Feeling the 'Heat' at Woodbury High SchoolEver wondered how the Woodbury High School marching band gets into form for the season? It all starts with what's known as "Heat Week."
By: Mike Longaecker, Woodbury Bulletin
t’s just after 2 p.m. on a Tuesday at Royals football stadium.
Beneath a high sun, a group of teenagers works its way through a routine on the field. But instead of pads and helmets, these students march across the field with gear made of brass, steel and wood.
They are the Woodbury High School marching band, and they’re well into what’s known as “Heat Week” – five days of intense training designed to turn the students into a cohesive unit.
Band Director Brent Comeau calls it “rite of passage” for marching band members. He has about three days left to teach the 80 students intricate steps across the field for more than 50 different formations before their first performance for parents.
The week includes physical conditioning, balance exercises and flexibility training.
As for the Heat Week moniker the band boot camp has come to be known as, senior Tyler DePaulis said it’s a no-brainer.
“It’s hot,” he quipped.
Once in synch, the students will master a choreographed routine requiring them to execute 22 1/2-inch steps at 180 beats per minute.
Along the way, the students must learn to perform these steps while learning three new songs. Which they must memorize.
All this after enjoying a nice, relaxing summer vacation.
“It’s a shock to the system,” Comeau said.
Heat Week, which the band completed last week, began Monday, Aug. 6 and ran through Friday, Aug. 10. The band practiced from 12:30-8 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. The students took a proverbial breather on Wednesday, when they practiced 12:30-5:30 p.m. They resumed the routine on Friday until 7 p.m., when they performed for their parents.
Despite the seeming enormity of the task, Comeau isn’t nervous. This year is his fifth at the helm for WHS and he knows the students will get where they need to be.
Watching the growth that occurs over the course of the week – amid the huffing, puffing and sweating – is “just amazing” for Comeau.
“It’s very rewarding,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a more healthy activity to be a part of.”
The Heat Week experience was a new one to Jack Thomas, a saxophone player. Though he’s a senior, this is the first year Thomas has gone out for marching band.
An athlete who competes on the school’s lacrosse team and an experienced hockey player, Thomas said he was surprised by the intensity level present at Heat Week.
“Marching band is actually a lot more work than it seems,” he said.
He and fellow senior DePaulis, the band’s drum major, said the experience isn’t just a crash course for students. The week also serves as a time for incoming freshmen to get an early foothold in the high school experience – one that they might not otherwise receive.
DePaulis said feelings of anxiety quickly melt away as the upperclassmen show the freshmen the ropes.
“They’re so inviting, so welcoming,” he said, noting that the band experience has led to friendships with students both younger and older than him.
Not that nerves aren’t part of the routine – no matter how many times the students go through it.
DePaulis recalled how, as a drummer tasked with leading the beat during last year’s first home game at Royals Stadium, he had to triple-check with Comeau and the former drum major that he had the song order right.
He can laugh about it now, but said the concern that he might lay down the wrong beat was very real at the time.
“It scared me,” he said.
The truth, DePaulis said, is that despite the anxieties the students go through over the course of the seven-week football season, it’s all worth it after they complete a halftime performance. The sight and sound of the crowd screaming for the band is unforgettable, he said.
“I can’t think of anything better,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
The Woodbury High School marching band performs during the football team’s first home game on Friday, Aug. 31. Practices, which are open to the public, occur from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The band performs a full show at the end of each practice.