Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Season of Eight-to-Five

If you're a bandie, past or present, you got that title immediately.

The camp with which I volunteer every year takes place at a facility that was built in the 1960s as a residential band camp. It's now owned by the Kentucky Lions Clubs, and yes, I'm a Lion, and we still operate band camps to defray the cost of our charitable camps. The first week of band camp is underway and it will be followed by a second; this is not actually a Good Thing, as we usually book three to four weeks of band camp. Nobody can afford it this year, so they're doing what my band always did and holding camp at home.

During our camp, we went out to Field 8, one of the slightly far-flung marching fields (there are ten total, and the dorms at the height of the camp's use could accommodate over 600 students simultaneously) to take commemorative photos of the campers. As we stood there squinting toward the observation tower in the late afternoon sun, I looked back across the field and thought, "I bet I can still do it." Now, I was in a sort of bridge era between the old-fashioned military-style marching that's still seen mostly at Historically Black Colleges and Universities now and the more asymmetrical, free-floating, fast-paced flat-footed marching of Drum Corps International, which means we still learned to high mark-time, could do old-school linear drill, and more fast, elastic shapes than a Petri-dishful of high-strung amoebae.

While we were waiting, I pulled my ankle up to my knee, foot pointed directly down, and locked myself in place, perfectly motionless, for about two minutes (we used to do this in marching fundamentals so we could stop suddenly in that pose without rocking or bobbling). A little later, I found a place where I could see the depressions from previous field markings, since Kevin, the property manager, didn't plan to lay the markings until the next day, and quickly cut eight steps from yardline to yardline...eight steps to five yards, or eight-to-five. Funny what the body can remember after five years of stepping off the line, two weeks of camp, then four days a week for ten or so weeks in the Fall.

The camp deejay, D.J. (no, I am not making that up), is my age and also an old leftover percussionist. He's also the E.M.T. for the band camp sessions at the camp. Every year, when he comes out to do the music for our kids' dance, he and I make a brief trip down memory lane. This year, I told him I'd heard that Madison Scouts were using a high mark-time in their Slaughter on Tenth Avenue show and it was being marveled at as "totally old-school". "We're 'old-school', D.J.! We're old school. They had to teach them how to do it! It's a form of arcane knowledge now!" He kind of blinked and said, "I didn't have to know how. You know I was in the drumline. You mean you had to know how to to do it?" The rationale being, he continued, that as percussionists, we were never going to actually execute a high mark-time while wearing a drum. No, indeedy, we weren't, but that's why they were fundamentals...our director made us learn it all, whether we were going to have to use it or not.

The other thing is, well, I couldn't possibly endure that kind of heat anymore- not on a dare. State law in Kentucky requires that all outdoor activities for children cease when the heat index reaches a hundred and five degrees. I know I marched in hotter weather than that more than once in high school, but then again, nobody died of heatstroke during band camp back then. Frankly, I think it's a good rule, because I remember not being able to concentrate on anything once it got blazing hot. Our band director (unlike some) was sane about that kind of thing, and if we started getting a little well-done or looking like we were about to drop over, he'd call for a break followed by a musical rehearsal in the band room for a few hours.

So, 'tis the season, folks. Remember, if your child is involved in outdoor activities such as sports or marching band, they not only need water but also electrolytes. Hydrating with too much water actually leaches electrolytes, so Gatorade does have a purpose even if it does taste slightly nasty sometimes. If your band director/coach/whatever is pushing them too hard, or the kids start dropping like flies, don't hesitate to complain to the school administration. It's supposed to be fun, not deadly.

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