After World War I, the presence and quality of marching bands in the American public school system expanded as military veterans with service band experience began to accept music teaching positions within schools across the country, eventually bringing wind music and marching band into both educational curriculum and school culture.

With high school programs on the rise, marching bands started to become competitive organizations, with the first national contest being held in 1923 in Chicago, Illinois.

A marching band is a group in which instrumental musicians perform while marching, often for entertainment or competition.

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Today, state contests continue to be the primary form of marching band competition in the United States.

Since the inception of Drum Corps International in the 1970s, many marching bands that perform field shows have adopted changes to the activity that parallel developments with modern drum and bugle corps. Areas where changes have been adopted from drum corps include: Military bands or corps of drums were historically the first marching bands.

In the United States, modern marching bands are most commonly associated with performing during American football games.

The oldest American college marching band, the University of Notre Dame Band of the Fighting Irish, was founded in 1845 and first performed at a football game in 1887.In the mid 19th century each smaller unit had their own fifer and drummer, who sounded the daily routine.When units massed for battle a band of musicians was formed for the whole.Many American universities had marching bands prior to the twentieth century, which were typically associated with military ROTC programs.In 1907, breaking from traditional rank and file marching, the first pictorial formation on a football field was the "Block P" created by Paul Spotts Emrick, director of the Purdue All-American Marching Band.Most marching bands wear a uniform, often of a military style, that includes an associated organization's colors, name or symbol.