In the late summer, high school marching bands all across the United States are entering that esteemed, fabled, and exalted period of the season called "Band Camp". For many that have never experienced this phenomena, this period of time represents a tremendously difficult challenge on a musical, physical, and mental/emotional level.
Some groups travel away to a sleep-away style camp, while others rehearse locally at their high school facilities. Both modes of band camp have their pros and cons - taking the students away to a remote camp environment reduces many of the day-to-day distractions and focuses the kids on the tasks at hand. The downside is that packing and moving a substantially large group for a week or more may create more logistical issues than it solves. Staying home for band camp lowers or zeros-out the cost to the student, but being around "home base" can lead to unwelcome distractions, such as doctors appointments, attendance issues, or other sources of rehearsal interference.
The pressures on the band director and staff are significant. Many groups will need to perform IN PUBLIC shortly after the start of school, like at that first football game or Labor Day performance. It will be expected that most, if not ALL of the show will be completed at band camp, and that represents a lot of drill, choreography, equipment work, new and rewritten material to be taught and digested by the performers.
The physical side of the long days is also an area of focus. If your band is holding a week of rehearsals from 8am-8pm, that degree of physical activity and concentration will be a stark contrast to your teenager that has been a couch potato, or locked into endless Fortnite games all summer long.
How to "Keep It Together" Through Band Camp Week
- Be prepared - undoubtedly you will have received something from your director or boosters. Don't miss an email, and read everything twice
- Start gathering/packing early - Your kid will need lots of gear to get through the week. Beyond the normal things like coolers, sunscreen, a hat, etc, EXPECT other somewhat random things such as the materials for dotbooks, 3-ring binders and plastic sheets for drill pages, sidewalk chalk for marking sets on a parking lot (if applicable), special themed spirit things (my daughter's band does a themed T-Shirt for each day of camp). These things will cause stress if you wait until the night before camp to gather and procure all of the weird oddities needed.
- Sneakers - these might be the single biggest important thing to get right. Band camp IS NOT the time to break in new shoes, and your kids will be traveling literally MILES around the football field every day. Find a good-fitting sneaker and give it a week or so to break in. Running shoes are a safe bet, but be sure the size is right - blisters are NO FUN during band camp.
- Sleep and nutrition - hopefully your child is appropriately worn out at the end of a day so sleep isn't an issue, but try to make sure they unplug and get the necessary ZZZZZs they need. Nutritionally they will be burning more calories daily than they are accustomed to, so plenty of healthy protein and carbs with lower sugar is helpful. Hydration is a must, so reinforce to your child the importance of drinking whenever appropriate (the staff will be giving the kids ample water breaks to help with this).
- Give them space - when your child comes home from camp, the look on their face may resemble the "30-mile stare" that may have you asking "What happened today?". When your child comes through the front door, they may be extremely talkative, or very quiet and fatigued. Give them some time to decompress. The sheer volume of informational input in the course of one day (meaning the MOUNTAIN of stuff they learned), coupled with the physical exertion is a lot to process, so don't be surprised if they just want to sleep.
- Support them through their stress - at times the day-to-day grind of camp will be frustrating. Listen to your child vent if they choose to, and try to reinforce a positive mindset with a don't-quit attitude.
Band camp can be, and should be a transformative experience. The director and staff will take a group of random kids and turn them into something special in the course of a few short days. Odds are that your young student will develop in ways you might not have expected.
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