By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Just ask Dorothy, or any member of the Tupelo High School Varsity Band: The yellow brick road is a tough journey.
Last week, hundreds of members of the band wrapped up a two-week-long band camp, where they prepared for their upcoming halftime show and contest piece, called “If I Only Had …,” which features music from “The Wizard of Oz.”
Camp was divided between drills – learning the precise marching movements for the show – and perfecting the music. The band students practiced every other week all summer, until the two-week band camp, during which the students worked from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The drills were done on the football field early in the morning and late in the evening, and the students worked on music indoors during the hottest part of the afternoon, said THS band director Tim Matlock.
Even then, it’s still hard work.
Not only does the music have to be perfect, but they have to move perfectly, too – all in the hot weather. THS band alum and parents are on hand to provide water and sports drinks to ensure the band stays cool and hydrated. Parents and area businesses donate the drinks and fruit for the students, Matlock said.
“You get used to the heat and that you’re doing all this strenuous work, mentally and physically,” said Isaac Palmer, a junior who plays the snare drum.
The students said they loved playing music from “The Wizard of Oz,” like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “If I Only Had a Brain.”
“I think this is one of the tougher shows we’ve done,” said Ray Patrick, a senior saxophonist.
“We’re moving – bam, bam, bam, across the field. It’s challenging to do that and play difficult pieces of music,” Palmer said.
Still, Palmer said, “It’s a blast.”
“We try to pick shows that are entertaining as well as competitive,” Matlock said. “We try to pick shows the kids can take pride in.”
Senior Kaitlyn Kornoely is a section leader in clarinet, so she has a bit of added pressure. But the beautiful music makes the work easy.
“There are raised expectations from years past, especially being a section leader,” she said. “But ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ is such a pretty melody.”
It’s easy to deal with the heat with a bit of common sense, she said.
“I bring plenty of water. It’s really important to stay hydrated,” she said. “You have to drink a lot of water during your lunch break.”
The band is ready to go for its first game, set for Aug. 24. Then competitions begin in September.
“It’s coming together a lot more quickly than shows in the past,” Kornoely said. “I’m looking forward to perfecting it, so we can do a whole run through. When the show is learned, that’s my favorite part.”