Byline: MAGGIE FITZROY
They marched back and forth across the hot white asphalt of a basketball court as band director Michael Johnson clapped his hands to the beat.
High in some trees nearby, humming cicadas added to the music.
"It doesn't seem that hot," said Nease High School Marching Band trumpet player Amanda DuVal, 17, Wednesday. "I really love this, there's a lot of good people here."
DuVal and about 95 fellow band members marched, played and sweated through hot weather this week as they kicked off their fall season with a weeklong camp under the direction of Johnson, who is now in his second year at the school.
After practicing drills and music from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, they were scheduled to conclude with a free public exhibition at 4 p.m. Friday to show off their new football half-time show.
They spent most of the time outside, moving between the basketball courts and softball practice fields, with lunch and lots of water breaks in between.
"Right now, we're trying to see which sections are best, it's a motivator," said Johnson as he divided the band into groups according to their instruments, such as saxophones, clarinets, baritones, tubas and flutes.
"On this side, I need to see the flutes and on this side I need to see the baritones," Johnson said as the groups prepared to practice their marches.
"Yeah!" they yelled as they cheered each other on.
The mandatory camp was designed to introduce marching fundamentals to many new members and reinforce them for returning students.
Johnson said the "really young" band, which has almost doubled in size since last year, includes 35 freshmen and 32 sophomores.
Being in the band is perceived as being "more fun and competitive" than it has been in the past, Johnson said. He also credits the county's middle school bands with doing a good job preparing students. Many came from Landrum in Ponte Vedra Beach, the feeder school for Nease.
Since students come from around the county to enroll in Nease academies and the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, the band includes kids from Murray, Sebastian, Switzerland Point and Fruit Cove Middle Schools, Johnson said. …