It’s August, and that means that the new marching season is almost here. I marched in my university band in college. Through my time in band, I have learned a little about how to survive college band camp.
Band camp can be exhausting, but it is necessary to prepare for the semester ahead. Most college marching bands memorize all of their music, and it can be hard to do that without an extra week of focused practice and rehearsals.
Here are some of my tips and tricks and well as the gear you need to survive marching band camp.
1. Have a water bottle at all times.
Whether you are rehearsing outside or inside, you need to be drinking water as much as you can. In most parts of the country, August is a hot month. If you are outside without drinking enough water, you can suffer from dehydration and other health problems.
If you are worried about more trips to the bathroom, you will sweat enough, so that shouldn’t be a problem. So show up to rehearsals and sectionals with a full water bottle.
Odds are, there will be a jug of water that you can refill from, but you shouldn’t rely on the band to provide water for you. Come prepared.
2. Use sun protection.
It doesn’t matter if you have light or dark skin, you need to protect yourself from the sun. Apply sunscreen, wear hat, and put on some protective clothing.
If you are outside during peak sun hours, this is even more important. The last thing you want, aside from dehydration, is a bad sunburn. It can be easily avoided with the proper precautions.
I was a little lazy with this last year, but don’t follow my lead. It takes a couple of minutes to apply a layer of sunscreen, and a hat should be worn anyway.
3. Use the best instrument you can.
While you definitely should save your highest quality instrument for inside, don’t neglect your marching instrument. If you will be marching with your own instrument, make sure it doesn’t need any repairs.
If you have to march with a school owned instrument, get to campus and check in with the band as soon as you can so that you can try multiple instruments and get the one you want.
The good school instruments go first, so you don’t want to be stuck with the cheapest one that hasn’t been repaired in years. The better your instrument, the easier the season will go.
4. Get enough sleep.
It can be tempting to spend your late nights watching Netflix, but try and sleep at a reasonable time. Odds are you will have to wake up pretty early for band camp, and your day will be long.
You don’t have to go to bed as soon as the day is done, but shoot for about 8 hours of sleep if you can. Band camp is tiring, and the heat doesn’t help. Take advantage of your time and sleep.
Your body will thank you.
5. Eat enough.
If you live on campus, you probably won’t have access to dining services just yet. You might have to eat take out for a few days, but make sure you do eat something.
Food is fuel, and you need that fuel to keep you going during a whole day of rehearsals and sectionals. Don’t hesitate to pack a small snack bar in your bag in case you get hungry. You can then eat it quickly during a break.
Even if you don’t feel hungry, you still need to eat enough food for your body. If you can eat healthy foods, great. If not, do your best to eat foods that will fill you up and give you energy.
6. Use your breaks wisely.
This goes off of the tip for sleep above. If you have a lunch or dinner break, enjoy your time off, but be smart. When you have some time on your hands, see if you can work on memorizing a section of your music.
While sectionals are devoted to memorizing music, you can’t work too much on memorizing. One thing I did during sectionals was play from memory even when I didn’t “have” to.
If we had one more chance to look at the music, I would still try to play as much from memory as I could. That helped solidify the music for me, and I was able to play it with more confidence.
7. Know where you can/want to store your instrument.
If you will be marching piccolo or another small instrument, you can use your own bag or backpack. Some larger instruments might even have their own storage closet.
However, if you will be marching saxophone or mellophone, or another midsize instrument, have a plan for storing your instrument. Will you keep it in your dorm? Can you check out a locker in the music building?
Also be flexible. The layout of my university’s campus had my dorm much closer to the stadium, with the music building a bit out of the way. If I had to start at the stadium, I would make sure to have my piccolo in my room the night before so that I wouldn’t have to waste time going to the music building.
8. Have fun!
Band camp is an amazing way to make friends and have fun playing music. Marching band is a lot of work, but the social aspect (and the music), makes it worth it.
I know that when I was new to campus, band camp allowed me to meet a lot of people that would later be in some of my other classes. Those friendly faces made the semester go much easier.
So, have fun!
Have you gone to college band camp before? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!
And don’t forget to subscribe for music tips sent straight to your inbox!