So you want to go to Band Camp?

It’s your first year in high school or maybe it’s just your first year in a marching band and you’ve been told that you have to attend band camp. Maybe you are a returning member and you are excited for the new season. Either way, there are some important things to keep in mind when you are attending band camp that will help your program improve as fast as possible and will help you have the most fun. Hopefully this article helps your camp be a little different than the image below.

For the brand new:

What is band camp?

Band camp is a one to three week camp that takes place at your school before your school year starts. Camp days are generally long (somewhere between 6-12 hours) and will typically have a lunch (or dinner) break in the middle depending on length. Camp generally consists of visual and musical rehearsals with the goal of preparing your show for the upcoming season.

Why do we have band camp?

In general, Band camps have several purposes:

1. Introduce new members to the staff and returning members

2. Introduce new members to the culture of the group and make sure that everyone is on the same page of how things are run.

    Changes to the “standard operating procedure” are also typically undertaken during band camp. If you are a returning member do not be surprised if some things are different year to year. Go with the flow and see if you can figure out how the change will make the group better or more productive during rehearsal.

3. Teach everyone marching technique

4. Work on the overall instrumental ability of the group

  • 5. Begin to learn the show
    • Generally including both the show music and the show drill (your positions on the football field)

    Essentially, the overarching purpose for band camp is to get the group ready for the upcoming year. Band camp typically comprises the vast majority of the technique teaching time that a group will get in a given year and is vital to setting the tone and trajectory for the upcoming season. Make sure that you attend EVERY day. There is no (non emergency) reason to miss a day of band camp. Schedule appointments, vacations, and other things around band camp. Remember that every other member of your organization is counting on you to be there and to do your best. Do not let them down.

    What should I expect?

    Every band camp is different so ask your directors or older members for specifics. However, there are some general expectations you can have for any band camp

    1. A lot of information.

    • First and foremost band camp is about getting you the information you need to succeed in the marching activity. I tell my students you will get more in a week of band camp than you will in a year of middle school band. Plan for a bit of overwhelm and do your best when it comes. The staff and student leadership are there to help you. If needed, ask them questions or for extra help.

    2. Lots of time outside

    • Indoor rehearsal space is often limited or inapropriate (like for marching).
    • This is an outdoor activity so plan to spend the vast majority of your band camp hours outside. (advice on how to prepare for this later in this post. Keep reading!)

    3. Lots of time on your feet.

      There isn’t a lot of opportunity to sit during band camp. Expect to be on your feet for most of the day.

    4. A lot of fun.

    • While this activity is highly demanding it is also a lot of fun. You will make lots of good friends and will have a great time as long as you are properly prepared.

    For everyone:

    How can I prepare beforehand?

    1. Practice your instrument through the summer to keep your ability improving through the break
    2. Get used to the sun early in the summer (if possible) by getting into the sun for a few minutes everyday
    3. Get lots of sleep (especially the week or two before camp)
    4. Drink water long before rehearsal to start rehearsal hydrated

    What should I bring?

    1. Sunscreen

    • Sunburn during band camp is miserable. I have done it so you don’t have to. Bring strong sunscreen (I bring SPF 30+ when I teach) and reapply it thought the day. I like spray sunscreen because it allows me to reapply quickly as needed without interrupting.

    2. Lip Balm

    • With sunscreen in it!
    • Sun or wind damaged lips make playing any wind instrument (much less a brass instrument) much more difficult and often painful. Protect those lips!
    • I personally use DCT by Blistex and can recommend Chopsaver or Burts Bees as well. (I seem to be allergic to beeswax so I can’t use those personally)
  • 3. Half a gallon or more of water
    • I highly recommend a gallon as you will likely find yourself refilling with a 1/2 gallon bottle.
    • You need to be responsible for your own water. Do not plan on sharing water with anyone else (although please help your friends if needed).
  • 4. Hat and sunglasses
    • Hats are absolutely mandatory sun protection at any band camp. A baseball cap is a “C-“. You should try and find a true “floppy hat.” Straw hats work great for this purpose. Remember you are looking for sun protection not to look cool.
    • Sunglasses are highly recommended but not required
  • 5. Activity appropriate clothing (see below for more detailed info)
  • 6. Instrument
    • and cleaning kit
  • 7. Printed music
    • In a binder so the wind doesn’t blow it away.
  • 8. Pencils
    • Mechanical pencils are highly recommended so you don’t have to worry about sharpening.
    • Don’t forget an eraser as well

    9. Tuner and Metronome

    What should I leave at home?

  • 1. Sugary drinks
    • Something for lunch is fine. However, drinking sugary drinks (soda, fruit juice, Gadorade, etc.) while playing your instrument will damage your instrument and can cause the insttrument to rot from the inside out. Water only during rehearsals.

    2. Extra electronics or expensive materials

      You are going to be away from your things for long periods of time. Typically, (and certainly in my rehearsals) there are NO electronics allowed. They must be stored in a case or backpack and in reality its better to leave them at home. This is also true of jewelry, gaming devices, and computers.

    What should I wear?

    1. Athletic Shirts

    • No button down shirts
    • Ideal shirts are sports jersey like materials in light colors. However, long sleeved ATHLETIC ONLY shirts may be appropriate if you are sunburned and need to cover up.

    2. Athletic Pants

    • No jeans / chinos / slacks
      • Yes this really does happen. You are going to get hot and possibly pass out.
      No skirts, kilts, or dresses.

      • Remember you are going to be laying down, stretching, and doing body mechanic work. These options (while stylish) are not activity appropriate.
    • Ideal pants are shorts in an athletic material. Think basketball shorts or workout shorts. However, long ATHLETIC ONLY pants may be appropriate if you are sunburned and need to cover up.

    3. Athletic Shoes

      No open toed shoes, flip flops, or heels.
      No spiked shoes
      Ideal shoes are cross-trainers or running shoes worn with an ankle length sock.

    The general trend here is athletic. Remember this is a movement based activity where you are spending time in the sun. Wear clothing that will let you move and will keep you cool.

    Anything else?

    1. Be on time!

    • There is a saying in the music world: 15 minutes early is on time, on time is late, and to be late is to be fired. This applies for band camp and any future rehearsals as well. Plus it’s just a good professional habit to be in.
    • If you are late: you should be RUNNING (safely) to wherever you need to be.

    2. Be welcoming to everyone around you.

    • The people around you are your collegues. Get to know everyone and become friends. You are going to be around them a LOT. I still have great friends from high school. (all from band)

    3. After a break get refocused immediately

      I call this “flipping the switch” and being able to get refocused quickly lets your directors know that they can trust you to recover from distractions and to get stuff done. This lets them tell more jokes give you more breaks and ultimately lets you have a better experience.

    4. If an instructor or student leader is talking you should not be.

    • As I say: “there are many of you and one of me” instuctions or information that is necessary for your success is going to be missed or ignored if you are talking over it. Keep your attention at the task at hand, I promise you will get a break regularly so you can relax.

    5. Remember that you are a part of something larger than yourself and the people around you are counting on you. Do not let them down.

    I hope this guide to band camp helps. Returning members (or staff), did I miss anything? Let me know so I can add it in! If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask in the comments.

    – Troy

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