Camp 2014

Camp 2014: Skit Night

Skit night takes planning and preparation. For about a month, the sections brainstorm ideas and analyze the merits of each.

And then at the last minute, they change their mind and do something completely different.

The skits almost perfectly reflect the personality of the instrument.

  • The drum majors used the time to give instructions.
  • Guard (once again) found a way to work doing the splits into their routine. Dang, they’re flexible.
  • The flutes pour their heart into drama and wrote an entire scene from Hogwarts.
  • Clarinets gave us a sweet romantic moment between two loves who aren’t allowed to sit together.
  • The saxes had at least two skits going on at the same time. Maybe three.
  • Trumpets clowned their way through a big-band game hunt in Africa.
  • The mellos brilliantly caricatured each other and quietest kid in the section revealed a streak of dark comedic genius.
  • Baritones? We know they were there, but darned if anyone can remember what they did.
  • The trombones stole the show with precisely timed, death defying horn swinging.
  • Sousas roasted their section leader proving that they spend far too much time unsupervised on the backside of the field.
  • Battery seemed genuinely surprised to find out it was skit night.
  • And the front ensemble… okay, you have to understand that the front ensemble doesn’t get out of their cages very often. They march to the beat of a different xylophone. As usual, the skit was kinda creepy.

From an adult standpoint, skit night is anything but premium entertainment. But it’s fun to watch the kids poking fun at each other. Even if we don’t understand why Josh McMahon is wearing a tutu and firing a guard rifle at the audience.

Camp 2014: In the Dark

It was 9:12pm last night and the kids were just coming off the field. Our camp is in the middle of the woods, so the practice field was pitch black. They squeeze every bit of marching they can into the day.

Mr. Steele gave them the summary & pep talk before dismissal.

"I want you to know that while we often run this late, you won’t always be marching in the dark like this. The school has lights…”


School lights aren’t the only thing that keeps them from marching in the dark.

The chaperones have dealt with a lot crisis this week- some big, some small.

From the kid who had no idea what he was signing up for, to the girl in her fourth year questioning the sanity of it all. Friends who bicker, ankles that swell, and the sunshiny student who really, really, really needs a nap.

Monday night, they’ll be back on the home turf. Rehearsing under the school lights.

The following week, it’s back to school with well-lit hallways and rules for safety.

But for a few more hours they’re marching in the dark.

And the chaperones will be there with flash lights, lanterns, and glowsticks shaped like magical wands.

When you arrive on Saturday for the parent show or when the buses pull up to the high school, please hug your chaperone. Thank them for spending a week drying tears and mopping up red kool-ade. They’ve handled bloody noses, ohmygoshmymomsgonnakillmeitsabrandnewphone (more than once), and a particularly large breed of spider who tends to hang out in bras.

Band chaperones are the awesomest.

Camp 2014: Musclebound

One of my cabin girls put on jeans for the very first time in months last night.

"These are my very favorite jeans and I haven’t worn them since school let out and they’re so soft and comf… wait, umpf… ohmygosh these pants are so tight! Why did I pack these stupid skinny jeans?”

She got ‘em up and buttoned… eventually.

"Dang. It’s all this marching. My quads and calves are gettin’ ripped. I gotta get bigger pants.”

Keep in mind, in my cabin emergency preparedness plan, this is the 12.5 pound waif whom I’d strap down first in a wind storm…

But she isn’t completely wrong.

Her marching muscles are a lot bigger than they were when she climbed on the bus last Sunday.

The kids have learned a lot this week. About marching, about drive, determination, and how many meals you can throw Monday’s leftover chicken into.

They’ve all eaten a can of marching band spinach and they’re stronger than when they left.

"Ohhhhhhh, so this is how it feels to be all buff and super heroish…”


Oh, and on behalf of the band boosters- let me officially apologize for all the naked marchers coming home tomorrow. They've outgrown all their clothing. Marching fitness has it’s price.

