Almost anyone who hears the words “band camp” tends to smirk and think of nerdy kids in funny hats with overly big instruments. While this may be true about other marching bands, Western Carolina University’s marching band camp is known for being excruciating, thus revealing a newfound, un-nerdy respect for all the band geeks who can endure such a week.
If you find that hard to believe, bear in mind that the Pride of the Mountains not only won the 2009 Sudler Trophy award, but the band has also been invited to march in the 2010 Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena Calif.
With a goal in mind like the Tournament of Roses parade, you can be certain that the Pride of the Mountains marching band is not going to take band camp lightly, which is certainly no laughing matter to those “nerds” who participate.
After allowing an entire spring semester and full summer break to pass without students setting foot on a football field, how is it possible that these 300-plus students can pull off such a spectacular marching band show that is performed within a matter of weeks? The answer is simple: band camp.
This month, the Pride of the Mountains is hosting the 2010 WCU Camp Catamount band camp, which began with a freshman camp on Aug. 12-13 and ending after seven full days of continuous work today, Friday, Aug. 20.
If you are familiar with the WCU campus in the fall, you most likely have seen the Pride of the Mountains marching band rehearsing on the band field several times a week. You may have even stopped to watch at some point. While this band may be entertaining to watch, the truth of the matter is the intensity of which these musicians’ work could never truly be captured at an afterschool practice.
Notorious for having as many as 360 members, the Pride of the Mountains has truly been an aggressive band of many bandsmen for several years. Its structured band camp not only prepares its hundreds of returning veterans for an innovative marching show, but it also introduces over a hundred new freshman bandsmen to the program in just a few days time.
“I personally feel that band camp is the most important part of the season, especially here at WCU,” said Woodwind Coordinator, Keith Marwitz. “The things that we can accomplish during band camp amaze me.”
Students achieve many things during their weeklong camp, however, the continuation of afternoon practices is what keeps them motivated and physically fit. While the bands performances at the football games appear very glamorous and flashy, the not-so-glamorous routine practices, taking place two hours a day-three times per week, is what keeps the marching band in tip-top shape to perform three times at every WCU home football game of the season.
However amazing the band may appear, it is only possible with a lot of hard work and dedication from its members. A seven-day long camp of continuous marching fundamentals and music memorization is bound to take its toll.
“Band camp has long hours and extremely hot days,” said Marwitz. “The best way to make it through camp is to be in the best physical shape possible.”
It is not solely the members that prepare for camp and it’s tiring demands, but also the many staff members including the directors, the staff coordinators, all section leaders, and of course, the drum majors that will conduct the band.
“With 446 students, this year’s band is sure to be our best yet!” said Pride of the Mountains staff coordinator Rachel Rimmer. “The Rosebowl has stirred up our traditions this year. There will be an evaluation day to determine which students will be in the “Gold” Exhibition band and in the “Purple” alternate band,” said Rimmer.
While all Pride of the Mountains staff is essential to the band, band camp is successful thanks in large part to the assigned section leaders whose responsibility is to teach every member of their musical section every skill and technique needed for the season, and they must teach this all during the duration of the camp.
“Being responsible for other people is something that I am not used to,” said Marwitz. “My biggest challenge this year is that I will be a leader. Learning the music so that I can teach it to the other members is something that is going to challenge me.”
While hundreds of veterans prepare for the expected continuation of music and marching fundamentals, the incoming freshman attempt to prepare for a week of camp, while not knowing what to expect.
“I am expecting band camp is going to be very different from high school band,” said incoming freshman flute player, Chelsea Owens.
“I am preparing for band camp by memorizing stands tunes so I’m not completely clueless in the first rehearsals.”
The 2010 WCU Camp Catamount hours will consist of a combination of drill rehearsals taking place outdoors, band rehearsals taking place indoors, sectional rehearsals both indoor and out, uniform fittings, part placement auditions, professional pictures, staff meetings, full band meetings, and even performing at the freshman convocation in front of all the incoming freshman at the end of the week.
“My favorite part of band camp is getting to know the new freshmen/rookies and watching them transition from high school students to college students,” said Rimmer. “It’s a wonderful thing to watch them grow with our band.”
The camp will be focused entirely on the teaching of the drill and music of the upcoming 2010 marching show called “Rock You.” The variety of soon-to-be performed songs is promising, with an impressive line-up that will include songs by Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Kid Rock, Kiss, Joan Jett, Nickelback, Chris Daughtry, and more.
At the end of a long seven days, despite the heat, the exhaustion, the sunburn, and the sore feet, every member of the band seems fulfilled with what they can accomplish in a weeks time. In addition to the learned skills, the members tend to bond with one another during camp. This, some might say, could be the part of band camp that makes it all worth it.
“I am most looking forward meeting new people who have the same love of marching band as I do,” said Owens.
Despite the bonds of friendship created through marching band, you still may wonder why these “crazy” band students tolerate the heat and the continued practices that follow their band camp. We can’t be certain of what drives each individual student, but we do know that if each member is dedicated enough to endure such a camp, then they can most likely manage the entire season rather efficiently.
So next time you want to laugh at the thought of band camp, remember the Pride of the Mountains marching band and what they willfully endure in their seven days of band camp labor.
Remember that these students share bonds, passion, and sweat all for the love of being a great musician and entertainer. If you look at band camp that way, you may find that you have a newfound respect for your fellow band geeks.
In the words of Rimmer, “wait until the first football game… just wait.”