Events Links Resources


The Spotlight presents news and articles on topics related to marching bands and pageantry arts.

Share this page:

View more articles

Suggest an article topic
Popular articles

Prep your body for marching season

12 Holiday Gift Ideas for Marching Band Fans

Cavalcade of Bands Honor Band

Pride of the Dutchmen Marching Band

German bugle band makes its mark at Calgary Stampede

Marching bands to honor 9/11 anniversary

Traveling Efficiently

Specialized Marching Band Carts

Working With a Travel Agent

Fiesta Bowl Memorable for Norton Band

'Band Nerds' Holiday Poem

Drum beat sparks music passion

Sport, Art, or...Spart?

Musical Growth Spurt

First Day of Rehearsal

Troopers Drum Corps Documentary

Ripped Jeans And Self-Esteem

Boot Camp For Bands

Benefits of Indoor Percussion

Secrets of a Successful Audition

A Disappearing Act

One More Time Around Again Marching Band

Steamboat Springs Ski Band

Band Boosters Support Dreams

Ohio State School for the Blind Marching Band

Rose Parade Float Honors Marching Bands

Throw It Down Movie

Bob McGrath inspires on Sesame Street

Rose Parade Float Decorators

Bugles Across America

High School Musical Choreographer Bonnie Story

Working in Harmony at Fillmore Central H.S., Harmony, Minnesota

Marching Amidst the Glaciers at Colony H.S., Alaska

Empowering Multiplicity at Trenton Peabody H.S., Tennessee

Visualizing the Extraordinary at Sebring H.S., Florida

Henson blends winter guard with puppetry in Panther & Crane

Competition: How important is it?

Band Nerds Poetry Book

Capturing Show Design Ideas

Halftime Magazine Debuts

From The 50 Yard Line Movie

Three Tips for Cleaning Drill

American Band Book

YouTube Marching Videos

Brentwood Band plays on Brad Paisley CD

Macy's Marching Band

Broken Arrow Documentary

Color Guard Flag Design

Marching Band Health Tips

European Flower Parades

Home > Spotlight > Allen High School's Huge Marching Band

For Allen High's 638-strong marching band, precision instrumental in coordinating logistics on, off field

By Sam Hodges, The Dallas Morning News

Anthony Sanuen, Craig Locke and Hayden Houpt, three of the Allen High marching band's 25 tuba players, cram with their instruments into a bus for the short ride from the practice field to the football stadium. DALLAS, October 30, 2009 — Just as buffalo in unimaginable numbers once covered the plains, the Allen High School marching band covers football fields on Friday nights.

This season, the Collin County school marches 527 musicians. A 39-member color guard weaves in and out of the ranks. A 72-member drill team performs up front.

Bigger marching bands have been assembled for special events. But folks at the University Interscholastic League, the Texas Music Educators Association, and Bands of America say they don't know of a regularly performing marching band anywhere that's the size of Allen's.

"It's the largest marching band program that I'm aware of," agreed Robert Carnochan, director of the University of Texas Longhorn Band, which has a trifling 390 members.

The Allen High marching band has about as many musicians as there are members of Congress. It has five musicians for every one in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The 85-member trumpet section is bigger than many high school marching bands.

The band, drill team and color guard together are formally known as the Allen Eagle Escadrille (French for "squadron"). For trips, such as last Friday's to Southern Methodist University's Ford Stadium for a game against Jesuit, the 638-student contingent requires 18 school buses. Three big trucks haul instruments and other equipment.

Who are you?

When the Allen High marchers take the field, they really take the field, stretching end zone to end zone, leaving little turf exposed. Though a proud, happy throng, they admit that nobody can know everybody in a band so big.

"Every now and then you'll see a face you've never seen before," said David McQuiddy, a senior baritone player.

Fans of the Allen High band speak of the "wow factor," and that includes sound. No one has come forward with a decibel reading, but in early morning practices, the band is heard all over east Allen.

"It's kind of nice to go out on the back patio and listen to them and have a cup of coffee," said Chelsey Hall. She lives 3.6 miles from the band's practice field.

'It can part your hair'

One night in September, Brennan Killingsworth was home watching a Texas Rangers game on TV when he heard the band strike up nearly a mile away at Allen Eagle Stadium. Killingsworth, band director at Ford Middle School, stepped outside and sent a text message to Matt Boening, an Allen High band associate director.

