High school football players spent preseason football camps conditioning themselves for the seasons' upcoming clashes, while the bands were banished to the school's blacktop parking lots putting together what would become dazzling half-time shows.
In spite of a light rain, the Lakeside band continues to practice in preparation for a busy concert season.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The weeks that lead up to the first day of school were just as grueling for band members as for the football players they cheer on during games.
"My feet hurt at the end of the day," said Ethan St. Martin, a 14-year-old freshman trombone player in Greenbrier's 237-member band. "Half-way through camp, my feet are killing me."
St. Martin and the other freshman, percussion and auxiliary members attended "rookie camp" July 16 and spent nearly six hours a day the next week refining fundamental marching and carriage skills before coordinating each member's movements to the band's 15-minute half-time show music.
"It's kind of confusing when you first start marching, like before you learn the first step," St. Martin said. "But it gets easier."
Plotting and teaching the half-time drill and marching it to the music takes time, practice and concentration. Because school has gradually started a little earlier in the past few years, band directors have another element to battle during the week-long camps: the heat.
"We have had the usual upset stomachs from the heat, but we have been real careful about making sure the kids have plenty of water breaks and the kids have been told to keep water bottles," said Reid Hall, director of the Evans High School band. "Everybody is holding up real well."
Greenbrier's head drum major, John Gorta, 17, attended band camp for the fourth time and said there is just no way to prepare the freshmen who have never experienced the work and heat of the camp.
"You really can't prepare," Gorta, a senior, said. "By the second or third day, the freshmen know what to expect and prepare the rest of the week. Band camp just sort of happens. There's just no preparation for it. It's day to day."
Ethan St. Martin, a 14-year-old trombonist from Greenbrier High School, braves the heat
during band camp.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Band directors readjusted the normal 10-12 hours days of band camp in the last few years, focusing outside work time into the cooler parts of the day.
Hall, who directed the band for more than 35 hours in one week, led two 12-hour days of camp from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and two more from 3 to 9 p.m. to take advantage of the cooler evenings.
For the third year, Greenbrier's Band Director Tom Smallwood held camp from 3:30 to 9 p.m.
"(During the 12-hour days), by nighttime (the students) got so burned out," Smallwood said, adding that he and the students like the afternoon to evening practices "when it starts getting cooler instead of hotter and everybody leaves in a good mood."
Bob Willing, director of Harlem High's band, said his camp schedule of two morning and two evening practices was set to work around as many of the students' other activities and work schedules.
But Willing said that next year's camp will be longer.
With the help of summer music rehearsals, band directors have gotten more done during this year's camps than any other. Smallwood said by the end of camp, his students were marching to the entire show, which usually takes through the first few weeks of school to master.
Hall said it's the large group of freshmen this year that brought in the added excitement and inspired band camp veterans, including Evans' 25 seniors, to work harder.
Jim Tau, director of Lakeside High School's band, agreed that the dedicated freshmen players showed up eager to learn, making everyone's part a little easier.
"We have a large group of freshmen, that are really outstanding players," Tau said. "They are very focused and did a great job. It's been a lot of fun."
Harlem High School band members practice their marching drills in the school parking lot.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
This year, Columbia County's high school bands have elaborate and exciting performances lined up for half-time.
Augusta Christian Schools
Directed By: Paul Roberts
2004 Theme: Roberts has put together a 24-member pep band of students, faculty and anyone else associated with the school to keep the stands rocking at all home games.
Selections: The band, featuring local professional trumpet player Fabio Mann, will play traditional military-style pieces and NFL fight songs in addition to more contemporary movie theme songs, funk, jazz complete with an electric bass and drum set.
First Performance: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3, against Calhoun Academy at home.
Evans High School
Directed By: Reid Hall
2004 Theme: Legend of the Sword
Selections: Robin Hood, Battle of the Ballad, Into the Raging River and Into the Sword
First Performance: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20, against Harlem High School at Harlem
Greenbrier High School
Directed By: Tom Smallwood
2004 Theme: Tribute to Hollywood
Selections: John Williams montage including themes from Superman, Harry Potter and Star Wars, Live and Let Die, I Can't Wait to be King, Blood Ritual and To the Pirates' Cave
First Performance: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug., 27, against Morgan County High School at home
Harlem High School
Directed By: Bob Willing
2004 Theme: Show Tunes
Selections: Theme from Phantom of the Opera, On Broadway, Les Miserables medley including On My Own and Do You Hear the People Sing
First Performance: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20, against Evans High School at home
Lakeside High School
Directed By: Jim Tau
2004 Theme: Pirates of the Caribbean
Selections: The Medallion Calls, The Black Pearl, One Last Shot, He's a Pirate and To the Pirates' Cave
First Performance: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20, against Washington-Wilkes Comprehensive High School at Washington-Wilkes
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