More Than Just An Extracurricular
A buzz of excitement and anticipation saturated the humid air in the Brighton parking lot. Nearing the last days of the camp, the students memorized the routines they were going to perform for the upcoming season. Never veering off schedule, the kids transitioned from water breaks to rehearsing seamlessly, playing instruments they’ve been learning to use for years. Though it was only nine o’clock in the morning, the outrageous heat made it even more demanding to hold the tubas and drums in position. With a resilient determination, the kids flawlessly performed while following the guide of a metronome and a conductor. Parents sat in blue and red fold-out chairs, watching the students move from one practice exercise to another. From between six to eight hours a day, a band member’s only focus is on developing their musical skills for upcoming performances.
The marching band culture is a well-known one in Tipton County and has expanded to include other schools in Cypress Land like Fayette-Ware, Ripley, and Arlington. The growth makes sense, because band is much more than a half-time show at football games. It’s a community and a passion. Band allows high school freshmen to grow and adapt to become skilled experts in their craft by senior year. Shy kids become outspoken leaders who share the knowledge of an activity they’ve dedicated countless hours to improving. Upperclassmen who went through the process then have to mentor new members. A Munford Band member, Grayson Vincent, described the process, explaining that “the biggest struggle… was learning how to develop freshmen and sophomores.” Those who may have never touched a flag before transform into agile color guard members, and those who never touched a horn turn into masters. Band pushes students out of their comfort zone into a place of opportunity and encouragement. And much of a performer’s development occurs in the weeks leading up to school during band camp, setting the tone for next year’s performances.
As if the performances in the summer heat are difficult enough, finding a balance between performances and life can sometimes be even tougher. Some of Brighton’s section leaders mentioned that they were in AP classes, working part-time jobs, and finding their niche in honor societies and clubs. Many band kids are not just “band kids”, they are well-rounded students with special talents. Mastering choreography in band practice is as difficult as mastering the choreography of high school. But when they discover the perfect balance between band and life, it makes kids even more passionate about band and even more focused on being the best they can be.
While band challenges students to find balance with other aspects of their lives, the challenge of mastering the actual musical compositions increases as well. Intricate pieces require perfect synchrony between woodwinds, percussion, brass, and string instruments. Keeping the beat and hitting the notes must be done while moving to the correct place on the field, all while in band uniforms. Munford’s band camp included activities that challenged students physically and mentally. To be a part of a band means having a fit body and a fit mind, especially for the rigor of Munford Band.
Not knowing much about the culture before this blog, I was eager to learn from the students I interviewed at each school. They told me about instruments I had never heard of and terminology I had never used. Now I understand how a mellophone plays a role in the melody of a song, and more importantly, the pride students hold about their involvement in band. The anticipation of waiting to go out onto the field, the suspense of putting on a new band uniform, and the joy when the crowd claps wildly make the hot summer days worth it.
For the many adults leading these kids, they gain much more than the joy of seeing the students perform. Gary Fite, assistant band director at Munford summarizes the band kids’ impact on the adults who help them grow, explaining that “for me, it’s kind of like an anomaly here because I’ve known them since they were eleven… so I get to see them grow from an elementary school student to a sixth grader, to an eighteen-year-old, and it’s really cool. Just watching them develop into human beings, that’s more the whole point of the teaching ‘thing’. It’s not really the music and the parades, it’s the kids”. Some senior members also experienced a similar growth watching the freshmen improve over the course of the camp. “It’s amazing to watch that moment click. When they first came, they didn’t understand really anything about how to do it. And now they’re starting to grasp it. It’s really cool to see the light bulbs turn on,” said Munford senior Samantha Russell. This mindset is what has set apart west Tennessee’s band culture from any other because band directors and student leader hold members to a higher standard. Not only are they helping shape shows, they are shaping kids into mature, well-rounded adults.
Interested in seeing the high school bands perform this season? Make sure to check out each high school’s website to view their schedule and visit them at football games and competitions. Want to support Munford’s trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl? You can use the promo code “mhsband” at checkout when subscribing to Cypress Magazine to donate five dollars to the band!
- Hannah Ellis, Arlington, TN