Band camp: Music, marching and fun in the sun

By John Butters, The JOURNAL


Marching in the August sun might not seem like a lot of fun, but there are some band camp enthusiasts that look forward to it each year.

A Washington school district band instructor for 19 years, Don Hughes believes band camp is a ?must? for a show band.

?Band camp is where we learn the bulk of our drills. We get more work done in band camp than we do during the school year,? he said. ?When the school year starts, the short practice times don?t allow us to work on the basics. We need to have the fundamentals down and ready to go by then.?

And to learn those drills, it requires marching and practicing in Iowa?s August heat. To encourage his students as he teaches them, Hughes creates a positive environment that makes learning fun. He rewards his students with high-fives and praise for good efforts.

This year, Washington?s marching show band camp, which begins Aug. 6, runs seven days. The practices take place near the high school on the south practice field. Hughes said the eight-hour days take a toll on the students and the instructor.

?Band camp is a lot of work, but it?s fun. For a lot of the students, it?s their favorite part of the band. It?s the high point in the year. The boosters help us out with refreshments and they schedule a pool party,? he said.

At the camp, Hughes said the students learn and practice basic marching drills and learn new routines in the mornings and then work on them again at the end of the day. Students work both independently and with their band mates. The routine changes at midday, however.

?In the afternoon, we have music rehearsals because it can get so hot,? he said.

Band camp also provides an opportunity for the band members to get to know one another. The social interaction is especially beneficial for incoming freshmen. Hughes wants his band students to create an atmosphere of camaraderie.

?It?s important that everyone develops mutual respect and understanding for others within the band.

Camp also offers upperclassmen an opportunity to work on their leadership skills.

?I ask the juniors and seniors to take a leadership role. I tell them that they need to lead by example and that our success depends upon them,? he said.

The Washington marching band has a busy schedule. The band will march at five home football games, compete in five competitions and attend several parades this year.

Meghan Newman, a Senior Drum Major, said she really enjoys the summer sessions.

?I really like meeting the new students. By the end of camp, they are up and running. Some of them will be as good as the seniors,? she said.

Isaac Gillispie, who is also a senior, plays on the drum line. Not only does he enjoy the camp, he said the students form strong friendships during the hard,hot rehearsals.

?After camp we go to lunch or dinner as a group. During camp we become like a tight-knit family,? he said.

He said the friendships continue into the school year.

?After games, we go out for for food. We don?t just stay in our sections, we meet up with the other sections as well,?Gillispie said.? The whole band shares the experience of developing a stronger relationship with each other.?

As a show band, the students work on one piece of music for the Fall season. This year, the music is titled ?The Witch and the Saint.? Hughes said the music is an arrangement taken from a German work of art. In addition to its theme song, the band will present a drum feature written by one of the students.

The performance time for a show band on the field or in a competition is usually 15 minutes. The music is composed for a seven-minute set. That leaves little time for error. Students must master the drills and the music quickly.

Hughes, a former member of the University of Iowa marching band, said he remembers his own college and high school band routines as being much simpler.

?It?s more complex now. The drills and the music are more complex. There is a lot to remember. Our performance must have both crowd and judge appeal,? he said.

So after all those years of work in the summer heat, how does he still find band camp enjoyable?

?I just find it very rewarding,? Hughes said.