Not so nerdy, after all

Published 8:05 pm Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Having never played a musical instrument, I assumed “band camp” was just that – a camp for band members.

I don’t know what kind of “camps” you may have attended in high school, but I was singing “kum-by-ya” around a campfire and making macramé bracelets.

I imagined students at band camp sat around and played music around a campfire all week.

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At the end of soccer camp, I went home sore, blistered and sweat soaked.

Band members, I would have guessed, had no idea what all that was about.

After visiting the band camp at Lakeland High School, the two camps have more in common than I would ever have imagined.

The hallways at Lakeland resounded with commands.

The trumpet players hit the ground and did push-ups for every mistake they made.

Students wore combat boots for added weight.

Everyone from students holding trumpets to students completely enveloped in tubas were doing standing 90-degree leg lifts.

The drum line was outside in the 100-degree heat feverishly beating their drums.

For every note played, a drop of sweat was shed.

Then, while I was interviewing the director, Alvin Wilson in his office, I noticed something through a tiny window looking into the band room.

The girl standing in front of the window, whose profile I could clearly see, wasn’t moving. She was a still as a statue.

That’s when it hit me that it was 10 minutes after 2 p.m., and Wilson had said they’d gather back into the room at 2 p.m. They were probably all waiting on their director.

Fearful of what 50-plus students would do to the reporter who made them stand there any longer after a long day, I ended the interview.

When we walked out, sure enough, there was every student standing at attention.

(Note to high school parents, if you need help getting your child not to speak, move or even twitch, talk to Wilson.)

As I left the camp, I tried to think why what I’d seen was so astonishing to me.

There is a clear stigma in society. In the movies, you always have the “jocks” pitted against the “band geeks.”

But everything I saw goes to show that there is much more to being in a band than most of us probably think.

Granted, they’re not out there pushing and shoving people to get the ball to the goal or running sprints, but it takes an athlete to walk for miles, bringing your knee to a perfect 90 degree angle each step, without so much as moving your head from side to side while carrying a heavy instrument and hitting the right notes — in a head-to-toe uniform, no less.

It takes an incredible amount of discipline to stand still without even wiggling your toes or wiping the sweat that’s dripping down your neck.

No offense to the sports teams, but I would venture to say that it’s about time schools, students and society as a large start looking at some of these band members as more than “band nerds.”