I’ll meet you all for school shopping in the big & tall section on Sunday.

Camp 2014: Leave No Man Behind

I said in an earlier post that the new drill is hard.

That’s pretty much an understatement. It’s fast tempo music with complicated fingering and high contrast dynamics, combined with quick stepping changes in direction.

Basically, the music is challenging and the choreography is challenging… put it all together and you get? A heart-attack.

I’ll be honest- the clarinets are struggling. And they all know it. I have three of them in my cabin and they’re all thinking about it. How to get better, how to think clearer & breathe quicker, searching their drill sheets and notebooks for some key they might have missed.

They practiced at rec time with Mr. Critchett. Not just the few clarinets who needed the special instruction- the whole section stayed for extra rehearsal.

Because you don’t leave your friends when they’re struggling.

This is what band camp does. You won’t get this at practice on the home turf. Here, they’re surrounded by kids with a drive for excellence. There’s no going home at night and unplugging. For one week, it’s band 24-7.

Top level performances require this kind of intense rehearsal.

But they also require the kind of bonding that is happening right now in the clarinet section. And the trumpet section. And the trombones and the mellos and the battery and the list goes on and on...

They’re pulling and pushing each other towards a higher level of excellence.

Someplace they can’t get to on their own.

Band camp. It’s a togetherness thing.

Camp 2014: Easy Peasy?

Up until yesterday, I had campers telling me that "drill this year is more challenging, but MY drill is pretty easy.”

That all changed yesterday with the latest drill update.

Suddenly, they’re forced to scramble to make their dots, shift direction, snap and twist, all while playing the right notes, in tune. And did I mention the song in question is pretty darned fast?

Yeah, marching band ain’t so easy anymore.

But despite the gauntlet laid down by the director’s yesterday, kids still found time to leap THE WALL.

Yes, they were tired last night. I’m sure some of you got texts that reflected that. But they were also pretty darned proud of themselves. They drilled hard and finished in the dark, but they did it.


Achievement. It’s the best self-esteem builder ever.

Camp 2014: Band Camp at Work-

A message from one of our chaperones-

I am a cabin Dad and I would like to share something that I witnessed during rec time yesterday.

During rec time (3-5) I was laying in the cabin, I was fatigued and wanted to be horizontal for a while. Our cabin is right on the beach, there is a lot activity around at rec time. Swimming, volleyball, tetherball, and spectators right out side the front screened windows. 

This story is about the two freshman boys in my cabin. The freshman are usually hesitant and stand offish, as were my two. They were the only two hanging in the cabin, watching and taking in what was going on outside. This lasted for a good while. 

They did eventually go out to return later with about a half hour left in rec time. But with them were two other boys. I just observed for a while -part of our gig. I could tell by the conversation that they were new acquaintances. I was witnessing a get-to-know you conversation. It was a little uncomfortable and a little forced. But all involved were working it, making it happen. Good for them!

This is part of what Band Camp is all about. Not only working them to the brink, and jamming the show into their heads, but also building relations and friendships that gel into the supportive band family that we have.This will be one of my favorite memories of working with the kids to carry with me. I’m glad I am able to share it with you.

Go Dragons!

Camp 2014: The Subsets of 23

Every year there is one section of choreography that takes your breath away.

Parents will watch for it at every performance, they move to the edge of their seats when it’s coming, and they cheer when it goes off without a hitch.

I’m not talking about the heart-yanking scenes like the angel wings in The Kindling or the Still, Small Voice of Calm in Ritual.

What I mean is a technical moment in the drill where the band does something amazing. The way Robin Hood did handsprings through the entire brass section or when Bella chased the girl through weaving waves of striped shirts.

We have found this year’s moment. The chaperones cheer (quietly) every time the kids do it. And they did it a lot yesterday. It only gets more gasp-worthy.

The kids call it "the subsets of 23” which won't mean anything to you.

So watch for the point when the band square dances. It’s a do-si-do move with the woodwinds moving up and towards the front sideline. There are at least 5 diagonal lines of flutes and clarinets that do-si-do around each other in a crisp and quick (blink and you'll miss it) moment of pure marching band genius.

My description sounded like mush, but you’ll know it when you see it because you'll be on your feet whooping!

Dang! These kids are awesome!

Camp 2014: Scaling the Wall

Yesterday was the tough day.

The second full day of band camp is hard. It’s where kids bump up against THE WALL.

"Oh yeah, now I remember why I almost didn’t sign up for marching band again.”

"I’m sore now, how much worse is it going to get?”

"What in the heck did my mother sign me up for?”

"I thought this was going to be more fun…”

For each kid there’s an almost-to-the-breaking-point point. They’re tired, their feet hurt, they haven’t had a Cherry Pop-tart with a Mountain Dew chaser in 3 days.

"Is marching band worth it?”

Each kid has to find the answer for themselves. No one can answer it for them- not their friends, not their parents. It has to come from somewhere deep inside. Call it their soul, their gut, or their little twisted marchingbandrocksforever heart.

"Am I willing to pay the price?”

And once they find the answer, they easily leap over the wall.

Today is the day that they leap. They all leap. Some leap higher than others, but they all make the jump. Even the stragglers eventually make it over the wall.

It’s great fun to watch. Wednesday is a good day. The smiles are bigger, the heads are held higher, and they fist bump or high five each other until their hands are pink. Today is the day when newbies and veterans from every section and group meld into one giant green monster we call the Dragon Marching Band.

Today the Dragon will ROAR

Camp 2014: Bonfire Night

Last night was bonfire night. Students sit in an amphitheater which is perfect for telling and listening to stories.

Senior students are the featured speakers at the bonfire. One by one they all get up and tell their own band story.

Band story? It's usually about why they joined band but it always includes what they've learned or advice for making the best of this upcoming season.

And whoa! Your kids are impressive.

One student explained how he was "too cool to join marching band" his freshman year but spent most of the summer watching his best friends have the time of their lives in the high school parking lot. He joined the prop team immediately, just to feel a part of the group and marched the very next season."You'll never get anything done if you just stand on the sidewalk and watch."  This kid is soooo incredibly ready for college, I can't imagine that he won't be a leader someday. 

Another student explained that marching band has given her what she thinks is a key to life. "Band gives me challenges, big ones and little ones. Each time I succeed, it's because I gave it my all. And if I don't succeed, when I look back, it's usually because I slacked off."  She learned that in 9th grade... how many 45 year olds do you know who still need to learn that lesson?

And then there was my son who said that marching band is important because it's the only place where you can beat a gong as loudly as you want.

I know, I'm still working on him...

Band kids. They are the absolute best kids in the world. If you haven't yet volunteered for a band event, please do so today. Get to know these kids. They're truly amazing.

Camp 2014: Loosen the Reins

Sit back and get comfortable. This just may be the longest post of band camp week.

For parents who haven’t read my history of band blogs and newsletters, I’m the parent who tells you straight and honest when something needs saying. I’m not the only parent like that in this organization, but I am the one with the password to the website and newsletter system…


Camp Hayo Went Ha has been in continuous operation as a YMCA boys camp for 111 years.

Season after season, young men (and a few assorted girls) have left their homes for a few weeks to grow and expand their boundaries beyond what they’d learn in their homes and neighborhood.

The walls of the dining hall are covered with photographs. Hundreds of smiling young men posing in front of the very same buildings we’re using today. My uncle is one of them. He made Eagle Scout in 1955.

Guess what I notice about all these young campers?

Not a one of them is dead.

Okay, sure. Most of them lived to 80 and even then have long since passed away. But there are no dead guys posing in the photographs.

Because sleep-away camp doesn’t kill kids.


Many of you have sent your students away for their first extended trip, and that’s hard.

It’s hard on the kid who isn’t sleeping in their own bed and eating the foods they know. It’s hard on you because you’ve spent at least 14 years making sure this kid doesn’t stick a fork in the light socket or fail to register for the ACTs.

It’s hard to let go. I’m right there with you.

But band camp is a safe place to loosen the reins a bit. Not drop the reins entirely, but to give 'em a little slack.

Think about it- they’re surrounded by 40 experienced YMCA staff who are great with teens. They’re trained and degreed educators, medical staff, and counselors. These people are passionate about making camp the best experience of your child’s life.

The LOMB staff know what your kids are capable of. They’re dedicated to challenging your children and showing them how to be the best musicians they can be.

And then there are the chaperones- parents who walk in the same shoes and drive the same car pool routes that you do. We’re here to provide a sense of home and security to your camper.

This is a safe place to let your young bird fly.


We had a bonfire night last night.

More on that in another post. For now, what you need to know is that campfire night is sitting around a campfire eating s’mores and listening to kids talk to kids about how band changed their lives.

Want to hear the sad thing?

Some of your kids didn’t enjoy it much.

And it’s kinda your fault.

We had one young lady who didn’t think she could go to the fire because her mom was supposed to call soon.

As I stood behind the campfire group, I watched their phones light up with texts- some of them from you.

One young man climbing the stairs in front of me said "Damn, my mom called twice. I gotta get her before she freaks.”

One of my own cabin kids left a fun conversation because she needed to check in.


I have to tell you, band camp is hard enough without worrying about your dad worrying about you.

And no one learns to deal with a challenge if Mom is telling you that she’s leaving in 10 minutes to pick you up.

Band camp is one of the most challenging and fulfilling experiences your child will ever have. What they do here not only makes them a better marcher and musician but it also gives them life skills they’ll need to master college, a career, and their own futures.

But it can only work if you step back and let them learn.

So I have a project for many of you. From here on out when you get a whiny text, be a just little more remote than yesterday. And tomorrow, move a little further back. Contact the chaperone if you’re worried (PLEASE!) but can we agree to let them find their own way to the med cabin to treat their own skinned knee?

Some of you are really stressing. But we have it under control here.

"You’ll do fine. I know you miss home, but go talk to (insert best friend here). I’ll bet he/she feels the same way.” 

Back to my uncle and the pictures on the wall…

There are kids up on these walls who had it much tougher than your student. About the same time that my uncle started boy scouts, his dad was island hopping in the Pacific theater and eventually was declared MIA. Shortly after his time at Hayo Went Ha, he went to live with his future in-laws (my grandparents) as hired farm help. That was a camper who really had something to worry about.

There are young men on the walls who camped here during major and minor wars. There were campers here during the great depression. Some young men left camp and went to Korea, Viet Nam, and Iraq. But while they were at camp here, they were learning in a safe environment.

Your kid WILL make it through band camp. The sooner they learn to cope, the richer their camp experience will be.

Give 'em a chance to find their way. It’s okay. The camp team has your back.

Camp 2014: You have the entire lake and you choose to swim there?

A.J. found a chipmunk swimming in the boy's toilets yesterday.

He called his chaperone for help.

By the time Scott Olds arrived on the scene, AJ had already used a toilet plunger to let the poor thing crawl to safety.

But here's the sign of a good chaperone: Scott brought sturdy, animal-handling  gloves with him to camp.  Who thinks to do that????

So they moved the poor li'l swimmer off into the woods, far away from the swimming pool.

And I'm adding "Chipmunk Gloves" to the chaperone supply list for next year.

Camp 2014: New Kids on the Block

Greg Baker was a bus chaperone on the way up. He sat next to a group of kids at McDonalds.

"I can't wait until we get to camp so we can chill."

He leaned over and said "You must be freshman."


Yes, they were.





Overheard outside of cabin 11:

"When do we get free day?"





In the dining hall, Tuesday breakfast:

"I need the caffeine. No one told me I couldn't party all night."

Camp 2014: Daily Squirrel Report

We told you all about the squirrels at the band camp parent meeting, and I warned you about snacks... more than once.

We were in camp for less than 3 hours before the first squirrel was spotted running through the boy’s camp with with a Fig Newton in it's mouth.

Somewhere in camp there’s a tree, and inside the tree is a little squirrel home. And on the wall in his kitchen is a calendar. "Band Camp Week” is highlighted, underlined, and has little stars drawn in the margins.

Lake Orion Marching Band is a proud sponsor of the Squirrel Club of North-Western Michigan.

Camp 2014: Weather

Torch Lake is long. Looooong. You think you're almost there, because you can see the lake... but you are still a half-hour away from camp.

As we approached the southernmost tip of the lake on Sunday, the thermometer read 71 degrees. By the time we got to camp (at the northern end) we were down to 66 degrees. Apparently we drove to Torch Lake but ended up in Alaska.

Yeah, it’s chilly here at band camp this year. Definite sweatshirt weather. Breezy too. Drilling for hours in the sunshine just might be easier on kids this year, unlike last year when the practice field felt like downtown Death Valley.

Which reminds me, if you’re watching band camp weather on an app, set your location to Central Lake, Michigan and count on it being a couple degrees cooler at our camp-in-the-piney-woods.

78 for a high on Monday, lows of 61.

Big rain in the forecast tonight and tomorrow. I hope you sent rain gear...

Camp 2014: Forced Fun

Every night from 9-something until 10pm is Forced Fun.

Uhm, I mean Group Activity. Or as I like to call it "Cramming 142 Kids into a Poorly Ventilated Cabin”

Forced Fun, it’s an acquired taste.

This year for icebreaker, students were given an identity plus instructions to find their partner.

"You are Sherlock Holmes, find Watson.”

"You are Elmer Fudd, find Bugs Bunny.”

You can learn a lot about a kid based on their reaction…

"Who the heck is Dr. Jekyll?”

And then there are the fans of The Doctor.

My shy, reticent daughter was the envy of all her uber-geek friends as she made her way around the room, looking for her Weeping Angel. Because the only thing better than being The Doctor is being a Weeping Angel. She found her angel and had a blast doing it.

Forced Fun, it just might serve a purpose.

Camp 2014: Cabin Themes

Each chaperone chooses a theme and decorates their cabin on Sunday evening during rehearsal. The big reveal to the kids is usually a let-down because by the time the kids are off the field, it is pitch black both inside and out.

But it’s great fun to wander around on the first morning, enjoying the surprise décor.

Some of the themes this year include: Tiki, Christmas in August, Hawaii, Halloween, Blue Butterflies, H-O-R-S-E (the game, not the animal), and Sharknado.

And then there is THE LIGHTHOUSE. I have no idea what the theme is because I forgot to bring my welding goggles. You kinda need eye protection to venture anywhere near.

One of our chaperones took me pretty darned seriously when I told everyone that it gets dark at band camp. He’s now lighting up the entire east bank of Torch Lake.

So if your son comes home with burned retinas, email Rudy Waluch. That’s R U D Y W A L U C H.

Camp 2014: Newbies

Newbies are a tad obvious-

How can you tell that someone has never been to band camp before?

"Oh man, I can’t wait to get there! We’ll be all relaxin’ tonight. Let’s swim before dinner!”

Uh, no.

Buses arrived around 3pm and after move-in, students had about 10 minutes to relax before trekking the quarter mile to the mess hall for dinner.

Immediately after dinner, it was solid rehearsals until it was too dark to see their own feet.

Monday will be another full day, so it’s approximately 22 hours after arriving that a student has their first opportunity to be all relaxin’ and touch a toe to the lake.

Newbies… they’re fun.