be able to listen positively to any and all feedback AND learn from it
  • The ability to master their own public relations (PR) and marketing:
    • Marching band directors are tasked with creating their own marketing and typically, because of this, they have mastered many associated skill sets such as: social and digital online media; sound and video media, print media, news media, etc. -band directors often have extensive skill sets in Adobe Photoshop/graphic software, audio and video software, and also have a deep knowledge of copyright and legal licensing as it pertains to their industry
  • The ability to assess and act upon assessment:
    • Marching band directors are constantly making judgments, evaluating group and individual performance, seeking input from other qualified individuals, and acting upon the data they receive -band directors consistently evaluate process and make adjustments toward making their group more excellent throughout each year and the next
  • The ability to manage stress effectively:
    • Marching band directors will make dozens and hundreds of decisions each day whether they are music in nature, administration or personnel-related, or logistical; successful directors will have developed coping methods to deal with everyday stress, “out of the blue” stress, and yearly stresses all while maintaining proper focus on the tasks-at-hand and positive forward movement toward their goals; in addition, they must have to have the ability to manage their students stresses so that the group, as a whole, can make progress at each rehearsal

In addition to all of this, marching band directors must be able to pedagogically teach music (a product) and provide an education. They must create and operate within an educational environment that both excites and inspires their students -whether it be the education or love of music itself, the benefits that come from working in social groups and as a team, learning self-respect and respect for others, or simply, the life skills and learned discipline that comes naturally from being a part of a marching band. Most importantly, marching band directors must LOVE what they do and believe in the overwhelming benefits and positive outcomes that spring from their service to their students, their school, and their community.

The success of any marching band program is inherently tied to the abilities and motivations of the band director that leads the group. Not unlike successful CEOs, successful marching band directors will succeed despite the obstacles and challenges put in front of them and will always be planning for the success of their students, and for maintaining excellence in their programs.

PLEASE note a follow-up article and presentation to this has been created and may be found here:

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