"We went from flash flood warnings to heat advisories," said student Sami Maddox, looking back on the two weeks of band camp completed by members of the Manheim Central High School (MCHS) marching band. On weekdays from July 30 to Aug. 10, the students persevered through daily sessions from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Even losing some practice time to the rain did not stop the students from mastering this fall's show, "Eclipse."
Sami and fellow seniors Laura Forwood and Noah Urban, who are this season's drum majors, said that the show features a bold and triumphant opening followed by a darker and funkier second movement with complex rhythms. "We're telling the story of what goes on in space," explained Laura. The third movement features "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden. "This is our first time taking on a pop song, so that's been fun," noted Sami. A recap of some of the music from the first movement closes out the show.
MCHS marching band director John Brackbill said that the staff members get together after the season ends to pitch ideas for the following year's show until they settle on something that is "just the right mix of concrete and esoteric." Ian Flint, an old friend of Brackbill from his days performing music at a local amusement park, designs the drill formation for the MCHS marching band show as well as for numerous marching bands at the high school and collegiate levels around the country.
"For band camp, the most important thing is just the students coming together, and second to that is learning the drill," stated Brackbill. Staff members strive to make the marching band as inclusive as possible, and Brackbill said that several students participate in a fall sport in addition to playing in the band. This year's 40 new marchers bring the MCHS marching band total to 110 instrumentalists and 18 color guard members. "We're at our largest ever, so it's good to see the band growing," said Sami, noting that the group is a good mix of upper and underclassmen.
At band camp, students spent the morning sessions focusing on learning the drill while evenings were committed to the music. "I personally think our music is a higher level of difficulty than in previous years," Laura stated. Sami agreed, adding, "It's the hardest show we've done, musically."
Pelting Brackbill with hundreds of water balloons on the first Thursday of band camp is a tradition that helps to give the students a break. Brackbill, who is in his 10th year of directing, came up with the idea as a way to let the students release some of the frustration that can accompany such a grueling two weeks.
Spirit days during the second week of camp included crazy hats on Monday, sports jerseys on Tuesday, and Multiples Day on Wednesday with people in each section coordinating outfits. "The saxophone (players) were the 13 colonies because there are 13 of them," Sami said. The three drum majors were decked out as rock, paper, and scissors. Character Day on Thursday was followed by the traditional section day on Friday, with each section donning matching shirts. "The purpose of section day is to have them bond," noted Laura. A parent preview show and potluck picnic on Friday evening capped off another successful year of band camp.
In addition to wowing audiences with "Eclipse" during halftime at MCHS football games, the students will also take part in four or five competitions. The MCHS marching band and Manheim Central Band Boosters will also host the Baron Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 27, with 20 high school bands competing in a display of marching and music. The public is invited to attend.
For more details on the MCHS marching band and upcoming events, readers may visit http://www.mcmarchingbarons.org.