Sunday, August 21, 2011

Starting to feel like Marching Band Season

There are times when the temperature feels a certain way, or there's a certain smell in the air that takes you back to a time from your past. This morning was one of those times for me.

As I was waiting for the Light-Rail to take me between terminals in Minneapolis Airport, the cool, crisp, air took me back to the days up of Camp Frame for band camp. (no, this isn't going to be one of those "This one time, at band camp" jokes....LOL)

Band camp was always the week following Drum Corps International World Championships. The band would gather at our High School early Monday morning, then travel to Hedgesville, WV (about 30 miles away from Winchester, VA) for a week of learning music, drill (for our field show), and discipline.Often for Freshmen, this would be the first time they ventured away from home. So this was often a very hard time for them. Each class would have their own cabin, and of course, were separated male/females.

When I first went to Camp Frame, it was more of a rustic 4-H Camp that had old cabins. The upper, Boys, class-men cabin was down a hill, while the Boys Freshmen were next to the parade field and dining hall that is pictured above. The females all had their own cabins as well, and were a good distance away from the males.

In 1987, Camp Frame began a building program to replace the old boy’s cabin (left photo), which was built in the late 1920s to early 1930s.  Although the original boys cabin had running water, the building’s capacity was limited to around 50 boys, and had only a “community shower” with 4 shower heads, 3 sinks, and 3 commodes. Originally, in the early 1930s, it is said that the old boys cabin was the girls cabin, and that the boys stayed in tents.  The old boys cabin no longer exists at Camp Frame, but many still have fond memories.  The new boys cabin (right photo), built in 1987, sleeps 100 boys, has 12 individual showers, 8 sinks, and 8 individual commodes.  The “bath house” is located in the center, has 4 divided sections, and 12 bunk beds in each section.  Because Camp Frame is primarily for camping, the boys cabin is not heated or air conditioned.

I remember going back the following weekend with my parents in '87 to show them Camp Frame, and they had already started renovations to build new dorm-style cabins with updated showers/bathrooms. (actually was a lot nicer when we went back in '88)

There were 4 different buildings that the girls who attended Camp Frame would stay in.  None of the 4 buildings had running water.  To shower, etc., girls would have to leave the building and walk outside to the girls bath house, which was under one of the buildings. Along with the removal of the boys cabin, in 1987, the old girls cabins were replaced with a "twin" to the boy's cabin, capable of sleeping around 100 girls. It has 12 showers, 8 sinks, and 8 commodes. The "bath house" is located, much like the boys, in the center and has 4 divided sections, 12 bunk beds in each section. In 1995, a 5th sleeping section was added to the girls cabin, so it now holds 146.

For our band, as a Freshmen, you were given a hat that you had to wear anytime outside. The practice of requiring new members to wear hats at all times (except inside buildings) during camp week was designed to help leaders and senior band members easily identify those who may need a little more direction. The down side (for the bearer) was that these hats served in much the same manner as a bulls-eye making new members targets of unwanted attention by more senior members of the band. This attention would often be Upperclassmen hanging around the cabin entrances to see if those wearing hates would forget to put them on when going outside, or take them off when going indoors. If I remember, Freshmen wore blue hats while Sophomores wore yellow hats and also for those students who hadn't completed their 3rd-Class musicianship tests.

Camp was actually a fun time for me. We learned our music for the fall field shows/competitions, and really bonded with all the other classmates. Band Camp usually started a few weeks before school, so it go you excited for school to start...but also made you sad because it signified the end of summer. Band camp was one of the huge requirements to be a member of the band. If you missed it, you had better had a pretty good darn reason as learning the drill often counted towards your grade.

Another requirement while at band camp was to memorize your music in order to attain your band shirt. You had to either play your music, by memory, to one of the Directors, or to an upperclassmen who already played for their t-shirt. There were rules while wearing the band uniform, you were either in full uniform, or out of full uniform, non where in-between....UNLESS you had a band t-shirt. At which time you could take off the blouse while keeping the pants on. This helped considerably at parades, or competitions where we had to wait to either perform or warming-up.

Friday was our last day of band camp. Usually by this time, we would have learned our entire show, along with the music that we would perform at competitions every Saturday. Once dinner rolled around, we would pack up and clean up the camp, ensuring the camp was left cleaner than we had found it...almost much the way the Boy Scouts of America motto is about camping. "Leave the area cleaner than you found it"

Saturday we would spent the entire day at our practice field at school. Finishing the week long rehearsals with a start of the year Banquet, along with putting on a 'show' of what we learned to our parents.

During the week, the Band Officers would nominate certain 'squads', students, or sections who really improved from start to finish. These 'awards' would be given out to those who got the most votes at the Banquet and would receive a plaque on the wall in the Band Room.

Now that Camp was officially over, we would still meet at least once more before school started, then of course have our rehearsals during our class...usually right before lunch. Our band was very competitive in the Virginia Band & Orchestra Directors Association. We had won Virginia Honor Band (receiving Superior rating for both Field and Concert competitions) 13 times.

It seemed like every weekend we were off to a competition somewhere in the tri-state region. Just like Drum Corps, the season starts off a bit slow with low scores, but each week we would keep improving the drill as well as the music dynamics. Towards the end of the season, we were pretty good.

Many Friday nights we would have to go to our home football games to support the football team. I think it was pretty sad that the majority of the crowd would come to only watch us perform during  half-time, then leave. (football team didn't win many games) but it was all good.

Many competitions would have that cool, crisp feeling that I felt this morning while waiting for the train. Since the competitions for us were usually September and October when the temperatures were dropping. I even remember one place where it was nearly 80 degrees for the afternoon parade, then the temperature dropped so much that it started snowing later that night after the competition.

I think for musicians, the ideal temperature was right around 60-65 degrees. Especially since the uniforms are made up of polyester that was very warm. Add to that marching around and playing, you got pretty warm. However if the temperature was lower, it made for a great night of Marching Band.

Especially if the field was on astro-turf.