by George Wenger

Beginning in January, every band director is bombarded with information about summer camps. Each director must evaluate what is best for his students and band program. These camps provide excellent opportunities for students with particular individual needs. I wish to focus on what Dorman High School makes available to our students during the summer to prepare for marching band.

Our percussion instructor, Matt McDaniel, runs a special week long percussion camp during June. Extra instructors are hired to assist with the various sections of the percussion. The purpose is to teach and stress the fundamentals, which are important for percussion to succeed. Additionally, evaluation of the personnel is conducted so our program can be built to strengthen weaknesses. At the end of the week, students begin working on the percussion feature, which is to be used in the field show music. The goal is to establish excellent fundamentals and to teach the section how to practice so they can learn their show music. It is always necessary to teach students to play additional percussion instruments or to switch them to a different section to fill a need.

The guard, under the direction of Janet Kuntz, has a special week of concentrated rehearsals. During this time, we bring in special people to teach the equipment work and fundamentals needed for the shows. The goal of the week is to teach the fundamentals necessary to perform the shows and learn the equipment work to one number before the full band camp. We make decisions as to who does sabers, rifles, and flags.

We work the winds slightly differently. Our goals for every wind player are to be able to play and then check off all of their music before we go to band camp. Some will achieve this goal while others will not even be able to play all of their notes even with music.

After July 4th, we begin wind sectionals and full band rehearsals. At the first meeting every student receives a packet of information, forms to complete, and music to be memorized. We have eight two-hour full band rehearsals, and three individual one and one half-hour section rehearsals. During the sectionals, we begin teaching the fundamentals of playing each instrument: posture, hand position, embouchure, tone, intonation, balance, blend, etc. After review, and reestablishing these fundamentals, the students learn how to play the warm-ups and fall music. Time is always spent on learning how to practice and memorize their music.

We go over the fundamentals, style of music, and how to practice their parts. After identifying the students with similar problems, we break up into small groups. A student leader is placed in charge of each smaller group. This is an upper classman who has a desire to become a section leader. Each group has an assignment. Example: Learn measures 5 through 10 and come back. Students who can’t play a high note are assigned an exercise so they can learn how to play the note. Students with tone difficulties work on tone production exercises. Students with rhythm problems are sent out to study counting. Student leaders must bring their groups back every 10 to 15 minutes for the next assignment. Each group models what they have learned for the band director. Both the student instructor and the students are evaluated each time they come back to the director. The student instructors are trying out for section leaders and squad leaders during this time. The groups and members in the groups are changed frequently. This process is repeated until students are ready to check off their music.

The students going out for section leader and squad leader check off their music with a band director beginning the second or third week of summer rehearsals. These students who have checked off their music and are capable of evaluating others are given the responsibility of checking off everyone else’s music in their section. They must perform the music by memory correctly at about a 95% accuracy rate to check it off.

The full marching band rehearsals begin and end with everyone being called to attention by the Drum Major. Encouraging speeches are given by both the directors and student leaders and other house keeping details are addressed. The goals of full rehearsals are to teach all members to play their music, demonstrate what band is about, and show them how to conduct themselves as members of our band. We want each member to feel as though he is a member of a large family so he is glad to come to band.

The summer music rehearsals begin with extensive warm-ups to develop tone, balance, endurance, flexibility, articulation, technique, and range. This usually takes from 30 to 40 minutes. We then work on the Dorman Alma Mater trying to carry over what we already talked about. After this we start on the show music. Our objectives are to teach notes, rhythms, and style and combine these with what was addressed during the warm-up. As with the sectionals, students are sent out to work with other students as needed in order to teach every student. Every student is charged with the responsibility of leaving rehearsal with a lot more knowledge than when they came. The music is rehearsed in small sections beginning at an excessively slow tempo concentrating on tone, balance, doing every articulation, breath mark, note length, etc., and then repeated faster until the desired performance tempo is reached. The last fifteen minutes of the rehearsal is spent with the Drum Major running through the parts of the music we learned during this rehearsal and previous rehearsals. The band is call to attention and dismissed.

One week before our band camp we have rookie camp, and marching review camp. The students who wish to become squad leaders, or section leaders come from 8:00 A.M. to 12:30 P.M., while rookies and upper classmen come from 8:30 A.M. to 12:00 P.M. The student leaders are instructed by a band director on what they will teach, and how they will go about teaching their charges on this particular day. The rookies come Monday through Friday while the upper classmen come just two assigned days to review the fundamentals of marching and marching while playing. At 12:00 P.M. we have a rap-up, and evaluation session with the student leaders.

Band Camp at Gardner Webb

Band Camp runs from Monday morning through Saturday noon. Our band camp goals are to discipline, condition, and teach the band as much of our fall contest show as they are capable of learning.

Monday we arrive at camp between 7:30 and 8:30 A.M. and check into the dorms. By 9:15 we meet on the field. The section leaders are given an 8½ ” by 5 ½” laminated card stock paper with their section members’ names and drill numbers written as large as the paper permits. On the backs of each band member’s card is his personal coordinate sheet. These cards have a pleasingly soft stomach length string attached. This enables his name and drill numbers to be read from the director’s tower.

On Tuesday through Friday our schedule is as follows: We begin with breakfast at 7:00 A.M. and rehearse on the field from 8:15 A.M. through 11:30 A.M. All marching rehearsals begin in a warm-up block starting with marching fundamentals. Items addressed are posture, foot placement, toe placement, instrument placement, head angle, adjusted step, standard step size, backward march, step off, halt, cross-over, flanks, etc. We march in the warm-up block, up and down the field both forward and backward. We march the block in a box forward and backward. We do fundamentals using every tempo known to man. After 30 to 40 minutes, we take a water break. Each student brings his or her own water jug. Every morning the college provides ice for the students. After a short break we begin in chart 1. Then we find chart 2. Then we march from 1 to 2 until the students master 1 and 2. We again stress marching fundamentals while we are doing this. We will then stand still, play warm-ups and play the music from chart 1 and stop on the note beginning on chart 2. The music quality must be emphasized at this time. Then we march from chart 1 to 2 until this is mastered. We then find chart 3, and march from 2 to 3 several times. Then we play and march from 1 stop on 2 then on to 3. Then, we march nonstop from 1 to 3. This process is repeated until we learn a section. Let’s say that the first section is 1 through 8. At this point, we start on chart 9 as we did on chart 1 and rehearse this section and repeat until the end of the drill. The guard rehearses on a different field, and percussion usually rehearses in a different location during the morning session. At 11:00 we put everyone together and rehearse the music standing still and then run the show.

Lunch is at 12:00 P.M., which is followed by a rest period. We meet in sectionals from 1:30 to 4:00 P.M. The sections work on musicianship with the music, check off music, and march fundamentals playing the music.

Students have a break until 5:00 when they eat supper. We meet back on the field at 6:00 and rehearse until dark. The evening rehearsal begins in warm-up block where the band warms up both marching and playing. After warming up, we review what we learned in the morning and reteach as necessary. If time permits, we learn more drill.

Students have free time or evening activities until time to be in their dorms at 11:00 with lights out at 11:30. The activities include a talent night, freshman induction, attending a drum and bugle contest, and a dance.

The next day we do it again. On Saturday morning, we have a rehearsal in the Gardner Webb Stadium and then we perform what we learned during the week for the parents and friends.