EDMOND — Historic heat wasn't enough to stop summer drills for members of the Edmond Memorial High School band — seeking to continue a level of excellence that will take them to national competition in the fall.
The two-week summer band camp, which ended Friday, was not for the faint of heart. About 230 marchers showed up for drills in record-setting heat.
Hours of dedication are poured out on the football field for band members looking to learn how to properly march and do so in unison. When it all comes together, the public might take the performance for granted. Yet it takes a lot of work.
The culmination this season will be a trip to Indianapolis on Nov. 7-11 to compete against 80 of the top marching bands in the nation.
“I'm excited about band,” said senior flutist Sarah Beth Anderson. “Yeah, it's hot. But it doesn't really matter.”
For Sarah and others it's not just about hitting the right steps or notes.
“This teaches us time management and working with others,” she said.
Helping to train this year's Bulldog band is Kevin McDonald, 38, an adjunct band director in his ninth year as an English teacher. The goal is to produce an entertaining unit that will represent Memorial well at football games, parades and other school functions.
During the intense summer practice, a priority was to keep the students safe during sizzling temperatures.
“We have many breaks for the kids, and the ones who need the time off can come and get under the tent,” McDonald said, pointing to three band members who were resting under a tent while drinking water.
This week, practice moved to some night sessions. When school starts Aug. 17, there will be early morning practices.
Putting together a top marching band is a team effort, McDonald said.
“We're lucky to have phenomenal support from the schools as well as our parent booster organization,” he said.
It takes substantial funding for the band to perform. Among the costs are uniforms, instruments and transportation. Just getting all the band members to one location requires six buses, and a semitrailer is needed for the equipment. Even with that, four or five parents may be called upon to take additional equipment, McDonald noted.
That's where dedicated parents such as Drew Taylor are vital. He's president of the Bulldog Band Boosters and in charge of raising private funds — up to $80,000. Some of that is done with car washes, which can raise up to $2,500. Taylor has a busy full-time job but carves out time for the band, McDonald said.
“When we travel, we try to have at least 35 to 40 parents there to help out, plus at least one with some medical training,” he said.
The school's new band director, Cameron Kedy, was in basic training for the National Guard during band camp, so another assistant, Adam Basset, also took to the field. He's seen firsthand how the drills and hard work pay off.
“Last year we marched in the finals of the Bands of America super regional competition in St. Louis,” Basset said. “These definitely are the best kids on the planet.”
Parent Christa Midkiff agrees.
“Edmond Bulldog band students know what commitment, persistence and endurance are,” she said. “They define the words. They are living a standard of excellence.”
One of the marchers is Bryce O'Connell, a senior baritone player. If the heat bothered him, he didn't show it.
“Doesn't seem as bad this year,” he said. “Maybe I'm just getting used to it.”
To him, band isn't just about competition or performing. It's sharing road trips to football games and making great friends — even if he can't get around to knowing everyone.
“It's great when you're walking in school and see someone else you know is in band,” he said. “You just high five them and know you're both in band.”