Corey McMahon

By Corey McMahon

At the beginning of August, I had the pleasure of accompanying about 130 other students to Camp Swoneky for what many of them will go on to consider one of the highlights of their high school experience. It’s something everyone has heard of and many have misconceptions about; however, I can definitively tell you that no matter what it is you’ve heard about band camp from movies and television, if you’ve never been there, then you’re entirely wrong.

As hilarious and awesome as it would be if band camp were filled with pranks as is done in the pathetically bad movie American Pie Presents: Band Camp, it’s not. In fact, 99 percent of what movies have told you about band camp is the exact opposite of what actually occurs. The other one percent is that we play music there.

It’s actually surprisingly similar to most of the camps you’ve encountered. The mediocre (or bad, depending on how you’re feeling that day) food, the sticky sweatiness, the lack of sleep. We even have a skit that came this year complete with people wearing blankets singing the song that Pippin sings in Return of the King.

Actually, when I think about it, that skit epitomizes band camp. It’s like normal camp with a subtly nerdy twist added to it—but in a good way. It’s like the nerdiness of wearing a visor sandals with buckles. Or the nerdiness of every character that Michael Cera has ever played in a movie.

That nerdiness flows together to make a coherent theme that characterizes the band camp experience—and unavoidably affects every student who takes part in it. It’s an experience that cannot be duplicated or fabricated.

Band Camp

Students at band camp perform their first show, set to songs from the band Journey. Students performed this show at band camp and they will also perform it at one home and one away football game. Photo by Corey McMahon

The primary goal of band camp is to create a show—the show we play at the first Friday night football game. Doing so is such a feat of organization, I still cannot believe it gets done year after year.

During practice one day, I described to some friends how much I would love it if I could go to band camp without having to work out in the heat, without having to memorize music and without have to play my instrument for hours and hours on end.

If only we could sit at the pool all day. If only we could just spend time with friends. If only I could sleep in every day. What a relaxing, memorable, fun time that would be for everyone, right?

But I’ve since realized that without the work that goes into making a great show at band camp, what would band be? It would simply be regular camp.

Sure, I guess that can be fun, but it would lose what sets band camp apart—what makes the truly unique experience so truly unique.

The last point I want to raise an issue that concerns all teams, clubs or organizations at the high school level. This year I noticed, especially, (probably because it is my senior year) the effort and thought that goes into ensuring that the traditions that take place at band camp are done in a fun and welcoming spirit, as opposed to hazing.

Thanks in large part to the effort of the directors, this year’s band camp, like those from years before, continued to move in a direction of a fun, welcoming and inclusive camp.

That’s why, when it comes down to it, the movies you see will never capture the spirit of band camp. They love to show pranking and the like because it is funny.

But it is not band camp.