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Discourse Community Ethnography

In: English and Literature

Submitted By bobbykelly1
Words 1127
Pages 5
Robert Kelly
Holly Kopcha
ENGL 2089 106
Marching Band The marching band is a community all their own. They all speak to each other in a language that is all their own. It was always easy to spot someone in school who was a “band kid” because of the way they carried themselves or the way they talked or the people they associated with. Kids in the marching band hang out with each other during and outside of school. They are a community all their own with unique characteristics. The marching band has specific goals that they set for themselves as well as for the group. Individually the members of the marching band have their own goals that they need to accomplish for the ultimate goal of making the group better. Each member will practice their music at home or in the practice rooms during class in order to get better at memorizing and accenting their music. They do this to help the group sound better when they are at competition. Band member also have a goal to memorize their drill sheets. This helps them to where they are supposed to be on the field at a certain time. Doing this helps the group look more unified in their formations.

The group’s goals are to perform well at competitions and ultimately win a trophy for their school. To obtain this goal the group will practice for 2-4 days a week. Depending on the day or what needs work they will either work on drill or their music. Drill is the position in which the person should be in a specific time during the show. The music needs to be memorized and synchronized with the drill. The better these two are pulled off, the better the score will be and better the chances are of getting a trophy for your school.
I was in the marching band and I saw these goals firsthand when I was in high school. I would practice with my friends and work hard at competitions in order to win. The marching band has a clear set of goals which essential for the label of a discourse community according to John Swales. The members of the group have their own goals such as memorization of music as well as the memorization of drill sets. These together make the group better and better help obtain the groups goals of winning a competition and getting a trophy for the school.
In a marching band there are ways that the band communicates with each other as well as with the instructors. During the season a lot of time is spent with many people in the band. In between practices and football games as well as recreational band outings or bonfires. These are mechanisms for communications mostly in the form of conversation. The band also used facebook to communicate major events and announcements to the band as a whole.
According to swales a discourse community must have mechanisms of intercommunication. The use of facebook and various social interactions that include conversations are these mechanisms of intercommunication in the marching band. This being said the marching band has this particular characteristic of a discourse community.
In the marching band, information trickles down amongst the members of the band from the instructors. Announcements are made in order to pass along information around the marching band and the members receive and interpret this information. In return the marching band members will provide their feedback to this information. Some express their excitement and others their dissatisfaction. The instructors use this feedback to make the band a better place for its members and apply it to future members as well.
Swales explains that discourse communities possess genres that are communicated for the rest of the world to know what kind elements are being used in this community. In the marching band students are usually not involved in sports and focus more on the latest music and socializing around the band room or band section of the bleachers. These possessed genres show that marching band is a discourse community.
The marching band definitely has its own language that they use off the field and while in rehearsal. Swales states that discourse communities have their own form of lexis and the marching band is no exception. In music rehearsal the band uses language that only a musician would know. While reading music the band uses phrases such as whole note, forte, and decrescendo. This is a lingo that the marching band uses that not many others would be familiar with. The band also uses a different lexis when they refer to terms on the field. When looking for spots to mark the band will use the yard lines as references. Not many people can obviously see that the yard lines are what the band uses as guide points. This is called drill and its what band uses to determine each individual placement on the field.

These special words that the marching band uses are unique to only the marching band and according to Swales is a major characteristic of a discourse community. The different language that is used on and off the field is something that is learned while in the marching band discourse community and is not something that can be observed from the outside of a group. From my experienced in the band I learned these terms and their importance and saw that others in the group were able to understand and effectively communicate with each other.
From my experience in marching band I was able to see the different ranks of the band and rise through them from freshman to senior. The marching band has a very strict hierarchy that consists of seniority as well as class rank. Members of the band with the most experience were often the ones that developed into leaders and became well respected members of the community. Swales mentions that in every discourse community there are ranks amongst its members. This is very true in marching band.
The members of band are always coming and going. They leave either by quitting or graduation and the join though either coming of age or just a random urge to join. In the band there is usually an equal balance of novice and senior members which Swales states is essential to the formation of a discourse community.
Marching does indeed possess all of the characteristics needed to be a discourse community according to Swales. The band possesses ranks, lexis unique to the band, goals, communication tools, and genres. I have seen firsthand all of these traits during my time in marching band there is no doubt that marching band is in fact a discourse community.

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