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After two years away, Colorado marching bands are ready to take the field

Like high school athletes, band members across the state are at pre-season camp to get into shape, and they are re-energized and ready to compete.

DENVER — After nearly two years off, Colorado high school marching bands are getting in shape for the upcoming competition season.

Pre-season band camps, where students start learning how to march and play their shows for competitions, started up recently after nearly 800 days off due to weather cancellations and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m re-energized. I’m ready to go,” said Centaurus High School Band Director Aaron Vogelsberg. “I was more worried about what will the activity look like after two years away from it.”

In 2019, a forecast of cold temperatures, wind chill and the possibility of snow resulted in the cancellation of the state marching band championships in Colorado Springs.

And last year, the Colorado Bandmasters Association, which governs the state’s marching band programs, canceled marching band competitions in the fall for the health and safety of students, band directors, staff, event workers and judges.

> This story is the first in a five-part series "Hearts of Champions: The Re-Set," on high school marching bands across Colorado as they prepare for the return to competition.

RELATED: Cold temperatures cause cancellation of high school marching band state championship

“I’m really excited to get back into it,” said Loveland High School senior Aaron Koso. “I joined marching band because I wanted to compete, and to not be able to compete for two whole years kind of sucked.”

Credit: Byron Reed

While most student athletes are getting ready for their upcoming seasons, marching band members are also getting ready with band camps. 

These camps are held in the heat of the summer, starting in the first weeks of August. They last usually for two weeks and go for about 10 hours a day.  Band members do calisthenics, run and get in shape so they can learn to perform a 7 ½ minute show.

RELATED: Here's what really happens at band camp

Credit: Byron Reed

“It’s probably the most rigorous part of this season,” said Sean Cartner, Conifer High School director of instrumental music. “This is really where we set the foundation for the entire season … all the marching fundamentals, instrument carriage fundamentals, the basics of spinning flags.”

“It’s really just getting the building blocks and the basics down, so that when we get into the school year, it's less stressful,” added Sarah Hartman, Montrose High School drum major.

Credit: Byron Reed

It’s a competitive show that these band members will perform while marching, running, playing their instruments and tossing flags.

“There will be certain spots where you’ll be dancing, and then you have to switch into a flag and start spinning,” said sophomore Evelyn Swope, a Loveland High School color guard member. “It’s a little nerve-wracking right now, but I’m really excited to see the end result of the whole band thing.”

Credit: Byron Reed

After camp is over, it's rehearsals before, during and after school to perfect the show that most only see during halftime of football games.

In high school, the weekend competitions begin in September. Marching bands compete against one another, culminating in the state championships in November.

RELATED: Everything I need to know, I learned in marching band

“It just goes to show you how much training and how much mental and physical preparation and effort goes into marching band,” said Montrose High School High School Band Director Sheridan Loyd.  “Because if one student checks out for a second, you’ve got kids running into each other on the field.”

“It’s just like ‘Oh, they’re just marching and playing on the field.’ People who aren’t in band don’t really understand what it’s kind of about,” said Centaurus High School senior Amelie King.

Credit: Byron Reed

These marching bands say they’re ready to face whatever challenges lie ahead as they re-set to get back in step with what it takes to have the hearts of champions.

“I have friends across the country who aren’t able to do what we’re doing here,” said Kyle Freesen, Loveland High School director of bands. “I’m thankful for the opportunity for our community and how they’ve handled restrictions that allow us to get out here and do this again.”

“I keep getting this weird tingly feeling that this season’s just going right,” said Carly Getz, Conifer High School drum major. “We’re doing something right, and we’re going to go on to conquer bigger and better things.”  

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