Roughly 50 students entered the House of Orange on Tuesday to spend their morning marching and pretending to play instruments.

They focused on eight counts of "down, roll, together, out, march and freeze" to figure out their foot placements. Sometimes they all counted out loud, sometimes in their head, and sometimes by band instructor Andrew Johnson.

This week is band camp for many Beatrice High School students, with the incoming marching band members arriving a few days before the upperclassmen for some extra lessons.

“We’re just working on some marching fundamentals and giving them some helpful tips to get them through the next five days,” Johnson said.

Then on Wednesday, the returning marching band members arrived to work as a group. For eight hours, a metronome played over a speaker, counting the eight counts progressively faster until they were at the rate the marching performances will be at.

"People just don't realize how much coordination it takes to be able to play, march and be able to keep time all at once," senior Whitney Schwisow said. "It's just kind of cool, all the hard work that we put in."

Schwisow noted that the band often has 7 a.m. practices before school to perfect their marches. And as the drum major, it is Schwisow's job to conduct the band and ensure their marches are crisp and precise.

The marching band’s theme for their performances this year is Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.

The Mexican holiday is celebrated Nov. 1-2 each year, where families welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives for a brief reunion that includes food, drink and celebration.

“It’s all original music, so it’s not necessarily songs that people will recognize, but is music centered around the theme day of the dead and the celebration that that is,” Johnson said. “Throughout our show, we hope to convey what that celebration is and why it’s an important part of the Mexican culture and bring some of those colors and ideas to our show onto the field and let people get a little taste of that.”

Schwisow the complexity and diversity of the show stands out more than in the previous performances she's done.

"We've always done basic marching band shows, but this year we're branching out and doing more of Spanish culture," Schwisow said. "So I'm excited for the change. It'll be fun and interesting and different."

To top it off, Johnson said that the state marching band contest falls a few days before Día de los Muertos this year, meaning the marching band gets to help build the anticipation and celebration of the holiday.

After band camp ends on Tuesday, Aug. 6, the students will perform an exhibition performance displaying what they've learned at camp as well as perform part of their upcoming show. This takes place at the House of Orange at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.

Several teachers and groups are already meeting in anticipation for the upcoming school year, which is less than a month away.

The first day of school for kindergarten through ninth grade is Tuesday, Aug. 13, with grades 10-12 starting Wednesday, Aug. 14 and preschool starting Thursday, Aug. 15.


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