Some high school students apparently drum more than their fingers during the summer.
More than 100 of them at Martinsville High School, for instance, picked up their instruments last week for band camp.
The MAVAHI marching band camp, one of three band camps in the city’s school system, involves teenagers from approximately 20% of the high school’s student population.
Henry County Public Schools has similar 1-week programs for its two high schools. And all have one thing in common:
Training students in playing and performing for a long year of athletic events, performances and competitions and, in the process, to build teamwork and provide mentoring.
Already looking well into the future, students at Martinsville’s camp prepare weeks and months in advance for the first and final home football games of the regular season.
“This year the first show is a story of teenage love and will feature music from Elvis, Rihanna, ‘West Side Story’ and Bruno Mars,” said Brian Joyce, Martinsville High School’s band director. “We also plan on doing other music this football season, including the senior show on senior night. Each year the senior class picks out music and writes [a] drill for their own senior show.”
In addition to creating the shows for the first and last games, students learn music and drill movements for halftime shows, practice basic marching maneuvers and learn music for playing in the stands.
The MAVAHI band sometimes allows eighth-graders to join in the summer camp experience.
“The advantages to having all the grades together is that the junior and senior classes help to mentor the younger students,” Joyce said. “The upperclassmen take more of an ownership role in the band, and it gives them more of a sense of school spirit and school pride.”
No matter a student’s grade, each has a special part in the overall performance.
“Students look forward to camp because they love being a part of the MAVAHI marching band,” Joyce said. “They get excited about the music, dances and being with their band family. That is what makes the MAVAHI marching band something special to be a part of.”
HCPS students at both Bassett High School and Magna Vista high school host band camps during the summer.
Each of the county schools has upwards of 95 members who join in on the fun. Similar to the MAVAHI marching band, students in the county also spend their week learning musical and performance aspects for shows throughout the school year.
While similar in premise, the two county band programs have their differences.
“Bassett High School has both a Friday night game and pep band called ‘Pride of the Riverside’ and a traveling competition band called ‘Band of Distinction,’” said Monica Hatchett, Henry County Public Schools’ director of communications and organizational learning. “Students can be in both or just the one of their choice – most are in both.
“Magna Vista High School has one marching band that both performs at games and travels to compete.”
Some eighth-graders join the two bands, but most students are in high school.
The age difference doesn’t create barriers – instead, it appears to bring about inclusion.
“The most universal thing we hear from students and their parents is that marching band and the camp itself serves to solidify students as a family that works together and supports one another,” Hatchett said. “Having students of various ages working together in an activity like ROTC or marching band allows both leadership and mentor opportunities for older students and peer learning opportunities for the younger students.”
The camps take place for a week in the summer and involve more than just learning the musical and visual elements of a top-notch show.
“Because of their closeness to one another and the artistry that they so enjoy, band students are typically very excited for camp,” Hatchett said. “They often have a theme each day – such as Hawaiian day or favorite holiday day, et cetera – and use concepts such as the day’s theme to have class competitions, which makes camp even more fun for them.”
Both county school band camps conclude with a parent performance on the final night where students demonstrate what they learned.