It's like trying to rub your tummy and pat your head at the same time. That's how Middletown High School drum major Noah Lucas explained the process of learning to march to the proper spots on the football field while playing an instrument – and that's the skill new high school band members were trying to learn last week at band camp.
Lucas, a senior, actually started playing with the high school band when he was in seventh grade.
"They needed more people in the pit [part of the percussion section] so I got to perform with the high school band," he explained.
Now he's looking forward to his final season at Middletown High as the on-field leader of the band.
"Our show's very unique and I think there's a lot of stuff that hasn't been done before that we're bringing to the table," he said about the space-themed show.
But putting together the songs, the marching, and the special effects takes a lot of work – work that started with practices Aug. 5 to 9 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and often later.
"It's demanding," Lucas said. "We ask a lot, and people work hard. The drumline and color guard are here sometimes until 9. A lot of the section leaders come early and then stay late. There can be a lot of setbacks – it's rained every day so far – but we're moving ahead."
Lucas explained the difficulty of coordinating a field show.
"It's very challenging to get 75 people to hit a specific blade of grass at the right time every time and make amazing shapes on the field – and then to combine music with that," he said.
What does he like most about the experience?
"Spending time with people, really bonding with your friends," he said.
How does the senior think the freshmen are doing during the pre-season training?
"They're doing very well – outstanding so far," Lucas said. "We're a very young band, but you wouldn't know it."
One of those freshmen is trumpet player Clara Hernandez.
What's surprised her so far?
"How much responsibility it is," she said. "Coming from middle school, you usually have a teacher doing things for you and reminding you about everything. Here, there's a lot you have to do on your own, but you also have students helping – the section leaders."
What's the toughest part?
"Putting the music with the marching, lining everything up, and making sure you're on count, with the correct posture," she said. "There's a lot of multi-tasking involved."
How is the band's show created?
Page 2 of 2 - Band director Brian Endlein said the field show can be a year-round endeavor.
"Sometimes as soon as marching season ends, we start talking about next year," he said.
This year's creation is called "Beyond Earth," with five movements all based around Gustav Holst's "The Planets."
"Every year the instructors and I get together, listen to different music, discuss ideas, and this is the one we all gravitated toward – no pun intended," Endlein said. "Initially, we were doing a literal interpretation, but now it's evolved with different styles of music imposed on 'The Planets.'"
How does the director think the band is doing?
"Considering the weather and the considerable growth in the size of the band, I'm very pleased with the progress," Endlein said. "We have 74 members, probably the largest the band has been since the high school split [when Appoquinimink High School opened]. The rain has been the biggest hindrance, but we're right where I'd like to be in the first week. We have a lot of young members who have been extremely flexible with all the rain we've had, and they've handled themselves admirably."
Meanwhile, the older band members are setting a great example, he said.
"Having student leadership is a great thing," Endlein said. "We're very much a student-led organization. The section leaders have been coming in a half-hour early and staying late. They take ownership – it's their band and I kind of facilitate it for them."