Band camp or boot camp

Published 7:59 pm Saturday, August 14, 2010

Band camp and boot camp — just three letters made the biggest difference between the two kinds of camps recently in Suffolk.

While some schools had already begun their band camps, last week was the first that all four of Suffolk’s marching bands were in their respective camps, spending just as much time on endurance training as on music rehearsal.

“Band camp is the most important part of the season for us,” Lakeland High School’s Quiet Storm director Alvin Wilson II said. “It sets the tone and foundation for the whole year. Everything we will do this year, our entire success is hinged on it.”

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Suffolk’s four marching bands hail from King’s Fork High School, Lakeland High School, Nansemond River High School and Nansemond-Suffolk Academy.

At Lakeland High School, camp began on Monday and will continue eight hours every day until school starts. The band there still is fresh from the experience of performing at the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C. on May 31.

On Tuesday, the school’s hallways reverberated with the shouts of section leaders and volunteer coaches whipping each section of the band into shape.

Students were wearing combat boots for added weight.

The trumpet section leader made his men hit the floor and do push-ups for every misstep.

For each beat they hit, a drop of sweat trickled off the foreheads of the drum line members who were outside under the August sun.

Students playing the tuba were doing 90-degree leg lifts with their instruments on.

“It takes physical endurance, drive, determination and focus,” Wilson said. “Students have to work not only on marching styles, musical technique and memorizing music but on cardio and strength exercises, too. It all impacts the show.”

The band this year will have about 75 students, which will make their season debut at Lakeland’s Sept. 9 football game.

Also beginning its band camp this week was the 48-member band at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, which will continue training for two weeks.

“It gets all the cobwebs out from the summer and when they learn their half-time show,” band director Carrie Estes said. “Everything is coming along. We have several rookies, but 15 seniors, so we have a lot of experience.”

The band will play their first game at NSA’s Sept. 3 football game.

Another band that has quite a few new members is Nansemond River High School’s Virtual 100 marching band.

The band is the largest in Suffolk, with 107 members. The students been in camp since Aug. 2 and will continue until Aug. 26.

“This is the largest group we’ve ever had, and it’s because we’re working toward a goal,” band director Edward Woodis said. “As a band and a school, we decided to aim at going to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”

The first step in doing so is amping up their numbers, which includes the 32 new students this year.

While there are still many hurdles the band must jump before applying for the parade, they have been accepted to play at the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade this year and will be in several competitions.

King’s Fork High School’s band has more new members than old ones this year, but band director Jason Taylor is training them into shape.

The Marching Bulldogs have been in camp since late July, and will continue until Sept. 2.

Taylor is beginning his second year as director, and already has added 30 new students.

“We had about 25 to 30 last year, and we’re adding 30 more this year,” Taylor said. “I’m working on exposing the students to the school and to the community more and getting them into more tournaments.”

Just last year, Taylor turned the traditional core-style band to a high-step band.

“This year, they’ve already shown they understand more of what is expected of them,” Taylor said.

Though he is working on fine-tuning his band, Taylor’s goal is more than music and marching.

“It’s about producing good kids and good citizens,” Taylor said. “You do that by teaching them respect. It’s a trait required to do well in a band, and it’s one that can be transferred into society, as well.”

The band’s debut will be at the Sept. 2 football game.