The day after the end of the school year, the Coral Shores High School campus seemed deserted. It was difficult to even find an unlocked door to enter the school complex.
Most students stayed far away from the school, gone off to get a head start on their summer plans. However, a faint drum beat that echoed though the corridors did lead to one remaining group of students: The dedicated kids of the Coral Shores marching band.
It was once again time for band camp, the annual intensive four-day workout of learning new music, tackling the difficult task of marching while playing that music and, perhaps most importantly, learning how to work as a team.
Long days of practice started at 9 a.m., with meetings and team-building exercises in the gym, then working in sections, a quick lunch, then marching drills out on the field until 6 p.m.
"This year is awesome. We thought nobody was going to come out for band, but we got this great turnout of enthusiastic band geeks" said Francisco Moc, entering his third year in the marching band.
Moc and the other section leaders took the new members under their wings and helped them ease into band life.
"Hurray! I have two new flute players," section leader Hannah Vinney said as she introduced the newbies. "I got a squirt gun and if they play a wrong note, I'll squirt them. But I am fair. I'll let them squirt me, too."
Trumpet section leader Jesus Mora patiently demonstrated to his section members, over and over, the proper way to cleanly snap their horns up to playing position, then back down again.
Color guard captain Isabella Serratore took her squad through the flag-twirling routine with grace and a kind word to those who didn't get it right the first time: "It's OK, we're just learning this."
The entire band worked with instructor Jeff Shipman on the basics of the marching show for next year -- how to properly mark time and other small moves, which they practiced repeatedly until Shipman emitted a loud, "Woohoo! You got it!"
"Push and 1, 2, 3; push and back 2, 3" was said in unison by the entire band, standing in formation as instructor Becky Terry drilled them on one small foot movement over and over. Repetition was the key.
During afternoon sessions, small groups of musicians, with their section leaders in charge, sat together in nooks and crannies around the school learning the new music.
Out on the field in the afternoon was the true test of how all the basics came together.
"It's hard to march and play at the same time," said Mikey Price, an incoming freshman who was having his first experience with marching band.
On the field, first came stretching and strengthening exercises. "You've got to have the strength to hold up your instrument for the whole 15 minutes of the show," Shipman said.
They drilled in parade formation around the track, getting the feel of playing and marching together as a unit. Sun and 90-degree temperatures did not deter them, and Terry made sure all were wearing hats and took frequent water breaks.
Finally, they worked on some of the field maneuvers from the marching show they will put on in the coming school year. They practiced, without complaint, until it was getting near 6 p.m. It was the end of their day, and the band still played on.