"Band sounds good at halftime," Killingsworth wrote, "but tell the trombones their 2nd position D flats are out of tune!"

Hearing the band from afar is one thing. Close range is another.

"The volume they produce is amazing," said Joe Nunez, director of the McKinney Boyd High marching band. "It can part your hair."

Inclusive approach

That Allen High would have a big marching band is no surprise. Allen High is one of the biggest schools in the state, reflecting rapid growth in the city as well as the school district's decision to stick with one high school. The district also is affluent, with a strong commitment to arts education.

But many credit former director Anthony Gibson with establishing the inclusive, accommodating philosophy that helped swell the ranks. Gibson, now in charge of fine arts for the district, still recalls with anger that he was forced as a ninth-grader to choose between band and basketball.

As band director, he had a demanding practice schedule, but students who needed to peel off for tennis practice or play rehearsal were allowed. The current director, Charles Pennington, takes the same approach.

"There's not just band kids in our band," said Tyler Tryon, a senior trumpet player.

The band has even had varsity football players who at halftime doffed their shoulder pads, grabbed their instruments and joined the line. That's not the case this year, but the ranks include Brian Spann, a freshman clarinetist with muscular dystrophy who keeps up using a motorized wheelchair.

"I hardly even notice him out there anymore," Pennington said.

The size of the Allen High band limits what it can do in routines; and quality control in marching and musicianship is a challenge, especially with scores of freshmen.

That matters in marching band competitions, where the Escadrille scores well, but usually doesn't bring home the biggest trophy.

"There's good quality in that band, not just quantity, but I don't think competition is what they're about," said Frank Coachman, deputy director of the Texas Music Educators Association. "I think they're about family, and I think that's phenomenal."

"Family" is not a metaphor, because parents are a major part of the Escadrille, handling much of the difficult logistics. At any game, nearly 100 are involved, chaperoning on buses, handing out snacks and water bottles, laying out instrument cases and carefully putting away plumes that go with marchers' hats.

The band boosters group includes a special-forces unit, the Pit Bulls. These unlikely roadies — clean-cut, middle-aged dads in special T-shirts and work gloves — move the heavy equipment, including the mallet percussion that goes in the "pit" area by the field.

Teenagers are not known for expressing gratitude to authority figures, but Tim Love, leader of the Pit Bulls, said he gets four or five thank-yous a game from band members.

"Brother, that goes a long way," he said.

Making a big play

The band itself certainly doesn't lack for appreciation, including from the Allen High football team. Put 500 or so rabidly partisan teenage musicians in a section near an end zone, and your team doesn't have a 12th man. It has a 12th gorilla.

Allen High is the defending state Class 5A Division I champion in football, and in last year's title game, a spectacular blast from the band coincided with miscommunication between the opposing team's center and quarterback. The ball bounced off the quarterback, who was in shotgun formation and looking the other way.

The TV commentators credited the Allen High band, and Terry Gambill, the Eagles' defensive coordinator, agrees.

"It had a big-time effect," Gambill said. "The quarterback fell on the ball, but they ended up losing yardage."

There's a video clip of that play on YouTube, and there are quite a few videos there of the Allen High band.

A homemade one titled "Allen High Marching Monster Band" consists largely of the musicians coming onto a football field from a narrow entryway. The bemused female narrator says, "The band that never ends ... They never end ... When will it end?"

Members make no apology for their monster band.

"It's who we are. It's what we do," said Angela Tomlinson, a senior drum major.

The Escadrille will probably get bigger. Growth has slowed, but not stopped, in the Allen school district.

This year's band has 59 trombones. Pennington has promised that if the number gets to 76, he'll add the show tune "Seventy Six Trombones" to the repertoire.

"We're closing in," he said.

And there's still marching room — a little — in the end zones.

View a video of the Allen Escadrille's performance in Plano, Texas on October 17, 2009:

Story by Sam Hodges and photo by Jeffrey Porter of The Dallas Morning News. Reprinted with permission.

Copyright 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published or redistributed without permission.

2023 DCI Championships Photos

2023 DCI Photos

2023 Fall Marching Band Events

Facebook on Facebook

Working on your next marching show? Find Band Uniforms and select Marching Band Music Arrangers in the Resource section.

Support Music logo