Being a member of the Marlboro County High School Mighty Marching Bulldogs is a serious commitment.
It is a commitment, which involves a three-week band camp (July 22- Aug. 9) to learn music and marches under the intense South Carolina sun.
Shanasia Ballard, captain of the percussion section, summed it up best.
“We practice and work hard,” she said. “We practice for 12 hours (some days during two of the three weeks) just to have a seven to 10 minute show.”
Karalda Perkins, director of the band, wanted dedication and hard work from her students as they started the second week of camp.
In addition to Perkins, other band staff members are Michael Burrage, assistant director of bands; Gerrard Perkins, percussion instructor; Reginald Cassidy, brass instructor; and Wycilla Cassidy, auxiliary coordinator.
Going into her fourth year as a senior, Ballard has goals for her section.
“I want them to feel like we can be the best,” she said. “As Mr. and Mrs. Perkins said, we are the heartbeat of the band. We have to keep everything in line as far as the tempo.”
Perkins stood and watched Tuesday as band members stretched and warmed up before heading to the practice field for more than two hours of hard work.
“Band camp is the foundation to help all members of the marching band to be on the same page,” she said.
By the time the camp is over on Aug. 9, students will know how to march, how to lift their leg and how to point their toe while playing music.
And students will be well on their way to learning the almost 30 songs needed for the season.
“This year, we are being ambitious and learning two field shows,” said Perkins, who is going into her third year.
Glenn Eichelberger, president of Virtuoso Production and Consulting, has worked for three summers helping as a clinician for the band.
He said 70 percent of the students had been out there before.
“For them to grasp the concepts pretty quick and push themselves to the limit, they are doing pretty good.”
To prepare for band camp, students had to make sure they ate right and drank enough water leading up to camp.
It was recommended that their water intake be half a person’s body weight in ounces of water. Students needed to stay away from fried foods and sodas while eating more fruits.
Junior Carolina English noted all the hard work would pay off because everyone loves to listen to the band.
In her second year in the band, she plays the piccolo.
Her advice to new band members was that, yes, it is hard work but it is fun.
“You can make friends,” she said. “Practice hard and follow what your leaders tell you.”
But the band isn’t just the instruments, it is also the auxiliary, which is the dance and flag lines.
Perkins was very appreciative of the auxiliary and their hard work.
Auxiliary members audition for their spots every year.
Tarshar Odom of South Carolina State University was there to show the flag line how to hold a flag, twirl a flag and spin the flag.
Jasmine Covington came in to help the girls with the dances and techniques.
“A lot of the girls learn everything straight from scratch,” Perkins said. “This is in addition to getting out on the field and marching.
Wycilla Cassidy said there are 14 dancers and 7 on the flag line.
She felt the auxiliary adds to the band. “Sometimes you like to hear music and sometimes you like to see people dancing as well,” she said. “We help to enhance the instruments.”
As captain of the dance team, Dashia York worked to make sure everyone is together and in sync.
“It takes them all whether they are in the band, the flags or the dance team to come together to create the Mighty Marching Bulldogs,” said York, who is a junior.
For Perkins, the goal at the end of camp is for everyone to come together for a field show.
Once completed, it will show the directors and students where their focus needs to be.
When school starts on Aug. 19, the focus will shift to academics.
Marching Band members must maintain a good grade point average to participate.
Practice is two hours most days after school.
Perkins said everyone should be surprised when they see the band perform.
“I have a special thing this year that I am doing that the auxiliary has not done before,” she said. “I really want to highlight the beauty of the flags and techniques of the girls. For our concert selection, we have them doing a joint piece where they will be flagging and dancing.”
The first football game is Aug. 23. During the football season, the marching band is at every home and away game, which is 10 games.
During the month of October, every single weekend will be full for them. They will have football games on Friday nights and wake up early Saturdays to go to competition.
This season will be bittersweet for Raney Poole, band president and tuba player. He is a senior and has been in the band for five years.
“It is good to move on and join another band as far as college,” he said. “But after doing it so long, it becomes a part of you.”
As band president, he is the link between the staff and band participants. Poole uses his position to help the new students with knowledge he has gained through the years.
As band president, he wanted to see everyone work together as one unit and not be divided.
“I think even though we come from different parts of the school, we come together for marching band as one big happy family,” he said.
On Monday of this week, Ken Grooms, vice president of the band boosters provided the dinner for the group while City of Bennettsville Police Department provided Tuesday’s dinner.
Next week, it will be provided by Harry’s Backyard Food of McColl, Genesis Family Restaurant and Catering. Fruitful Souls will provide a sweet treat on Friday.