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Local marching bands prep for upcoming season

High school students from around the county who are involved in their school’s marching band will be spending the next few weeks battling the heat and humidity to make sure their performances for the upcoming football and competition seasons are top notch.
For the Russellville High School Marching Hundred, they are right in the middle of one of the most important weeks of their whole year – band camp week.
This week, all 110 Marching Hundred members will be gathering each day on the high school’s driver’s education parking lot to work on marching basics, drill, sets and music for their 2013 halftime show “Rock You,” which features music from the legendary British rock group Queen.
The Marching Hundred production begins with a taste of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and quickly transitions to a fanfare of “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “We Will Rock You.” The show then moves into a Latin jazz treatment of “Bicycle Race,” and the middle section of the show features Queen’s hit “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” which showcases a driving bass line.
The show concludes with segments from the rock opera “Bohemian Rhapsody” and ends with the classic “We Are the Champions,” with the two songs tied together with “God Save the Queen” as the auxiliaries display the British National Flag, which is a tribute to Queen’s lead singer, Freddy Mercury, who would pay homage and proudly display the “Union Jack” at the end of their concerts with a rendition of “God Save the Queen.”
Senior alto saxophone player Hannah Swinney has been in band since the sixth grade and is beginning her fourth year as a member of the Marching Hundred, and she said this year’s show is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
“After working on the music last week and getting more into the show this week, I’m really excited about our show this year and I think everyone else is, too,” Swinney said. “I really think it could be the best one yet.”
But band members know that, just like any other team or group, the ultimate success they have depends on how hard they work these next few weeks in preparation for their first performance.
Marching Hundred band director Gary McNutt said the week of band camp and the week prior to band camp are some of the most crucial times because this is when the foundation for the whole year will be laid out.
“Band camp is vital to what we do because it’s a time for us to really focus and devote all our time to getting the show ready,” he said.
“School hasn’t started yet so the kids don’t have homework or other activities to take up their time. They can just focus solely on learning as much as they can learn in a two-week period of time.”
McNutt said even though this particular week is their main band camp week, there were other camps and practices that took place last week as well, such as auxiliary camps for the color guard, majorette and dance line members, and rookie camp for the new members of the Marching Hundred who needed to learn marching basics before they were thrown in with all the veteran members this week.
“These two weeks of camps involve a lot of hard work for the students and for the instructors,” McNutt said.
“If you’re not affiliated with marching band, you may not realize just how hard these kids work to put on a quality performance.
“And in the beginning, it can be a bit of a shock, especially to the rookies who aren’t used to how physically demanding practices can be.
“In addition to marching basics and drill, band camp is also a time where we do physical training in the mornings, like jogging and aerobics, to get conditioned. The horn players have to learn how to control their breathing so they can march and play at the same time; the drummers have to learn to carry these heavy drums while they’re marching; the auxiliary have to be able to do their routines while going to different sets – it’s a lot to take in and it can be tough if you’re not used to it, especially in the heat.”
Senior band member Jenna Sornberger, who will be leading the Marching Hundred as this year’s drum major, said the band will face some challenges during band camp and in the weeks to come, but they are ready to rise to the challenge.
“Last year’s senior class set the bar high with all the trophies the band received and all the awards we were able to win,” Sornberger said.
“This year we will face some challenges because we have a large rookie class, but I think we will all be able to work together to make sure we have another great season.”
McNutt said the weeks of practices and drills and the continued practices the band will have throughout the year are never easy, but it’s always worth it in the end.
“I’m extremely proud of the kids and the staff for the way they have worked during camp,” he said. “We don’t have to have two weeks of practices, we don’t have to practice in the morning, the afternoon and in the evening, and we don’t have to keep on practicing throughout the year. We could just coast and we could lower our standards, but that’s not the way this program is built. We don’t want to be average – we want to be great.
“There is a standard of excellence we are reaching to achieve, and it’s a standard the alumni that have gone on before us have set. We always want to make sure we are doing our best to maintain that standard.”