Conducting “two-a-days” before the season starts is standard procedure for high school football teams. But many people don’t realize that band programs also have preseason activities. The Diboll Lumberjack band is no exception, and its members have been logging many hours in the past few weeks.
Before school started, the practice schedule was 8 a.m. until noon Monday through Friday. Students spent two hours outside on marching drills and two hours inside, concentrating on music. Once classes resumed, Monday and Tuesday nights from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. became the designated practice times.
DHS Band Director Joey Acker explained that spectators will see one significant change in this year’s marching band.
“Only students in grades nine through 12 will participate,” he said. “Eighth graders will no longer march with the high school group.”
The different grades have been performing together for several years, but Acker anticipates separating them will produce benefits for everyone involved. Having a sixth-, a seventh-, and an eighth-grade band will allow students to improve a step at a time.
“The older group should have a ‘cleaner’ sound because most of those students have been playing longer,” Acker said. “There will be fewer members, but they will be at a different level of maturity.”
He expects to have a group that numbers in the mid-60s.
Acker went on to say this decision would give the eighth-graders a chance to mature and develop their skills before being thrust into performing at the high school level. The seventh- and eighth-grade bands will perform at junior high games.
“Another thing we will be doing is trying some different music,” Acker said. “We might be able to do some things that are a little more difficult and still produce a cleaner sound. We tried a few pieces in some of our early practices, and they sounded like strong possibilities.”
Acker indicated students who make up the band usually determine what music will be used. It depends on ability levels and on which instrument sections are strong each year.
“Every director has a ‘favorites’ list, and I have a long one, but I also want to do something different each year,” Acker said. “I don’t want students to say ‘Oh, we did that song when I was a freshman.’”
Concert contest rules even specify that a band cannot use the same music until after students who have performed a particular piece graduate. Since eighth-graders will not be part of the high school group anymore, Acker will have the option to repeat songs after four years instead of five.
Courtney Martin will lead the high school band as the new drum major this year. She is a senior who has been involved in band for eight years. She has previously served as section leader of the drum section, the instrument she plays.
Martin said the drum major’s responsibility is to help the director by doing things he doesn’t have the time to do.
“I can also express things from the viewpoint of a younger person,” she said. “I can remind other members of things we’ve been told in classes, workshops and camps. I try to provide leadership and encouragement.”
The people and the environment are Martin’s favorite things about band. She said she enjoys the social aspect as well as the competitions the band attends.
“We really are like one big happy family,” she said. “Everybody learns their parts and does what they are supposed to.”
Martin’s goals as drum major are to make the band stronger and closer and “to get a ONE at contest.”
The motto that the band will adopt for this year is “It takes the best to be the best, and we’re the best of all the rest.” Members are putting in long hours of hard work and dedication to make it come true.