People living near Ohio University’s South Green may have noticed that the fields near the bike path have come alive with the sound of music recently. This is because nearly 80 students from the all-boys private high school near Cincinnati are spending the week in Athens perfecting their performance.Almost all of the energetic members of the marching band seemed thrilled to be a part of the organization.
“It’s a choice; I do it because it’s just something to do. And I find it to be very fun,” said sophomore and drumline member Wynston Wilcox.Wilcox, who plays the snare drum, said that he is happy to be a member of St. Xavier’s drumline because of the active role that the section plays in the ensemble.
“You’re more active I guess because you’re using your hands at the time,” Wilcox said of his instrument.St. Xavier has called Athens home for band camp for the past six years, said band director David Thomas.
“This is tradition for us… We come up every August,” Thomas said. “It builds community, which is probably the most important aspect of our band. These guys are like brothers.”A sense of brotherhood among members is beneficial during what can be 14-hour practices that start each morning with the boys doing drill between 8 and 11:30 a.m., Thomas said.
After a lunch break, the band utilizes OU’s Robert Glidden Hall (music building) to work on learning music and working within groups for each instrument during sectionals, Thomas said. The boys find themselves back on the field to put it all together by 7 p.m. each day, with practice occasionally extending past 10 p.m., he said.During the day, they are fed at Nelson Dining Hall, and after a long day of practice they can head back to the residence hall where they are being housed for a week, he said.
“They have a blast,” he assured.Thomas said that this year’s camp has been successful.
“This has been the smoothest year,” he said. “Everything has gone very easily. The only challenge is that I had a couple of guys in camp with knee injuries.”But long days and knee injuries will not stop the boys from preparing for their Aug. 29 appearance on ESPN, when the St. Xavier Bombers football team takes on Our Lady of Good Counsel High School.
To do this show, the band is drawing inspiration from the sports network itself, said Karl Thomsen, also a band director.“It’s a show just for ESPN,” he said. “We are using all of their thematic material.”
Thomsen described the dynamics of a single-gender band to be “different” than those of a co-ed ensemble. “It can be somewhat of a locker-room dynamic,” he explained. “It’s a lot of fun. They’re pretty close, a pretty good community.”For the boys, being in an all-male band has similar pros and cons to being in an all-male school.
Sousaphone player Andy Hall, a senior, said that despite the heaviness of his instrument, which weighs almost 50 pounds, he is having a good week at camp in Athens.“It is very fun and interesting,” he said. “We leave on Saturday.”
Junior Luke Fay has been playing percussion since seventh grade and is currently a tenor drum player for the band’s drumline.“The brotherhood and the bonding is the best part,” he said. “The most difficult and hardest part of the day is the morning. We have to get up and march on the field.”
For the ESPN appearance, Fay said the band is doing some special formations as a tribute to the network. “We are doing the theme from ‘Rocky,’” he said. “We are making a boxing glove and then steps that we run up.”An all-guy band also leaves room for some members to pick up what may seem to be traditionally more feminine instruments.
Senior Max Ripsteinberg plays the piccolo. “I’m manly enough to do it,” he joked. “It doesn’t make a difference. The one difference is you don’t get as many guys playing it.”