Hittin’ the notes in band camp

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Ironton Tribune/Sarah Musgrave

They practice in the heat of summer to give football fans an entertaining performance at halftime. Often unheralded for their dedication, marching bands train as hard as any athletes.

School is not in session yet, but dozens of students can be seen at any high school, marching on fields or parking lots with instruments and flags in hand. For them, it is time for that annual rite of passage - band camp.

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"It's a lot of fun," said Meagan Hairston, a sophomore clarinet player at Rock Hill. "Most people wouldn't think being in the heat and sun all day would be fun, but it is."

The Rock Hill Marching Band's show this year is, "West Side Story," as it continues for a third year under the direction of Scott Jones.

To help his young band, which has tripled in size in the past two years to 85 members, Jones has enlisted the help of outsiders, many from Marshall University.

Mike Anson, a freshman music education major at Marshall and 2005 graduate of Rock Hill, returned to his alma mater to help build the growing band.

"We have these rebuilding years, and last year was a rebuilding year. It made kids want to come back, so I wanted to help with their building," Anson said.

Jones is not the only director recruiting for help. Most do bring in extra people. Dawson-Bryant's band director, Tom Zerkle, tries to pull in former students.

"I prefer to use people who have done extra work with music," Zerkle said. "I like former students because they know my routine."

Dawson-Bryant's competition show is, "Voyage," with music from composer Robert W. Smith. What people will see at games will be one of two halftime shows, either a patriotic themed show or a tribute to local colleges and universities known as "The Coal Grove Show."

"We love doing 'The Coal Grove Show' because (it) is fun and exciting," Ashley Drummond, a senior color guard member in Dawson-Bryant's band, said. "The competition show is all rules and procedures."

The reason for the summer start is the same as any activity - practice makes perfect.

"There's no way we could learn the drills, music and drills with music before the first game if we didn't start early," said Lisa Ashworth, South Point's band director. "It's constantly changing."

Ashworth said South Point's show, filled with music by Ray Charles, will be changed even to the final performance in pursuit of entertainment.

"For us, it's about entertainment," Ashworth said. "That's my philosophy."

"We have to work hard to get where we want," Gracie Hunt, a drum major for South Point's marching band, said.

Working hard becomes even harder with the sun blazing and temperatures rising.

"This year is really hard because of the construction in the school, but we're sucking it up and getting things done," said Mandi Hunt, a senior trumpet player at Dawson-Bryant.

With construction in the school, there is no air conditioning to help cool down with during breaks, leading members of Dawson-Bryant's band to seek shade while other schools go inside.

Band camp is not all hard work, though.

"In the midst of the heat, when we're all miserable and tired, he'll pull out the hokey pokey," Mandi Hunt said of director Zerkle. "He'll be hard on us when we need it, but he keeps it balanced."

This being her senior year, Mandi Hunt said seeing the show take form during band camp is what it is all about.

"The neat part is when we're on the field, all the sections, and we come together," she said.

All of the schools in the county have been having band camp, each preparing for their own shows.

Chesapeake High School will perform "Phantom of the Opera" under the direction of Chris Wyscarver.

Fairland High School is doing four shows under the direction of Keith Carper, a new show for each home game. The first will have a 70s rock music theme, the second through fourth will have music from the movies "Chicago," "Shrek" and "Phantom of the Opera."

Ironton High School will be performing music from the late artist Ray Charles under the direction of William Rath.

Symmes Valley is going with a secret agent theme playing music from "Mission Impossible," "Pink Panther" and "007."