Marching musicians go back to school weeks before their high school classmates.
Although they won't hit the books for another two weeks, several hundred Carroll students are already hitting the pavement,practicing marching steps and lively tunes on school parking lots.
"There's no other place but the lots for practice," said Paula Owens, 17, guard captain for the Liberty High School Lions. "After school opens, we are still here. We just dodge the cars."
In a scene that repeats itself at all county high schools, coolers rest under trees beside discarded shoes and colorful flags. Drums roll and xylophones tinkle, as student coaches clap and count steps.
Band camp, that time in late summer when freshmen musicians learn to blend in with the rest of the band, is in full swing.
Terry Olesniewicz, a SouthCarroll High senior, said dealing with the weather is one of the first lessons marchers must learn.
"We get hot early and stay hot, but we deal with it," he said. "It teaches us the discipline we need tostay out in any weather."
Clad in the coolest attire available, the students march in tennis shoes across a blacktop that traps the heat beating down from a relentless sun.
"I am always the first guy to take off my shirt," said James Scheufele, a Liberty senior, who carries quints -- five drums hooked together -- across his chest.
Band leaders help the marchers beat the heat and stem the fatigue by calling for frequentbreaks.
The discipline required for band membersis second nature to upperclassmen, but learning it is rough for freshmen, said Terry, who often hears complaints of sore leg muscles frominexperienced marchers.
"The freshmen come out of concert bands in middle school, where they sit and play," said Michelle Zepp, a South Carroll senior who also is on the softball team. "They learn quickly that marching is work, just as hard as any sport."
And, they learn with a lot of help from upperclassmen, and add a few cues of theirown. Westminster's freshmen wear tags inscribed with their name and a number pinned on their shirts. The numbers show where the players belong on the field.
Francis Scott Key High School plans its band camp around the schedule of recent graduates, leader Dennis Davis said. The alumni lend a helping hand before heading off to college.
Aimee Sabourin, a 1990 South Carroll graduate, has returned the past two summers to instruct the rifle and flag corps at her alma mater.
"I don't mind taking time off from my job," she said, while calling commands as her team swung rifles.
Continuity is the most importantelement to a successful band, South Carroll band director Brad Collins said.
"The seniors share their ideas and expertise, while the freshman get to see more experienced marchers," he said.
Jesse Lindsay, 16, a Westminster High junior, said the band has some work aheadof it, with 60 freshmen playing in the 138-member outfit.
"We like to cut loose with a little football to warm up before practice," hesaid.
"It's in keeping with the spirit of the season."
Aside from sacrificing the last weeks of vacation to long hours of practice,camp also infringes on income from summer jobs.
Tiffiny Barbera, a senior trumpet player in the North Carroll High band, is trying to keep her job.
"I have dinner in the car, driving from practice to work," she said.
A few marchers manage to play a sport too. Juggling two practice schedules becomes a sport in itself, said Darryk Modracek, 17, who plays trumpet in the band in addition to being on the school's soccer team.
All five bands face tough competition schedules this fall.
From the end of September through Thanksgiving, local bands spend Saturdays going head-to-head with bands from across thestate.
"We often have marathons, when we leave home at 6 a.m. on Saturday and get back at 3 a.m. Sunday," said Michelle, who plays French horn. "And that's usually after playing at our football games on Friday nights."
Collins said band camp trains the students to dealwith those long days.
"It represents the beginning a great commitment from the students as well as their parents," he said.