I still remember my first few days of my first band camp. I was incredibly nervous and intimidated by all of the older kids. When I think back, it’s pretty funny because all of those kids were very nice and welcoming. Some of the people that I was too afraid to talk to my first few days are now people that I consider family. My biggest piece of advice to anyone about to enter band camp is to put yourself out there. I know it is hard, but all of the older kids really are looking out for you, and they want to get to know you.
Band camp is exhausting but very fun. I would normally get to band camp (and all practices throughout the season) at least 30 minutes before the official start time. When you are given a time in the marching band world, it does not mean just be there at that time; it means be there with your instrument, water, and anything else that you need, ready to begin practice at that time. We have a saying, “Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable”. This may seem a little extreme to some new members, but attendance and punctuality are some of the main ways that we show respect towards our fellow members, and it is an essential part of being a marcher in this program.
The day starts outside with what we call ‘basics’. During this time, you will be learning the marching skills that you need to march the show. We also do a lot of physical training (PT) in the mornings. It is still pretty cool outside, and there is usually a nice breeze, but be prepared to sweat. Many people underestimate how hard it is to play an instrument and march specific dots from memory for 10 minutes, but it takes a lot of strength and endurance. Our morning block is our chance to work on the fundamentals of what we do. For first years, this block can be overwhelming at times because you are learning so many new skills, but it does get easier. When I started as a freshman, I thought they were asking me to do something impossible. But, you have to trust the process. The staff have been teaching for a long time and, if you commit to what they ask you to do, trust me, your personal growth over the first week of camp will surprise you.
After morning block, we have lunch and then our daily meeting. For many people (myself included), this was my favorite time because you get to socialize with people and sit down in the air conditioning. At the daily meeting, Mr. Blount will tell stories, answer questions, and just talk generally about marching band. For all of my band camps (including this one), he has talked about our core values during the first week’s meetings.
Our core values are PERCAR – Personal Growth, Esprit de Corps, Respect, Commitment, Artistry, and Responsibility. Every year Mr. Blount approaches these meetings differently, but the central theme of the first week is explaining and beginning to instill these core values in all of our members.
Personally, I have tried to embrace and embody these core values, and with the support of the staff, I will leave this program as a person much more confident in myself and my leadership skills. Marching band is, in my opinion, one of the best activities to get involved in on campus because, even as a first year, you are an integral and irreplaceable part of the band. No one else knows your part in the show, and there is a sense of
responsibility, but also importance, that comes with being a member of this team. Your sense of purpose in the band is strong because there is no bench; if someone is hurt or can’t march, no one fills their spot, and the band suffers the loss of a member. This encouraged me to push myself as a freshman because I knew that everyone was counting on me. The core values that we talked about during the meetings served as the guiding principles of my career in the marching band, and I am still working on them, even as the Senior Drum Major. No one is perfect at marching (though some seniors might try to claim that they are), and no one is ever complete in their personal growth. So, as I have grown in this program, I now enjoy the daily meetings because I feel that they are equalizers between all of the members because we are all trying to better ourselves, no matter where we started from. Also, as a senior and a leader in the group, these sessions were a great time to remember what I, and the rest of the leadership team, stand for. The reason we are here is to be a marching band, but I would argue that Mr. Blount and this program aims to be more than just a band, but instead a place of personal growth and character building for all members. I have always felt that much of our group identity as a band is formed at these midday meetings, and this year has been no different.
Next, the band splits up into sections to work on our music. As a Drum Major, I conduct the band and am a leader both musically and otherwise for all members. Since I spend much of my time in front of the band listening to them, I can tell you that it takes a few weeks to find ‘our sound’. However, one of the most rewarding aspects of band camp is hearing the band progress musically over the course of only two weeks.
After sectionals, we have dinner, then head out for evening block. During the first few days of band camp, we usually work on basics during this time, but during the second week, we start to learn drill. This is when we learn our dots and how to march the show that we will start performing later in the season.
After all of this, I normally get home around 9pm, and it is a level of exhaustion that I had never felt before band camp. When I was a freshman, many younger people complained about camp because it is tiring, and the days can sometimes feel endless. But as a senior, I look back, and I appreciate all of the difficulty because it forced me to push myself harder than I ever had before. I proved to myself that I could do anything that I put my mind to. Honestly, by the time you reach your last band camp, you don’t really remember how hot it was outside or how bad your body ached, you only remember the fun parts. I didn’t think that four years in this program would go by so quickly, but it did. So if you are just starting with the marching band, I would really encourage you to write down some of your favorite memories or funniest memories when they happen so that you have some fun stories to look back through when you are a senior.
Some of my favorite memories are from the second week of band camp. Since we are all so tired, the leadership team tries different ways to make practice more fun. Normally, there is some sort of spirit week where you get to dress up, and many traditions that have been in our band for a very long time. Some fan favorites include: PJ day, Twin Day, Halloween Day, Disney Day, and Crazy Sock Day.