One time at band camp, fun things happened.
I went to an impromptu dance party. I saw a grown man in a teletubby suit. I found out that Michael Jackson died. I learned how to play pool—and water polo. I ate way too many popsicles. I had my first taste of Arnold Palmer. I learned the boogie, the most embarrassing and yet most entertaining marching band maneuver ever conceived. I learned a bunch of nasty jokes courtesy of a bunch of teenage clarinet players. I played human knot for the first time (and in the process I learned how to bend my body parts in new and interesting ways).
I’ve been to band camp seven times, five at McDaniel College’s overnight summer camp, and two years at Linganore’s marching band. And for the record, I’ve never seen anyone give an oboe or a flute the American Pie treatment. Just putting that out there.
The thing about band camp is that it sneaks up on you. Some bands have regular rehearsal schedules over the summer, but others go on recess until band camp comes in the start of August. And the start of band camp signals the end of summer and the beginning of a new year. Freshmen get the benefit of knowing a ton of upperclassmen before the first day of school; upperclassmen drag their feet through the first morning but find themselves giddy to start classes by camp’s end. And band camp is no easy segue into the academic year; depending on where you go, band camp can be the most musically educational week(s) of the year for band kids.
Don’t get me wrong, there are parts of band camp that are as awful as you hear they are. Marching out in the heat is miserable, and it’s even worse on blacktop. Water breaks aren’t really water breaks. Calluses and blisters appear on your hands, feet, and inside of your lips. Your brain hurts. You sweat inhumanly (even inside: butt sweat). Your summer freedom is taken away and you’re forced to serve the good of this random group of people.
But that’s actually the best part of it.
Nothing brings people together quite like misery. If you get a group of people together to do incredibly difficult and awkward things, bonds are forged in ways that comfort can’t match. That’s not to say that the fun parts of band camp aren’t the best parts; I have very fond memories of band camp, and any of them have nothing to do with band. But I know that by suffering through band camp, I got to meet and work with people I’d have never met otherwise. (Perfect example: human knot. I accidently groped people whose last names I didn’t know at the time, all for the good of the group. We’re best friends now.)
Linganore kids start band camp tomorrow, bright and early. And if any of you guys are reading this, I want remind you that though band camp might suck, there are things worth sticking it out for. Think of the music you’re learning to make. Think of the things you can accomplish if you set your minds to actually caring about the show. Think of the awesome times you’re going to have on and off the field. And remember that the first day is the hardest of the three-month-long season, and it’ll set the tone for the entire year. Band camp is some serious business.
And oboes are not toys.