PITTSBURG — While most high school students are soaking up the last few weeks of summer vacation, Pittsburg High School Marching Band and Color Guard are out on the field practicing.

Last year, the marching band played tribute songs of artists who has passed. This year they are playing Bruno Mars for their first show —  it can be heard a block away during practice.

“I don’t think Neil is a fan of Bruno Mars, but it is a good choice this year,” Drum Major Aidan Harries said with a laugh. “But I think they are good pop songs.”

PHS Band Director Cooper Neil agreed the songs were good arrangements for the students.

“It is fun to play for the students, whether you like Bruno Mars or not — I’m not necessarily a Bruno Mars fan.”

Of course, the traditional fight song will still be played, Pittsburg Community Middle School Band Instructor Matt Reimer said.
“People feel connection through song — bringing up the community spirit when they hear the tune,” he said.

The camp will prepare the band and color guard for the first game of the season, which is September 1.

Since the performance is based on the season’s schedule it is not clear how much time they will have to practice, therefore the band begins practicing before school preparing them regardless of when the first game is.
“It helps kids get to know each other, some comradery comes with that,” Reimer said. “It also helps them transition back into playing.”

The freshman marching band members start even earlier — the week before — learning the fundamentals.
As a drum major Izabelle Lunday said she has noticed the preparedness of freshman from the leadership camp.

“As a whole, the freshmen were a lot more prepared as well,” she said.

Harries agreed.

“It can be intimidating at first,” he said. “They don’t know what to expect.”

Lunday said their roles as drum majors and section leaders are important for morale as they practice over and over — this goes for all band members.

“Our job is to keep morale up and keep them motivated,” she said. “It could get boring quickly and frustration is high.”

Neil gave props to Reimer for preparing the middle schoolers — now freshmen — for high school marching band.

“The success we have at the high school really has much to do with Matt Reimer at the middle school,” Neil said.

The band camp is all about collaboration according to Neil and Reimer — it is not a competition but a collaboration, they said.

“Music needs to be about collaboration instead of competition,” Neil said. “It can get very competitive and rivalries will happen.

“We speak the same language through music.”

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.

Neil and Reimer want to instill the philosophy of music as a collaboration and they do so by student leadership in the camp.

“One thing that might be a little different is how much responsibility we give to students,” Neil said.

The leaders, called drum majors and section leaders, keep morale up, give constructive criticism and help other band members work on techniques.

“Our job as leaders is to make sure they do everything and promote technique,” Section Leader Seth Hoffman said.

Neil said the band is almost entirely student-run, where students teach and supervise their peers.

“We emphasis on good leadership and communication — positive leadership is important in each group.