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For This High School Marching Band, There's No Time For Summer Play

There’s no denying that Texas is the land of football. With the first scrimmage a week away, there’s another group of athletes training hard -- the marching band.

You can’t escape the metronome. It’s the relentless digital timekeeper that rules the band world.

And while The Colony High School’s football team endures practice on the nearby stadium turf, there's another hardcore practice going on in the stadium parking lot.

It’s 8 o’clock on a hot August morning and 170 members of The Colony High School’s band are hard at work.

While most teenagers would be sleeping in, these kids have spent the last two weeks prepping for marching season -- and it’s a lot more than just the school fight song.

“A large component of our efforts is devoted to our competition show that we perform at half time shows and competitions through the beginning of November," says Jeff Bridges, an associate band director at The Colony.

The show they're practicing for is called 'Amelia.' It's a medley of film scores inspired by -- yes -- Amelia Earhart. And this will be quite a show. The Colorguard will even be wearing pilot uniforms. 

That’s a lot of music the students need to learn, and a lot of movements. For the first hour of practice, no one picks up an instrument. They’re practicing what’s known as “drill” --  all the formations and movements that will be part of their show.

They do this over, and over, and over again.

“I get very tired," says Tyler Jones, a sophomore who plays trombone. "For the first couple of days, it's hard to get out of bed. But as you keep going, it gets easier."

The moves are more tiring than they look. The students march heel-first and move with military precision. 

It’s not a stretch to call them athletes. In a University of North Texas study published last year, the Texas Center of Music and Medicine at found that marching bands suffer from some of the same injuries that plague teams, like tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome.

“It’s a lot more physical, the demands that are being put onto these students physically, with the drill and the velocity of how fast their moving in the drill, the type of music they’re being asked to play...the standards have just gone up," says Luis Saldana. He's the head director of The Colony Marching Band. During this rehearsal, he calls a lot of water breaks to keep the kids hydrated. With the first football game two weeks away, Saldana is especially meticulous.

He has to be. It’s tough work getting 170 high school kids to move the same way – in perfect time. Once he’s satisfied with their progress, they move on to the music.

It’s a lot of repetition and hard work. Senior drum major Samaha Mahmud is pretty used to it. She doesn’t have a lot of free time because of school and band, but that doesn't matter to her.

"I like the atmosphere, and we're like a family," she says. "I feel at home when I'm in band." 

Home for 40 hours a week until school starts is this parking lot and the band hall. So when school year starts, the eight hours a week they’ll be practicing might seem like a breeze. That’s what it takes for a little half-time glory. 

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.