Kalamazoo Central Band Camp Rocks Out
By Cait O'Leary
Kalamazoo Central High School has a rich history of music.
From being the first traveling public high school band in the state of Michigan in 1906, to the personal direction of John Philip Sousa in the 1930’s, K Central’s fairly new inclusion, the marching band, is out to prove that the music has changed, but the talent continues.
This year the K Central marching band will be performing the music of 1980’s new-wave rock phenomenon Duran Duran. The marching band is working hard during summer band camp to perfect their show, hoping the community will come to watch what they’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Daniel Stout, the band director at K Central for 7 years, feels at home from the top of his wooden watchtower, getting an eagle-eye-view of the band during the summer mornings of camp. Hyped up on coffee and excited about seeing the band progress, he says, “I think of the movie Remember the Titans, when Denzel Washington walks out on the field, sniffs the air and says ‘Ah, this is my place.’ I feel like that every year we come out here. I get up on that tower for the first time and I look around, and I love this side of it so much.”
Unlike the movies, not everything is perfect at the end of two hours. In fact, the students are up every weekday to be on the practice field by 8 in the morning, many of who practice with their sections well into the evening.
Not only do they have to memorize the music for all of the songs, they have to learn to work as a team and perfect marching formations.
The marching band plays at festivals/competitions and during halftime of home football games throughout the fall semester. Bringing home medals, and putting on a good show is a great motivation to the students.
Just like in sports, K Central band members have a school that they’re out to beat. Stout says, “Competitively, I would say most of the kids are gunning for Mattawan. Mattawan has such an outstanding tradition for so many years, and they march at such a high level, and play at such a high level.”
Though Stout and his band would like to sweep the competition, he adds “You do your best job, and let the scores fall where they may. If we happen to score well and bring home some hardware then it’s just an added bonus.”
Whether playing the melody, harmonizing with other instruments, keeping rhythm, or adding visual flare to a show each section faces its own challenges.
Tory Johnson plays the tenor drums in the battery percussion section. As a percussionist, he says, “It’s something that I’ve always had a passion for. It’s something that has always made me feel good about myself.
Being the backbone of the band you really have to have rhythm and keep tempo well. There’s often times a drum major will get offbeat a little bit and drum line has to pick them back up into it.”
Johnson also says, “It’s always a challenge having someone bossing you around when you know you’re doing the right thing.”
Katelyn Sutton, a trombone player of the senior class, has seen it all when it comes to band camp, and agrees with Johnson adding, “You have to be able to listen very well. Especially as a freshmen, you need to learn to take direction and to stand up for yourself if you know you’re right and someone is telling you different.”
Lindsey Ritchie, a color guard member of the senior class enjoys her position, “We get to look cute and everyone sees us more than they can find individual people in the band” but adds that color guard is more than just cute, saying, “It’s really hard to twirl and march at the same time. It takes co-ordination and a lot of patience.”
Even though band members have a somber demeanor, sincere focus, and blend in with the other hundred-plus students in uniform when taking the field, they still get stage fright.
Sutton says, “My freshmen year before our first football game I was nervous. My section leader told me ‘You think this is bad, wait for festival.’ It’s always nice seeing the freshmen freak out at festival because you remember it so well yourself.”
Though Sutton’s nerves have calmed through the years, Johnson says he always gets nervous before a performance, “I’m kind of known for having to pee as we’re walking out on the field.”
Sometimes the nerves show up the night before, as Ritchie explains her pre-show bobbles, “During practice, the night before festival, I tripped over my flag and landed on my butt on the ground, and just sat there for 20 counts.”
Band camp is not all work and nerves, however, it’s also a time to bond with peers. Johnson says, “It’s a great time to hang just hang out and get to know your friends a little more and get to know new people. You haven’t seen your friends all summer and you get to see them for two weeks a good eight hours a day.”
Sutton describes some of the traditions that keep band camp a fun summer activity, “We have Crazy Olympics which is random events like egg toss, tug of war, cupcake eating contest. Next week we have spirit week which has anything from 80’s day to opposite sex day, to every section has a color.”
Ritchie says that the color guard has a tradition of its own, “We have guard sisters, and we each have a sister who before certain games or certain competitions we bring them a gift.”
Stout tries to keep the kids in good spirits too, “I make occasional jokes, make fun of myself, throw the occasional jab out to a kid as well and they’ll return the favor. I have no problem with that as long as they don’t cross the line.”
Band members agree that being with friends is wonderful, and so is competing when the show just comes together. Stout’s favorite competition is in Otsego, “I like Otsego, because it’s local. There are always great bands that compete there and the stadium is always packed.”
Stout adds that people might be surprised to see how marching bands have changed, “I think more than anything else we’d like to get people out to see what bands are doing these days. Marching band is a lot different then it was in the 60’s and 70’s. People would really love what’s happening if they went out to see it.”
Good luck with your performances K Central marching band, and remember the lyrics of Duran Duran as you take the field, “You know you’re something special and you look like you’re the best.”
Courtesy Kalamazoo Weekly