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Marching Panthers prepare for 2018 at Band Camp

By Sam Scinta

O’FALLON – While the rest of the student body at O’Fallon Township High School is enjoying their final days of summer vacation, members of the OTHS Marching Panthers have been putting in their longest days of the break during the program’s grueling band camp.

Two weeks of twelve-hour rehearsals ask a lot of the band, both physically and mentally, as the Marching Panthers put their 2018 competitive field show on the turf at the Panther Athletic Complex for the first time.

“You guys have been awesome,” Dr. Melissa Gustafson-Hinds, the band’s director, said over the loudspeaker. “Keep working like this and we’ll have the whole thing on the field before long.”

Dr. G, as she is known by her students and staff, mixes words of encouragement into her instructions as often as she can. She knows it provides a morale boost to the band during the grueling rehearsal schedule.

“It takes a lot out of everybody during these couple of weeks,” Dr. G said. “Students, staff, myself; it’s a difficult schedule, but it’s one that we have to power through if we are going to be successful, and the kids have been awesome in putting their work in to get through it.”

This year, the Marching Panthers have a tough act to follow as they try to top a program-best season from 2017, where the band placed 14th overall at the Bands of America Grand National Championships in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. OTHS was just two spots outside of Finals at Grand Nationals, the closest any Illinois band south of Chicago has ever come to the top twelve.

To see more photos from Band Camp, click HERE

“We can’t settle at all, we’ve got to go for it, and we think we have a creative show that can really grab attention,” Dr. G added. “Last year was amazing, but it was last year. We’re going to keep pressing to get better, and that starts during parade season and keeps going until November.”

O’Fallon returned to practice with the first day of band camp last Monday, coming off the program’s win at the St. Louis Veiled Prophet Fair Parade on July 4th. The Marching Panthers have made quite the tradition out of getting wins at VP, having done so every year since 1994, the longest stretch of dominance in the parade’s history.

Practices during band camp are multi-faceted, with visual and drill rehearsal often taking place without instruments on the turf field at the PAC before music practice in concert arcs. Drill, or the learning of the forms the band makes on the field during the show, takes place before and after lunch, both with instruments and without. 

Percussion and Color Guard sections also have practice sections away from the field, as the front ensemble, or pit, practices in the grassy field north of the band room and the guard works on tosses and visuals in OTHS’ South Gym before both groups join the rest of the Marching Panthers on the field for evening full-band rehearsal, which often takes place in front of a large group of parents and other spectators in the stands. 

OTHS wraps up their band camp this week, and will soon dive head first into their competition schedule, which will unofficially kick off with the 2018 Metro East Marching Classic, hosted at O’Fallon, on September 8th at the Panther Athletic Complex. The Marching Panthers will perform as an exhibition band at the conclusion of the competition. 

To see more photos from Band Camp, click HERE