Mid-August concluded with a flurry of activity in the arts and music wing of Lake Orion High School.
Band members swirled in all directions, practicing their routines, fine-tuning their instruments, getting fitted for their football game uniforms.
Those final touches fit before last Sunday’s departure for band camp at Camp Hayo-Went-Ha in Central Lake, Mich. The 141 students headed to the camp near Torch Lake in northern Michigan, preparing for a focused environment.
“To learn a significant portion of our show,” band director Michael Steele said before they left. “We’ll learn more in one day at band camp than we will at four days at school.”
Since 2006, the Dragons have attended the camp, a refuge from the distractions of fitting the rehearsals and prep work into their home life in Lake Orion.
“The purpose of band camp is to get away from the school, doctor appointments, work and things that are going to take them away from learning their marching band show,” Steele said. “We’re a competitive marching band, we’ve had a very good track record of finishing in the top handful of bands in the state over the past 15 years.”
Don’t mess with what works.
Work fits this group as well as any extracurricular activity in the school.
The percussion and color guard and began working in mid-May and the full band has been refining since the week after school dismissed in June.
With so many different instruments – Steele quickly rattled off “flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, trumpet, mellophone (marching French horn), trombone, baritone, tuba… snare drums, bass drums, tenor drums” – fitting all those pieces together, learning the music and the marching, is a massive task.
The marching band will expand for its football game shows (only the home games) by adding 20 additional students for those events.
At band camp this week, they’ll work in five different groups: color guard, woodwinds, brass, front ensemble percussions and battery percussion.
“Each one has a completely different way of learning what they do, producing their sound, playing their music and obviously for the color guard producing the visual aspect of the show,” Steele said.
Removing the home distractions from the equation – the traffic issues, doctor’s appointments, car trouble – allows everyone to be in the right spot on time at camp.
“We’re all there and they just walk a couple hundred yards to the field,” Steele said.
They’ll return home Saturday after their escape, more prepared and ready to produce the high-level show the Lake Orion community enjoys every fall.