By Kaylee Lindenmuth | firstname.lastname@example.org
SHENANDOAH - For Shenandoah Valley's marching band, today concludes two weeks of practices -- band camp -- to prepare for their upcoming season.
The Blue Devil Band this year will perform a Beatles-themed show, and for third-year band director John Shoener and his student leadership, a focus for band camp has been bringing the largest influx of new band members in two years up to speed. At the same time, they hope to create a fun and tight-knit atmosphere.
"It's been very productive," said junior drum major Kaitlyn Carduff. "We're making a lot of progress with these kids that have never marched before, and I think that everyone is equally carrying their weight and doing their job."
"Since we already know what we're doing, we can help the seventh graders in different ways," said senior band president Kaitlyn Karpovich. "The staff can't be everywhere at once, so we can help out."
"My goal is really to have a student-driven marching band. We're not out there to win trophies or anything like that. It's about fun and putting on a good show and creating a family environment for the kids."
"And I think the younger kids really appreciate having someone that knows what their position is to help them, because I feel like they trust us and can level with us," added Carduff.
This year's band consists of about 45 members, Shoener said, and the staff features a variety of people with experience in marching band, including his father, former Pottsville Area band director Craig Shoener.
"It's been good to have another set of eyes around, and he helps when he can and I think the kids can appreciate having someone of that expertise level being here," John Shoener said.
John Shoener also reflected on his three years leading the band and the direction he's taken it in.
"It gets easier every time. They [students] make it more fun, because we're used to each other's quirks. They know what I like and what I don't like," said John Shoener. "My goal is really to have a student-driven marching band. We're not out there to win trophies or anything like that. It's about fun and putting on a good show and creating a family environment for the kids."
Prior to the afternoon practice, the band engaged in fun activities, and each day had a theme. Thursday was "twin day," where students dressed to match each other.
"It's to take their mind off of the stress of learning the drill and the music and putting it together on the baseball field," said Carduff. "I think this is more of a start to a relaxed afternoon so they're not as stressed going back into it."
"It also helps teambuilding more than anything, because a lot of times, they're broken up by their sections or grades, but it helps include everybody and create the family atmosphere," said John Shoener.
The first performance for the Shenandoah Valley band this year will be the first football game, a home game against Morrisville, on August 23, and then the next day, they will perform in the Shenandoah Heritage Day Parade and the Schuylkill County Firemen's Convention in Tamaqua. The band's schedule this year features the usual slate of local parades and football games plus the Gratz Fair in Dauphin County, where the band has performed for at least a decade.
Alumni Band also returns this year, with a performance on September 27 during the homecoming game against Panther Valley. For more information, see their Facebook page.
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