A little known fact about me: I am the captain of the color guard at my school. For four years I have been marching in the band through the wind, the chill and the rain, and the blazing hot sun, and now here I am, at the very last band camp I will ever attend. It hasn't sunken in yet, the fact that I will be graduating and leaving this program that I've dedicated four long years of my life to. I still feel like a sophomore at heart, starry-eyed and still filled with hope about what marching band is all about.
I know marching band isn't too common of an activity, and guard is an even less common activity, so I thought today I would share what going to band camp is really like, because between American Pie and Secret Life of the American Teenager, I feel like the world has a really warped idea about what actually goes down.
The day starts at 6:30 and you wake up, stiff and tired and sunburnt. You don't want to eat too much breakfast because there is a high chance that our director will make us run around the entire school and you will puke, so you settle for fruit and orange juice, pop some multivitamins and refill your gallon water bottle that you were required to buy because the directors keep telling you to drink lots of water and then only give you thirty seconds to sprint to your water, chug as much as you can, and then sprint back on the field, leaving you feeling woozy for the whole day.
You leave your house at 7:30, a whole half-hour before band camp is even due to start, since early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable. You roll up to a turf field that is filled with kids just as sore as sunburned as you, and some of them are drowsy and irritable, while others are filled with an annoying amount of energy. You keep your head down as you carry all of your stuff over to your section. Your arms already ache and the day hasn't even started yet. The guard always shows up five minutes before things are due to start, and so the directors call the band to go and warm-up, and half of your section is missing.
Its 8 now, and on a good day your color guard coach will teach the band to dance. This will always end in disaster. Dance block with the band is merciless, and all your flaws and shortcomings will be exposed to your peers. Now is the time where you and the other guard members will share knowing looks as you watch the tuba section leader stumble over his own feet as he tries, pitifully to dance.
On a bad day the drum majors will stand in the center of the circle with your overly enthusiastic band director as you do a hundred jumping jacks, sprint across the field and go through a series of stretches, which, as you are in guard, are ineffective since your daily warm-up is similar to that of a cirque de solei dancer.
Its 8:30 and the band breaks off to warm-up. You and the rest of the guard take the field, moving slowly since the band is required to spring everywhere they go, but the guard isn't. Actually, you are, but you just choose not to. You meet up with your coach, who is always ten minutes late to everything, and after having a leisurely chat with him you mosey over to dance for real, stretch for real, and warm yourselves up on flag. You finish your entire warm-up routine by the time the band has done a single warm-up excersize. That is because the guard gets down to business while the band likes to walk through things slowly, but surely.
Its 9:30 and you're setting up drill. Your dot sheet, which is a confusing mess of coordinates that you only kind of know how to read, is in your sports bra, and so by now it is dirty and falling apart but its the only one you'll get, that is if the drill doesn't change seven times in a single week like it did last year. The guard's drill is constantly changing since the drill writer puts you in the same spot for the entire opener, and your coach has written everything. You spend the morning dancing the same opening dance as the band marches the same four sets. They run to their resets and stand silent. You walk to your reset and talk to the people around you once you get there. The guard laughs, jokes, misses instructions, but most importantly, they complain about how slowly the band is moving.
Its 12, and after setting drill its finally lunch. Your tired and mad at your best friend because you were trying to teach her the work she didn't understand and only confused her further. On top of that, your coach had to re-write your drill, and your director was letting the band march all around you. So not only did you march straight into a group of clarinets and missed the two water breaks that were given to learn your new drill, but you're mad at everyone and everything. But now lunch is here, and you apologize to all the people you snapped at, drink your Gatorade and reapply your sunscreen.
Its 1 and the guard has escaped from the rest of the band to sit in a circle and share their feelings in a controlled and safe environment. IN my guard its what we like to call, a feelings circle. While the rest of the band slaves away playing music you sit in the shade sharing Oreos and kindness, passing around Aloe Vera as you talk about how much time the band wastes, how unnecessarily angry the directors are and how much fun you've been having these past couple of days. Forty minutes later you stand up and dance, laughing and smiling as you do so.
Its 3 and you're back in the field with the band to reset the drill you spent hours learning this morning. The clouds your coach joked about ordering specially for you have arrive along with a light breeze that scares the freshman because anytime they throw their flags in the air they come flying back at their face. But for some reason, standing on that windy field with the clouds rolling in and the met blaring in your ears, your giggly teammates on either side of you, fills you with something great. Its a feeling that can only be described as excitement, anticipation, and genuine enjoyment. The irritable actions of the band invigorate you. You find yourself screaming, 'Yes sir!', when earlier that day you rolled your eyes anytime your director talked. The drill sets that frustrated you so much come naturally, and you march confidently, spinning your flag, smiling and dancing and having the time of your life. You lightly jog to reset, you smile at your friends, make a joke, talk about the hot percussion coaches, high-five a trumpet player, mess around with your coach, attempt to smile at your director who attempts to smile back. Most importantly, you enjoy the thing you've spent four years of your life doing.
Its 5, and the day is over, and as you're walking out to your car ready to head home and write a blog post about the day because you've been so busy with band camp you didn't have time to do the post you originally planned, someone taps you on the shoulder and invites you out to eat with them and seven other band kids and you say yes, because the funny thing about band camp is that no matter how tired and sweaty you are, you will always have a moment to spare to those people you've just spent the last eight hours with.
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