Sneak Peek #2: The Dirty Side of Marching Bands

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The new issue hits stands next Tuesday, and we thought this story might intrigue our fellow band nerds in the audience. If you've ever wondered why marching bands wear those strange, colorful uniforms, it's because they started out as a bribe! Here's the story:

If marching bands seem like they're full of rejects from the football team and the cheerleading squad, it's kind of a tradition. Marching bands got their start in 1906 in Connersville, Ind., when a music teacher named Dr. W. Otto Miessner saw a group of his students hanging out on the street watching a minstrel show. The teenagers had recently been suspended, and Miessner wanted to get them back in school. So he made them a deal: If they helped him form a brass band, he would pull some strings to end their suspension. As added incentive, Miessner promised that the band would perform at public events and wear fine uniforms in the school colors.

Marching bands have been wearing snazzy outfits ever since, but they haven't always had the best luck keeping them clean. Early on, it became standard practice for marching bands to walk at the back of processions, behind the horses, where manure would inevitably sully their uniforms. No one knows how this tradition got started, but we do know that one band rebelled. As the story goes, the director of the Storm Lake High School band in Iowa put his foot down after tiring of seeing his students trudge through manure. So, he refused to let his band participate in the town's Fourth of July parade until the order of procession was reversed. His request was granted, and the band marched home squeaky clean.

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From more high school origin stories, to a peek inside the MIT Media Lab, to the 50 most interesting places in the space-time continuum, the new issue is definitely worth reading. Look for it on newsstands, or better yet, pair a subscription with mental_floss T-shirt and save yourself some money. Click here for details.

June 18, 2010 - 11:00am
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