Banding together: Senators ready to march into new school year

DOVER — Band camp is more than just learning new songs, different marching patterns and flag and dance routines.

It’s also about becoming a truly cohesive unit.

Dover High School Band director Garrett George believes his Senators have been able to accomplish that in the past two weeks.
It’s hard not to rely on one another when the temperatures were hitting the mid-90s during several days of band camp.

“The heat’s been a pain, but the kids have been toughing it out,” Mr. George said. “Actually, it’s been going great. This has been one of our most productive camps. This is my fifth year (as band director), but my fourth camp with them, and we’ve gotten the most done so we’re happy.

“I think partially that’s because we’ve gotten a new system of learning drills out on the fields. Now, I’ve got all my upperclassmen training in that, so they’ve been helping the freshmen in a way that they couldn’t originally.”

He added, “They’ve had a great attitude. Each year we have some traditions through band camp that everybody is participating in, like we have different sections competing against each other and try to bring the band together, and it’s just a lot of fun.”

Passers-by on Friday morning could hear the Dover High band practicing the classic hit song “Killing Me Softly,” made famous by Roberta Flack in the 1970s, emanating from the Senators’ band room on the back side of the school.

The afternoon was reserved for putting the finishing touches on a demanding two weeks of work as the 125 or so members of the Senator Marching Band took to the football stadium to practice the halftime show they will be performing throughout the upcoming football season.

“The show this year is ‘East versus West,’ so we’re going to have a bunch of West Coast songs and a bunch of East Coast songs,” Mr. George said. “The really interesting thing about the presentation that we’re trying to put together is we’ve got the band split in half – we’re going to have half blue and half white, for east and west.

“The way that works in the drills is sometimes they’re together, sometimes they phase apart so you can see the white and the blue, sometimes they stripe when they go across each other, and sometimes they’re separate in different blocks.”

The student musicians could feel the heat turned up on Friday as they realized it was the final day of band camp. The Capital School District opens a new year on Aug. 22-23 and the band will make its first marching performance at a football game on Sept. 14, when the Senators travel to play Salesianum at Brandywine High School.

The days are clicking by faster than a Senator banging on a snare drum.
Emma Young, a trumpet player, cannot wait to get her junior year officially started. Band camp has her ready for school to begin.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” she said. “I think we worked harder than most years and we got more done than any other year that I’ve been here so far. It has been really hot but (Mr. George) lets us have a lot of water breaks, so it’s good.”

Ms. Young has two solo parts during Dover’s field show.
“I’ve never had a solo, on the field anyway, so I’m pretty excited,” she said. “It’s a big deal for me.”

For Aiden Collier, a freshman clarinet player, band camp is something that is all new to him.
“It’s been a really good experience,” he said. “I’ve been in the band at Central (Middle) and it was great there, everybody should check it out, and the Dover High Band is just even better than that. Band camp has been rough (in the heat). I don’t have a hat so I can’t block myself from the sun.

Marching during band camp.

“But most of my friends are still here, I’ve made new ones, I’ve lost old ones, but most of my friends are still here and I love it.”
Gregory Stewart, a junior trumpeter, was among those making his way through the final day of band camp on Friday.

“I like playing the trumpet a lot,” he said. “It’s just really fun and we get to play all of the melodies and stuff, so that’s why I chose to play the trumpet.”
Brian Nealous, a sophomore trumpet player, said it is days like those long ones spent at band camp that perennially help to make Dover High one of the best high school marching bands in the state.

“We do stuff that is very unique from what other marching bands do,” Mr. Nealous said. “We have different techniques because we’re in competitions and stuff to make us one of the best bands in the state.

“Band camp has been very productive, and we’ve made a lot of improvements on different songs and how we play this year.
“It’s been very fun marching and playing different songs. I just make sure that I’ve got my one-gallon jug of water nearby and that’s been my rescue from this heat – and the shade, too.”

Kira Palma laughed and told the others to suck it up. After all, the junior has to lug a heavy tuba around while marching on the football field.
“I just bear it out, but that thing can really hurt my shoulder,” she said. “The tuba feels like it weighs around 50 pounds, but everything’s been going great. I’ve learned a lot and I’m having a lot of fun. We are all good friends.

“Our band has a lot of creativity and everything that we put into it, all the different moves on the field, and basically everybody in the band is friends with each other and we have a special connection like we’re a family, basically.”

The Dover High Marching Band’s extended family’s next big event will be on Aug. 24 when the Senators will host their annual “Band-A-Thon” on The Green in downtown Dover at 6 p.m.

“The students are collecting pledges per song and we’re going to try to play as many songs as possible in one hour on The Green,” Mr. George said. “Our hope is that we can get up to 18 or 20 songs in.

“The easiest way to get involved in this fundraiser is to find a band member, or a family member of a band member, and pledge a certain amount per song.

“After that, it’s all about our field performances at the football games until the holiday season. We can’t wait to get started.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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