What It Feels Like To Go To Band Camp

By Marissa Milone // As Told to Allison Smith

This one time at band camp, one of the trombone players left a gallon of chocolate milk in the band room. Little did he know at the time, the gallon of milk would sit in the band room for weeks. Months later, it would spill, making not only the band room smell, but the entire school reek of spoiled milk.

The spoiled milk incident was not funny to the rest of the school, but it was hilarious to us band kids. It was one of the many inside jokes I was let in on at band camp.

I started playing the saxophone when I was in the fourth grade. As the squeaks and screeches came from the band room on the first day, I knew not everyone would stick with it. At the young age of ten, I didn’t realize this saxophone would become such a big part of who I am today. It started as a fun hobby, something I wasn’t too serious about, but knew I would carry it with me to high school.

Over the summer going into my freshman year, I woke up to a call from my dad. He was asking if I was going to attend marching band camp that morning. I had no clue what he was talking about; I didn’t even know Antioch had a band camp. My dad offered to pick me up and take me to the school, even though I was already two hours late.

I walked up to the school, saxophone in hand, not knowing what to expect. I knew high school band would be a huge step up from the 20 person Emmons band, but I didn’t know to what extent.

I had heard a lot about band camp; the stereotypical crazy stories. Deep down, I knew none of them were true, but there was a small part of me that wondered what actually went on. I was about to get the inside scoop of what it was really like to be a band member.

I walked onto the brand new turf field where the rest of the band was and found Mr. Untch. He informed me that the tenor saxophone position had quit earlier that morning. If I was good enough, I would be filling in for her. Normally, you need to try out for marching band, but I had gotten lucky enough to bypass the auditions.

Knowing I had such big shoes to fill made me nervous. Not to mention, I knew no one in the band. Most of the marching band members were upperclassmen, and already had formed their friendships. Everyone was practicing their elaborate scales. Meanwhile, I didn’t even know what a scale was. Being a reclusive person, it was pretty terrifying being the new kid.

We started our day off by tuning and warming up our instruments. Then, we would line up and run through the motions with our dot books, which are sheets showing us our placement on the field. After practicing placement multiple times, we would take a water break and apply sunscreen. Considering camp was from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. for a week in the middle of August, it was crucial to stay out of the sun and stay hydrated.

After spending hours running through the steps, we would finally add in our instruments. Going through the motions on the field was the easy part–adding the instruments was when it got tough. Playing an instrument is hard enough as it is, but adding in marching and staying in sync with the rest of the band is beyond difficult.

Before everything comes together perfectly, collisions are very likely to happen. Take one step in the wrong direction, at the wrong time or with the wrong foot, and you throw off the entire band. Collisions often lead to injuries. It may seem hard to believe, but it happens on the daily. The last thing a band member wants is to end up injured. Injuries mean missing practice. Missing one day of practice means falling 14 to 20 sets behind the rest of the band.

While marching, you have to constantly focus on those around you. Band is centered around relying on others; without every instrument working cohesively, it won’t come together as it is meant to.

Once you step out on the field to perform, there are hundreds of people watching. Competitions are the most stressful; we are judged on every move we make and every note we play. There is a lot of room to mess up.

With all of the pressure that comes with competitions, I have learned that no one is perfect. It is a lot easier to recognize the fact that you are doing everything you can. Although I might not see myself as great sometimes, I know I am one of the parts that makes the entire band flow.

Marching band makes me feel whole. I know I am a part of something incredible, something everyone wishes for. The enthusiasm and passion in a band member’s eyes is something you do not find on any team. If it had not been for my dad’s call on that summer morning, I would have missed out big time.