Marching bands practice during summer camps

NORTH SHELBY – The marching band shows that entertain thousands of fans during halftime of high school football games are perfected in the sweltering July heat.

Local bands, including those at Oak Mountain High School and Spain Park High School, held band camps recently to practice the shows that will be performed during football games and at competitions.

SPHS Band Director Chris Neugent said the 175-member band practices about 30 hours a week with sessions outdoors and inside.

The Pride of the Park band’s show this season is titled “Caravan” and takes listeners “around the world in eight minutes,” Neugent said.

Songs will include “Caravan;” “Arirang,” a traditional Korean folk song; “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy;” and “El Toro Caliente.”

During his eight years as director, Neugent said the band has grown from 55 members playing instruments to 150.

“It gets better and better every year,” Neugent said about the band’s student leadership. “There are some really great kids out here.”

The Spain Park band will host its annual competition, Sparks in the Park, on Oct. 7.

The band will also host a Veterans Day concert on Nov. 7.

For more information, visit SpainParkBand.org.

Meanwhile, down Caldwell Mill Road at Oak Mountain High School, the Spirit of Cahaba band members were asked to come to band camp with the music for their show already memorized, Director Travis Bender said.

“Normally, we start the music from scratch,” Bender said. “Our goal this year was to put music to the field faster. We’re further along than we normally are. We have a challenging show in terms of our movement and the music.”

The theme of the show is “The Battles We Face,” Head Drum Major Isabel Crumpton said.

Music will come from “The Gladiator,” “Mambo” from “West Side Story,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Firebird.”

“The one word to describe the show is ‘intense,’” Crumpton said.

Bender said as soon as the competition season ends in October, the band’s staff members begin planning the next year’s show by picking out music—preferably popular pieces.

“It’s our belief that if your typical audience at a football game doesn’t recognize the music, they won’t be entertained, and our job is to entertain the crowd at a football game,” Bender said.

Music is written in-house typically from January through April, and the drill is written in May and June, as sponsors of the band’s visual components are picking out appealing flags and offering other ideas.

Crumpton, a rising senior, said her responsibilities as head drum major include going over the basics of marching and playing and conducting the band along with her assistants.

She also stays late after rehearsals to clean up and assumes other leadership roles.

“I’m not just a leader in terms of conducting the band,” Crumpton said. “I try to be a friend to everyone. I want people to be able to come to me whether it’s band related or not.”

Bender said many spectators think the band performs the same show at every football game, but the band actually adds elements each week.

“We really morph the show throughout the season, and our intensity is at its peak when we reach the last competition (on Oct. 21),” Bender said.

Bender praised the Oak Mountain community specifically and the Birmingham area in general for its appreciation for and support of the arts.

“If you like marching bands and you live in Birmingham, you’re going to hear one within earshot out in this heat trying to put on the best show possible,” he said.

Oak Mountain High School will host the annual Shelby County Showcase of Bands beginning at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 12 at Heardmont Park. All seven Shelby County Schools high school bands will perform at the event.

Also, The Spirit of Cahaba was chosen to perform in the Cherry Blossom Parade in Washington, D.C., on April 14.

“That’s a big honor for us,” Bender said. “It will be the biggest parade our band has marched in. There are over 2 million spectators.”

For more information about the Spirit of Cahaba, visit OakMountainBand.com.