Our marching band is made up of many key groups (we call them sections), but we are ONE band. The front percussion ensemble, our drum battery, our guard and our various instrumental sections all participate together in a series of "camps" that first develop fundamentals and quickly progress to learning the routines, music and marching that make up our competitive show.
August usually begins with "pre-camp," three days of marching, playing and tossing (hopefully only the guard is tossing) fundamentals to get everyone ready to learn the show. Next is our "away band" camp where we spend one week of long rehearsal days in the very weather friendly environment provided by the mountains of western Maryland, at Frostburg State University. The significantly cooler temperatures at Frostburg greatly improve our rehearsal effectiveness and make it possible to reduce our rehearsal time once school begins. After a day off to recover, we resume rehearsals at Enloe with our "home camp." Due to the Raleigh heat in August, we spend the hottest portion of our days indoors working on music and routines, and save outdoor work for the “cooler” portions of the day. All of our marchers wear water bottles when outdoors and parents are always on hand with water refills to keep the students hydrated and sunscreen to protect them from the sun. After a week of "home camp" we have a week of "night camp", from 5-8PM to finalize marching and music, by now we can all see (and hear) the results of the past few weeks and the excitement really builds. Parents are welcome to watch any time, but "night camp" is an excellent time for parents and alumni to visit and see the show coming together.
You need to come to camp hydrated, you can't catch up on water if you start behind. It takes at least 36 hours of increased water intake to get your body ready for rehearsals outdoors. Just drinking water when you are on the field will not be enough, start early and drink water often.
All band members are required to attend pre-camp. Winds will work on marching basics, as well as playing basics, while guard and percussion work on fundamentals with their instructors. The hours are set to try to accommodate parent's work schedules for transportation and allow us maximum time to build a foundation for learning the show at away camp. The more basics we learn now, the more productive we will be at away camp.
Each year we revisit the decision on where to hold away camp, we will return to Frostburg State University in the mountains of western Maryland this year. The benefits of going away are great (temperature, free from distractions, no tardiness, team building, etc.) but the cost of transportation continues to climb a bit each year. We take advantage of the cool mountain weather to get really long days of practice, doubling what would be safely possible in the heat of Raleigh. We use the week of away camp to start learning our show and many times we return with more than half the show in our heads and greatly improved basics. In short, we come back looking much more like ONE Band.
Once we return "home," we focus on learning the remainder of the show and getting the repetition needed to polish our playing, routines and marching. We split our day to focus on learning music, choreography and improved playing fundamentals, with indoor sessions during the heat of the afternoon, then move outdoors to work on the complete show in the early evening.
The hard work really starts to pay off this final week of camp, we are focused on the show and making sure we are visually and musically telling the story. This week ends with our first performance for our friends and parents at family night.
The changes made to our schedule to ensure time to participate in short club meetings, attend class study sessions or just do homework immediately after school have been very successful. We will continue to have rehearsal start a bit after school ends (3:00PM sharp). The full band will rehearse on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Many of the bands we compete against have Marching Band as a class and thus spend 90 minutes rehearsing during the school day and still hold 2-3 after school rehearsals each week. Our approach is to learn as much as possible before the school year begins, and then improve on it each week in our rehearsals once school begins.