If you ask members of the Greenwood High School marching band if they are having “fun in the sun” during their annual band camp, their answers might all be yes. The perspiration on their faces and clothing, however, tells a different story. But despite the heat and humidity of a typical summer day, the students are well aware that the daily exercising, marching in formation and practicing with their instruments in the blazing sun are all part of the ritual that must be completed before they are ready for the upcoming football and parade season.
Olander Emmons, who is in his fourth year as GHS’s band director, said a “mini-camp” was held May 24 to 26 and included members of the percussion section, color guard and feature dancers. The main camp, attended by 125 members, began July 11 and ended Friday.
Practice for the members starts early — 8 a.m. each day — and consists of exercising and learning the fundamentals of marching, articulations, rhythms, tempo, accuracy, tone quality and pitch. Members march outside without their instruments, and they march with their instruments. It’s not unusual to see not only hats and caps on the marchers’ heads but also towels, miniature umbrellas or any other items that can offer any escape from the heat.
“We’re outside from 8 a.m. until about 10:30,” Emmons said. “We try to beat the heat by taking plenty of breaks so that the kids can hydrate. Once the heat index reaches a certain level, we go inside.”
The work doesn’t stop once the students go inside the band hall. They practice from 10:45 a.m. to noon and again from 1:15 to 3:15 p.m.
Emmons said the time practicing is crucial because the band’s first performance is set for Aug. 19 at Bulldog stadium when the GHS football team takes the field against Leflore County.
Band members are not the only the ones who have to brave the heat. Emmons has a supportive team that works with him, including percussion instructor Vadarius Totten, color guard instructors Loretha Robinson and Kaislynn Archie and dance instructor Shadreka Flowers.
“We have a lot of people who come by and just volunteer their time to make sure that we look and sound good,” Emmons said.
The band’s theme for this upcoming season is “Gone but not Forgotten.”
“As it stands, we want to give the fans something to nod their heads and pat their feet to,” Emmons said. “We want to be able to play music that will be pleasing to anyone who attends the football games.”
Besides getting out of the heat, the band also has something else to look forward to — new uniforms.
“I don’t know if we will get a chance to wear them this year, but I’m excited about them just as much as the kids are,” Emmons said.