Surviving band camp

Published 10:49 pm Friday, August 19, 2011

Members of the Nansemond River High School Marching Warriors make their way in formation through the school parking lot to the field where they practice their fall show. The band starts summer practices Aug. 1, and they meet Monday through Thursday form 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in order to perfect the fall show before the football season starts.

Since Aug. 1, feet have been tearing into the grass in the practice field behind Arrowhead Stadium at Nansemond River High School.

About 100 high school students are out there Monday through Thursday, sweating and toiling while they learn to work as a team and perfect their moves.

But these 96 students aren’t practicing to have a perfect record at the end of the season; they are working to put on a great performance at football games and competitions throughout the fall.

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And these students are committed to their work.

“They love it,” said Edward Woodis, Nansemond River band director. “They’re going to be here rain or shine, in the smoke or in hurricanes. I even have to stop them sometimes.”

For about a month before football season, the Marching Warriors practice tirelessly from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., going over their music, steps and moves.

They march the field every day, but they also spend time conditioning, just like any sports team, by running laps and doing push-ups, jumping jacks and sit-ups.

From April to July, Woodis develops ideas for the show, which can mean he finds music and writes steps or he writes steps and finds music that fits.

When the masses stampede to the first day of band camp, the real work begins.

The first thing on the agenda is training the newbies in marching fundamentals.

Woodis said he likes to spend the first week of camp teaching the basics, like marching technique.

This year, Nansemond River’s band added 36 new members, including freshmen and eighth graders from John Yeates Middle School, who might be able to carry a tune but have no experience marching to it.

But Woodis said they pick it up pretty quickly with the help of the other students.

Rising freshman Samantha Henry said when she first got to band camp, she never thought she’d be able to remember her music while marching and keeping up with the rest of the band.

But with Woodis’s motivation and help from her friends, she’s an expert now.

“My first week I didn’t think I could do it, but my friends and Mr. Woodis kept pushing me,” Henry said. “It’s turned out to be a good experience for me.”

But it’s more than learning your steps and how they fit with everyone else’s, band camp is, of course, about learning your music.

Woodis said the members meet in their instrument sections for about an hour every day to practice their music.

It’s just another thing to memorize, but Henry said the long practices make it easier to remember.

“We run through the show so many times, you can’t forget it,” she said.

The students march up and down the field for hours, as Woodis watches every knee rise to make sure everyone is in synch.

If just one foot steps the wrong way, they have to do it over until they get it right.

They might moan and groan, Woodis said, but don’t be fooled — they are happy to be there.

“They do it because they love it,” he said.

Nequa Powell, a junior who has been in a majorette in the band since her freshman year, said committed band members love the long days.

“If you love it, it should be fine,” she said. “I don’t mind waking up early or staying late. It’s not boring. It’s fun.”

Henry agreed the entire band knows the summer practices are part of making a great show.

“We’re here because we love it, not because anyone’s forcing us to,” she said. “We are a team and a family. We work together no matter what.”