Marching band members rise to demands of time, talent
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 20:10
At the end of the summer, while many students mourn the beginning of the school year and soak up every last ounce of sleep, the members of the university’s marching band settle in for one of the most intense weeks they will experience in the upcoming year, they say.
Each day of the band’s first week starts at 8 a.m. when more than 320 band members congregate on the field with their instruments—ranging from one to 60 pounds—in tow. For the next 15 hours they practice in three rehearsal blocks with a 90-minute break for meals before retiring at 11 p.m. This is the start of band camp.
“To say it is tough is barely scratching the surface,” Band Director Heidi Sarver says.
Although band is not an NCAA-recognized sport, Sarver says the intensity of physical activity is necessary to be successful. Sarver says one day she strapped a Nike plus pedometer on some of her players. By the end of one day the students had walked between 18,000 and 24,000 steps or roughly eight to 12 miles.
“If anyone out there wants to put on a 60 pound drum hanging from their chest and go walk three to four minutes straight at a fast pace clip without a break, welcome to marching band,” she says. “It’s very physically strenuous and a lot of people don’t really realize that. They think, ‘Oh it’s just band.’”
Sarver says she has seen band-induced injuries from twisted knees and swollen ankles to damaged shoulders and backs. Yet however demanding band becomes, both the students and faculty coaches think it is worth the extra effort.
Sophomore Tom Rivas has been playing the alto saxophone since fifth grade and although it is not the sole reason he came to the university, he says the band was a major perk.
“It’s a little difficult, but you don’t mind the challenges because it is so much fun,” Rivas says.
For many, marching band alleviates the pressures of the day. Sarver says she views the band as a safe haven for students and tries to foster a relationship with them that transcends coach and player.
“They can leave all the nonsense behind, take a break from the books, clear their head, be here, do something that has nothing to do with anything else,” Sarver says.
Sarver has been a band director at the university for 18 years and says she does not regret a single day of it.
Students come to practice every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 4 and 6 p.m. and arrive at games five hours early to practice before playing the show. She says they are always ready to give their best effort and this encourages her to do the same.
At each game, the band plays a pre-game show, which consists of performances of “Delaware Forever,” “The Star Spangled Banner,” the univeristy fight song and the alma mater. During halftime, the band performs their main show, which they have prepared for in class. After the game, the band performs the main show again and then performs “In My Life” by The Beatles.
Sarver teaches 700 to 1,000 contact hours in just the fall semester and 60 to 70 hours during band camp week. The contact hours include all the time Sarver spends instructing her classes, not including the two weeks she spends writing the textbook for the semester.
The directors send out the schedules at the end of the previous year so band members arrange their classes and clubs around their band commitments. Though taxing, Sarver says this does not faze her and considers herself to be living her dream.
“I just liked the idea of teaching—I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Sarver says. “I didn’t know in what area and eventually I kind of just wanted to become a band director after a while.”
This year’s lineup will be especially sentimental for Sarver, she says, as she will have the band perform two of her favorite songs, “Canto Del Viento” composed by Anthony Yaklich and “Silverado” composed by Bruce Broughton. There is a history behind these pieces that many of the students do not know, though the songs are already popular among band members.
Twenty-five years ago, Assistant Director Jim Ancona and Sarver played Canto Del Viento and Silverado together as undergraduates, she says. They are enjoying watching the current band members have the experiences they did and playing these specific songs will be a moment of recreation, she says.
She says she hopes students will develop deep friendships as well as skills. Sarver says the band creates a sense of family, which is essential to the program and the students during the time in college.
“We’re in a situation in the world where it is just so difficult to find those touchstones so no matter what kind of day they had or what kind of situation they have at home or personally or academically they come here and its safe—band is a safe place,” Sarver says.