Typical days at UM Band Camp: tough training, bittersweet memories

For most students at the university, fall semester began between Aug. 20 and 24 – emphasis on “most.” Student-athletes and resident assistants return to school early to prepare themselves for their responsibilities in the upcoming year. What most students don’t know is that the Band of the Hour joins these students to prepare for the coming football season in an intense two-week training camp.

As a student leader in the marching band, I returned to Coral Gables on Aug. 10. This day was so early that the school paid to have the band stay at the Holiday Inn until Early Move-In day. Band Camp began for most of the band on Aug. 13, so we student leaders had three days to prepare ourselves to help the band be the best it could be. Before I knew it, all my preparation time disappeared and the 2015 Band of the Hour arrived.

Now I’m going to take you through one typical day of band camp – keep in mind that we have it every day like this for about two weeks. Morning rehearsal starts at 9 a.m., so you get up at whatever time allows you to get to the dining hall to eat breakfast. Skipping a meal at band camp has dire, health-related consequences; so even if you usually don’t eat regular meals, you force yourself to do so at band camp.

Once breakfast is done, you head to rehearsal which starts in what we call “fundamental block.” It’s a huge rectangular formation made of the entire band where we work on the fundamentals of marching. Our directors come up with crazy drill moves for us to march, and we have to march them while focusing on keeping correct posture and marching form. The way I’m describing this makes it seem easy, but it’s actually not. We work on marching form not only to improve ourselves as marchers but also to build up endurance with our instruments. In fundamental block, we’ll be called to attention and have to stay there for what seems like an eternity. This is truly torturous, but when band camp is done, we all have the right muscles to stand at attention with no trouble at all. With the Miami sun shining on us, we march fundamentals until lunch break at noon.

After lunch, we regroup in Fillmore Band Hall to have a music rehearsal from 1:30 – 5 p.m. This rehearsal is much more relaxed than the morning rehearsal, and it requires us to memorize the music and perfect our musical interpretation of the pieces. We don’t have to stand at attention and wait for commands before moving a muscle. We just watch our section leaders and mimic them. If their horn is up, so is ours. We continue rehearsing and perfecting the music. And then, it’s time for dinner.

After dinner, we meet on the IM fields and begin to march again. At the beginning of band camp, this rehearsal is dedicated to marching fundamentals, but as our technique improves, we begin to learn drills for the pregame and halftime shows. Learning drills is my favorite part of band rehearsal because it feels like we’ve finally started to do something that we will show all of Miami! I know the fundamentals are important and without them we’d look awful, but drill is truly the dessert of rehearsal. But, no matter what we’re doing during evening rehearsal, it ends at 10 p.m. Then we all walk back to wherever we’re staying to shower, rinse and repeat.

I know my words fall short to adequately describe Band Camp, but just imagine devoting two weeks of your life to working early in the morning till late in the evening on an activity that not only engages you physically, but also mentally by moving and playing memorized music at the same time. We make it look easy, and that means we’re doing an amazing job as a band, but it’s hard. So the next time you see the 2015 Band of the Hour, think about that. Sure, we’re not football players, but if you asked us to play football, we could do it. If you asked the football team to march and play our show, it may be a catastrophe.