You might not see a High School marching band during your trip to New Orleans, but they are an essential part of the local music scene. During Carnival (the period leading up to Mardi Gras), high school marching bands appear in parades (put on by various krewes, the Carnival organizations) all over the city . The biggest parades may have at least a dozen major high school bands, and the same band will often appear over several consecutive days or nights.
New Orleans’ marching bands are easily the hardest-working high school bands in the world. As NPR noted, “High school marching bands in New Orleans march night after night during Carnival — the equivalent of running a 5K every night, rain or shine, with a sousaphone on your back — and still show up for school in the morning.” Not only do they face long routes and unpredictable weather, they also have to deal with overwhelming crowds and tons of stops and starts that can make a parade last well over 5 hours.
Our city is truly fortunate to have so many of these talented musicians, and they certainly make the Carnival experience something spectacular!
St Aug Marching 100 at Krewe of Mid-City
Known locally as “St Aug”, St Augustine High School’s Marching 100 is the first marching band to appear in a number of different parades during Carnival.
Edna Karr – Moves Like Jagger
During Mardi Gras, many high school bands perform versions of popular songs. Here’s Edna Karr performing Maroon 5’s “Moves like Jagger.” Most marching bands have a huge group of additional dancers, majorettes, flag carriers, drum majors, and band moms and dads asking people to move out of the way (a huge concern on some of the very narrow Mardi Gras parade routes). Check out the drum majors in this video at 0:39-0:44 – many drum majors are the best dancers in the city!
For more of Edna Karr’s great drum major dancing, check out their rendition of the Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There” during a Battle of the Bands:
O. Perry Walker at Krewe of Muses, Under the Bridge
This is a fantastic video of what it’s like at Mardi Gras for several reasons. The first is that one of the favorite spots for band fans to see a parade “under the bridge” – this is where Interstate 10 crosses over St Charles, which is the main Uptown parade route. Because of the acoustics, the marching bands really pull out all the stops when they go “under the bridge,” and often do some of their greatest numbers in this spot. Second, you get a really good feel for how BIG some of these bands are. Third, all of us in New Orleans inevitably have that horrible moment, depicted at 6:52, of having to cross the parade barricades with giant daiquiri cups before the band or a float rolls over you.
McDonogh 35 at Krewe of Muses, Under the Bridge
Another view from Under the Bridge.
Warren Easton vs. McMain before Krewe of Endymion
Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate the band sound when the videos are filmed along the route. Here’s a mini battle of the bands before Endymion, one of the biggest parades.