Band Camp Stories March On Through the Decades
Dr. Craig Kepner has been directing the Orange High School Marching Lion Band for more than 30 years and has lots of “band camp stories” to tell; but all of them have a similar theme.
“Band camp is a lot of hard work, but it’s probably one of the most fun experiences our kids have, and they love it,” says Dr. Kepner, now in his 32nd year at Orange, with one additional band camp under his belt. “I highly recommend it to all, and I know all the students would say the same thing because they really enjoy coming out. For me, personally, ’33 years’, what more can I say?”
Along with three decades of students, Dr. Kepner has experienced it all at camp – the heat, the rain, the thrill of victory, the agony of 'the feet'. But, he says, it’s all worth it.
“Not only do we learn our music and our marching really well because all we focus on here is band stuff, but the camaraderie and the friendships the students build is one of the reasons we come,” he said.
The 128 musicians and members of the Lionettes Flag/Dance Team attend the five-day overnight camp at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania each year to learn the drill formations and sequences in their half-time and pre-game shows. The 106 musicians also spend a great deal of time fine-tuning their scores while the 22 Lionettes learn and perfect newly-created flag routines and dance numbers.
“I am gaining the experience of being with a team where everyone has to do everything correctly,” said ninth grader Isabelle Perla, who is new to the Lionettes this year. “It’s a lot of fun to be with my friends. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”
Brittany Hoffman is in her fourth year of Lionettes and is one of four captains. She knows firsthand the importance of teamwork…and hard work.
“The Lionettes really gain a lot of bonding time with each other (at band camp),” Hoffman noted. “We get to really know each other. We memorize the entire first show. We work all day, memorizing the field work, the dances, the pom routines, everything.”
The musicians, too, gain an appreciation for the work that must be put in at band camp. Senior Kelly Loughridge is a piccolo player…and a second generation Orange Marching Band member. Her father Dan played in the percussion at OHS three decades ago.
“My first year I was nervous that everyone else would be a lot better than I was, but my Dad said I would be fine, and it all worked out fine!” Loughridge said. “I’m a squad leader now, and I’m not usually in a leadership position so this is a good experience for me.”
Snare drummer Robert Jones has been in marching band for four years but involved in the OHS band for more than a decade – his mother, Cathy Jones has been the Lionettes advisor and has lots of “This one time at band camp” stories, including the time when Robert was just five years old and “ he learned to tie his shoes” while she was away at band camp. Robert has lots of experience to tread on.
“For a while I would hear so much about band camp and finally my freshman year I got to go. I saw what it was about, and I liked it,” said Jones who offered some band camp advice. “Bring a lot of sunscreen, because my face is burnt right now. Go to sleep at a decent hour, because you’re going to be very tired in the morning. Eat when you can because it’s free food, and it’s really good. And just meet new people and have a good time.”
As part of the effort to meet new people, the 2012 OHS band camp experience included a “Band Olympics”. The students competed with each other in a friendly way to learn to work together as teams. Students got together in “countries” and kept track of who lead the ‘star count’ on a board kept throughout the week. Dr. Kepner said that it was a nice tie-in to the international Olympics in London which began the same week the students were at camp.
“The group has been working hard; the weather has been cooperating; we have been learning things quicker so the camp has been going really well,” Dr. Kepner said. “We have our half-time show in pretty good shape; we have our pre-game ready to go, and the main thing is the band has learned to work together.”
This year’s first half-time show features the “Ladies of Pop” with songs by Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Donna Summer. Tunes include crowd-pleasers “Poker Face”, “Hot Stuff” and “On The Floor” among others. A second half-time show will include the songs “Birdland” and “Chameleon”…and a possible third show is in the works. And the band camp experience makes it possible.
“You gain everything,” effused Drum Line Section Leader Senior Logan Margolis. “It’s completely different than what people think. Everyone thinks it’s a huge party but it’s nine hours a day on the field, marching, practicing and only an hour or two of free time. You go back to your room at 11pm; you’re out by 12 and you’re up at 7am ready to go again. If you don’t come to band camp, you can’t march; you don’t know a show. You really learn everything in these couple of days.”
The band staff at Slippery Rock included Dr. Kepner, Jones, Assistant Director Tim Yowell, Instructor Mike Elias, three college students, two parents, and for the first time, Mary Massey, the full-time OHS nurse. During the school year, the marching band practices each morning and also has a two and a half-hour rehearsal every Wednesday evening throughout the football season. Fans can cheer on the band at half-time at all home and away Varsity Football games and during pre-game shows at all home games.
Staff and students alike, though, agree that the experience begins at band camp.
“The band camp is a place where we make memories,” said Yowell, who has been with Orange for eight years, after 31 years in Mentor. “We bring high school kids together where they learn to play music and put shows together for entertainment. And they come and build relationships and have experiences developing friendships and skills and learning self-discipline and interpersonal skills they will never forget the rest of their lives.”
To view the three slideshows from band camp, click on each of the photos below: