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Hurricane High band camp productive

Aug. 17, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HURRICANE -- "1-3, 1,2,3... mark time mark, forward march," the drum major counts off, as young men and women, dressed in shorts and T-shirts, lift their instruments and their feet and begin to move to the familiar rhythm. Although the day is a little warm, the sky is cloudy and affords a respite from the heat for band members who met beginning July 23 for band camp, where they learned the music and routines they will be using in competitions and football games for the 2012-2013 school year.

After two weeks of band camp, the band members were pulling their program together, and Band Director Sam Leffingwell is happy with the progress the band has made.

"I'm pleased where we are at this point in time. This is the highest rookie count since I've been here," he said. The band has increased 16 percent in the last two years -- from 32 in 2010 to 42 in 2011 and now 50 in 2012.

"We have a young group -- we have a lot of talent, and young talent coming in. The band isn't a lot bigger, but we have more instrumentalists on the field. I am very proud of them," he said.

This season the music takes on a nautical theme titled "Fathoms." Although not divulging the music the band will be using, Leffingwell said each spring the staff listens to various shows before deciding which show will best suit the band. Finding one everyone likes requires a delicate balance between those who will be performing the music and those listening or judging it.

"Something the students like, the crowds like, and the judges like," he said. He wants to use music the students enjoy playing because if the students like it, it will show in their performance.

"If they don't like it, no one will like it," he said.

Leffingwell, a graduate of Ceredo Kenova High School and Marshall University, said the band performs almost continuously during the school year.

"We'll do 10 football games plus six competitions and various parades. This is our third week of band camp and we'll go nonstop until November," he explained. Then comes Christmas music, ratings, and spring break which every two or three years is spent at Disney World where they play in a parade or play an actual concert. The band also participates in the Tournament of Bands, which involves bands in several different states. Their goal is to be in the All Star Marching Band Championships.

"We may have one week we can rest."

Leffingwell said Band Camp is where students learn the necessary fundamentals to be successful in the band program. For three weeks the students come to the high school between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The first four hours are spent on marching while the weather is not as hot. From 1 to 5 p.m., students learn the music they will use during the season. He begins with the freshmen and once they are comfortable, he adds the veterans. After everyone learns the program, they spend their final week at Howells Mill at Ona.

"We continue to polish what they've learned," he said. "At Howell's Mill we put it all together. There's something special about going away to camp," he added.

Leffingwell explained that going away from the school causes the students to bond even further with each other.

"The students develop fellowship and trust. It's vital. If that doesn't exist, it's pointless. They have to work together and trust each other," he said.

Leffingwell said the freshmen start off slowly, but they will catch up with the veterans. At one point there is a light that switches on. "Oh yeah, I get it," they will say to him.

"I am cautiously optimistic. The potential here is to have a very solid program."

He said it is exciting to see what the newer students can do and how the veterans will build on what they have learned. Still, although he really pushes them, it is all for the students.

"I push them, but when it's all said and done, it's for them," he said.

Hunter Ellison, who plays the bass drum and is a senior this coming year, will be spending his final year in the band. He enjoys the camaraderie with fellow band members.

"You make your best friends. It's worth it. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it. It's where you become a family. It is where relationships grow the strongest," he said.

He said the show will be crowd-friendly, but technical enough for competition.

"I think it will be a really good senior year," he said.

Nathen Stowers, 17 and a senior this year, is the drum major for the band. He said he is excited about this year.

"We haven't had an ensemble like this year," he said. He thinks the freshmen are coming along well.

"They are doing really good for beginners," he said. "We have a strong show, strong members. If we can get everything cleaned up, we should do well," he said.

"We're a lot further than last year. We're getting much more done and at a faster pace," he said.

The two veteran band members said the band has been helped immensely this week by Michael Pinkston, who plays with the Cavaliers' Drum and Bugle Corp.

"He is the brass tech and bugle tech. He helps everyone do precise movements and gives it a more militaristic feel," Ellison said.

In addition, John Leonard, former first trumpet with West Virginia University, and band director at West Side High School in Wyoming County, worked with them the first two weeks, but had to leave to direct his own band camp.

Although Director Leffingwell hopes all the work they have put in will pay off this season, his main goal is to see the students mature and grow with their music.

"My enjoyment is working with the students and seeing them grow as students and musicians," he said.

The band will have a garage sale and car wash on the parking lot of Hurricane High School on Saturday, Aug. 18, to raise funds for the upcoming year.