Westerville News & Public Opinion

Camps prime marching bands for halftime shows, competitions

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The marching band refused to yield.

More than 200 students at Westerville North, South and Central dusted off instruments, tied shoes tight and attended two weeks of band camp to prepare for the upcoming competition and football seasons.

Warriors, Wildcats and Warhawks fans may only see the bands during their football games as the band plays upbeat tunes in the stands to keep morale high during grueling matches.

But to the bands, football game half-time show performances are just rehearsals for their upcoming competition season.

All three schools compete in marching band competitions in the Mid-States Band Association and Ohio Music Education Association circuits. The bands practice one artistic show and compete throughout September, October and early November.

In late July, new members and veteran members practiced the show music and learned to march during pre-band camp. During the second week of camp, students attended all-day practice to learn the show's drill, the design patterns on the field and continued to learn the music.

"Right now they are looking really good and have a uniformed approach to everything. Attitudes are really high and kids are working really hard," Westerville North band director Jordi Vilanova said.

North's band spent one full week marching and practicing from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. at a 4-H camp in Centers Cave in Jackson, Ohio. Vilanova said these long practices help crunch seven weeks worth of rehearsals into one week.

North's 85-member band and color guard will perform their show titled Winter.

"It's exactly what it sounds like and it's about cold and winter," he said, describing the show.

Unlike those at their sister school, Westerville South's and Central's marching band members slept in their own beds at night and spent all day on their school campuses.

Central's band director Doug Hildreth was unavailable for comment. According to Central's music boosters' website, their show this year is called The Chaos Theory and features songs by Radiohead and Muse.

The show is energetic with a heavy percussion introduction and a strong brass feature.

In previous years, South spent band camps off campus at camps like the one North attended. Since Westerville's levy failure in November 2011, which resulted in a hiatus of the band program at South in 2012, South has had tight budget constraints as it rebuilds.

But as they say, the show must go on.

This year, the band has about 25 new members. South's 106-member strong band and color guard are working to earn $50,000 to replace their 15-year-old uniforms. Since the band is focused on earning money for new uniform jackets, it is saving a significant amount by staying on campus.

No matter the location of camp, students are eager for this year's show and competition season.

"They are getting ready and really excited for the show," South's band director John Laswell said.

South students spent much of pre-camp learning and memorizing music as well as learning to march for this year's upcoming show, Fear.

"It focuses around different phobias," Laswell said. "We have a mixture of a couple -- a fear of heights, claustrophobia and arachnophobia -- and fear of being alone."

The show will highlight a front ensemble feature, a trumpet solo and a flute solo.

Competition shows usually last about eight minutes but take months of concentration and preparation. Laswell said that pre-camp was successful and the students made crucial progress prior to full band camp.

"Everything has gone great. We have the first two movements of our show memorized and polished off," he said.

Compared to their football counterpart, the physical demands of marching band may seem minor. But marching band is intense aerobic activity and tasking on the body.

"Take away the football helmet and the pads and we do as much physical activity as the sports," Laswell said.

Drummers, for instance, must carry an additional 30 or more pounds on their shoulders as they move across the field at rapid tempos. The horn line must find ways to hold steady notes without pulsing the sounds with the steps at the same quick speeds.

Though directors encourage the band to do their own conditioning, they block out time to work on conditioning and strengthening exercises during band camp.

North's and South's bands prepare every morning with a conditioning block, which consists of several Pilates movements and some personal body weight strengthening, to reduce possible stress fractures and increase aerobic endurance. The color guard will do an additional 30 to 45 minutes conditioning than the band.

"What a lot of people don't realize is that this is an athletic event in a lot of ways," Vilanova said. "On a daily basis, our conditioning will look a little different but we will march up and down the field playing and work on the aerobic strength. The way they have to control their breath is a little different than other athletes."

All band camps were to finish Friday night, Aug. 1, and the bands were to begin a rehearsal schedule prior to the start of the school year Wednesday, Aug. 13.

Westerville South Marching Band's first competition is Sept. 6 at Kings High School in Kings Mill. North's and Central's bands will compete on Sept. 20 at Colerain High School in Cincinnati.

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