Growth, smooth sailing for PE band camp

Published 6:14 am Thursday, August 4, 2016

It had been a few decades since band camp had been held at Prince Edward County High School (PECHS) when it was restarted in 2014. Around a dozen students participated, and that number grew to about 15 last year.

The small step for the band program became to a giant leap this year as 30 campers were involved in the camp, which ran July 25-29, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

One of the biggest reasons for the jump in participation is the presence of rookies to the band.

In the past, “we haven’t had rookies show up at band camp, because they’re coming from the middle school, and it can be hard to communicate with them,” said PECHS Band Director Seth Taft. “And so just in some of my planning and what I’ve done with communicating with them, I’ve gotten better about it, and so they’re here now.”

He estimated that the 2015 band camp involved three or four rookies, and this year, 13 were on hand.

“It’s a lot of rookies, and it can make it hard, but this group made it easy,” he said.

In referencing the group, he was giving credit to both the rookies and the leaders in the band. The leadership includes Drum Major Isabelle Edwards, a rising senior.

“We had a great group of rookies who really caught on really fast, and they’ve done an amazing job, and it’s made things a lot easier for all of us,” she said.

Some of the other leaders confirmed that the presence of so many new band members put more pressure on them, but Woodwind Captain Trevor Camp, a rising senior, pointed out how it can make a simpler task out of teaching.

TITUS MOHLER | HERALD Prince Edward County High School Band Director Seth Taft, far left, leads campers in a drill down, an exercise in which they must exactly follow his movement instructions. Taft said it helps foster focus and intensity, acclimating band members to a high-pressure competitive environment while helping them review marching fundamentals.

TITUS MOHLER | HERALD
Prince Edward County High School Band Director Seth Taft, far left, leads campers in a drill down, an exercise in which they must exactly follow his movement instructions. Taft said it helps foster focus and intensity, acclimating band members to a high-pressure competitive environment while helping them review marching fundamentals.

“When they’re rookies, they don’t know any of our techniques, so it’s kind of easier to get it into their mind instead of trying to break old habits,” he said.

On the Friday before band camp, the rookies were at the school for a four-hour session that prepared them for the next week.

“We just sort of gave them the overview of everything so that they were closer to on the same level, and we could work to just kind of brush everything up as opposed to having to teach it fresh,” Taft said. “And that worked really well.”

By the end of day one of camp, they were looking as good as the 2015 rookies did on day three or four.

“And so we were able to get really picky with stuff, which is good, because getting 30 people to do exactly the same thing at the same time is tricky,” Taft said.

The goal of band camp for all participants is “to get them ready so that on day one of actual class, we can get out on the field and start learning the actual show,” Taft said.

They have the music, know how to play it and can begin memorizing it as they start learning the choreography on the field, hopefully in time to present something by the first football game.

Each day of camp, participants worked outside from 8-10 a.m. on marching and movement. After that, they worked on music, breaking up into their instrument sections before uniting at the end of the day.

During the week, campers learned five or six short standards and four full pieces.

The PECHS Marching Eagles will have new uniforms this year and will be returning to State Marching Assessment competition in Virginia Band & Orchestra Directors Association Region 3.

The Band Boosters organization has also launched its first ever Capital Campaign and is welcoming donations, which can be sent to 1001 High St. in Farmville.