Band Camp is “Larger than Life”

Isabella Athanasiou, Editor

In the open air of Pine Forest, Pennsylvania, something absolutely “Larger than Life” took place this past September, defying all odds of uncertainty… and that is Band Camp! It is an excursion that the members of both the Farmingdale Marching Band and the Dalerette team have become accustomed to, and an event that they await with pleasure. But with Covid-19 preventing the ability to attend the Pine Forest luxury last year, hopes for pursuing the trip this year were slightly diminished. Despite uncertainty, and some setbacks, the plans for the trip carried on with some new safety precautions, and before they knew it, they were on their way!

Crucial safety measures were taken and applied to ensure the safety of all that attended. This included the requirement for all staff and students to be Covid tested days before the departure to Pine Forest. This testing was done through the school, and it was a step taken to make certain the well-being of anyone who was to go. Everyone tested ended up coming back with negative results, something that initiated a new found excitement for what was to come. Additionally a mask mandate was put in place whenever the vast majority of people were inside a certain location at the camp. This primarily included the cafeteria, where all attendees would be at the same time, at least three times a day. With these new safety standards, the Farmingdale Marching Band and Dalerettes were able to get their show on the road! So, how was Band Camp 2021? What occurred over the duration of the trip?

Buses left Farmingdale High School at around 10:00 am on Thursday, September 23rd, and arrived at Pine Forest around 1:30 pm the same day. From there, a sensible few hours of settling in, unpacking, distributing drill books and name tags, and decorating cabins took place. This all happened while it was raining, but it was more like a downpour that kept most people within the quarters of their cabins. Dinner was served at 5:30, and it continued to be served around that time every day. After those few rainy hours were clocked, and people finished eating, the first special event took place: a basketball tournament! Prior to the trip, groups  had signed up to be a part of the tournament that would put teams head-to-head in the indoor basketball court for the non-players to watch. It was a time of immense fun, hilarious entertainment, and an opportunity for people to get more comfortable and familiar with the camp.

7:00 am the next morning and it was time to kick off Friday! Breakfast throughout the trip was served at 8:00, meaning people had to be up in time to eat. Once everyone was done with both eating and cleaning up, it was time to get to strategic practicing. This was the first time the band and the Dalerettes had been on the field since their initial arrival. It was a time where the band really came together, and upperclassmen helped underclassmen do things like read their drill books, a book showing exactly where to march and when to hold throughout the entire show. With both the sophomores and freshmen never having the experience of band camp previous to this trip because of the pandemic, section leaders and upperclassmen had an even bigger part to play. Senior and Trumpet Section Leader Robert Nigro stated, “Being a section leader this year, you have to take more responsibility, you have to look over all these young kids, but it’s fantastic to see everyone come together as one.” On this particular day, the band and the Dalerettes practiced the first song of the show, “Larger than Life ” by the Backstreet Boys. Lunch breaks were designated about midday in between practices, giving band members and Dalerettes time to talk and relax amidst the constant rehearsals. It was a successful day of practice that brought anticipation of what was planned for the night and when dinner concluded, there was an amazingly amusing karaoke night! Like the basketball tournament, people signed up prior to the trip to participate in karaoke located at the outdoor amphitheater in the center of the camp. To say everyone had fun is an understatement, and both students and staff participated in the memorable event.

Saturday was the last full day at Pine Forest, and also the last full day of practice. For the 2021 “Larger than Life” show, the band only marches for two of the songs because of the fact that underclassmen are still new to the practice of marching. The band marches for their first song, holds in place for the second and the third song, and then march again for the fourth. Though the band only marches for two songs, the Dalerettes put up an amazing performance for all four songs. On this day, the main focus was learning and practicing the fourth song, which is “Firework” by Katy Perry. Members of both the band and the Dalerettes worked together in perfecting the show to take back to Farmingdale with pride. There was also a seniors vs. staff volleyball tournament as there is every year, which was won by the staff in an intense back and forth game. Later during the last practice, Drum Major and Senior Wilber Sorto-Guevara voiced his emotion towards band camp saying, “I think band camp is going phenomenal. I mean I am very upset that it is definitely my last one, but I am glad that the band united as a family together and I am glad that everyone cooperated and participated.” Dalerette Captain and Senior Isabella Giordano also had something to say about the experience on behalf of the Dalerettes, stating, “The Dalerettes love going to band camp and spending quality time together to get closer as a team. We also love getting to hear the band and we love performing with them.” The band and Dalerettes performed a final run through of the show they had practiced for the chaperones, and with this being the last band camp for many seniors, the emotion towards the annual trip and the performance of the show was evident.

Later in the night was the senior send off, where seniors got handed posters designed and made by underclassmen and friends as a part of the send off tradition. This creates a core memory for seniors, and it is a time dedicated to the seniors as a proper goodbye from Pine Forest as a Daler. Something extremely memorable made this senior send off even more meaningful than ever, and that was the honoring Jaydien Masset-Toney, a beloved member of the Farmingdale Marching Band who tragically passed away in late 2020. Jaydien would have been a senior this year, and it is for this reason that he got the same treatment as any other senior, with a poster for him given to his friends and a moment of silence taken in remembrance. Many tears were shed, and the Farmingdale Marching Band, Dalerettes and staff came together as a family to say goodbyes, bond, and remember.

The last event, on the last night of band camp, is always one to remember. It is the DJ Night, which this year was hosted by junior James Hammelman. It is a time for all students to let loose, have fun with friends, and to remember what the trip is all about. Students dance, jump and sing together for the declining duration of the trip. Though if you did not want to attend, there was also a hockey tournament that occurred next to where the DJ night was, and was open for anyone to play.

The next morning was what was dreaded most. Around 10:00 am, buses left Pine Forest back to arrive in Farmingdale. The 2021 band camp trip was officially over, but staff, coaches, band members, and Dalerettes could not have been more proud and excited to bring their show to the Farmingdale field. Band Director Mr. Demasi describes this year’s band camp as a “great success” and he enthusiastically expresses that he “can’t wait for the Farmingdale community to see our 2021 show, Larger than Life!” Mrs Pellettiere expresses the same emotion towards this year’s band camp, and is thankful for the way things went. She stated that Pine Forest is the band’s “second home” and that it felt so great to be back at Pine Forest because “it was a sense of normalcy” after the pandemic. Dalerette coach Lauren Scotti was thankful for how the trip went as well, stating, “We are so happy that our team got to experience band camp safely and are looking forward to a successful season.” Both the Farmingdale Marching Band and the Dalerette team will continue to march on and perform shows for the Farmingdale community that are most definitely Larger than Life!