A shrill whistle sounded, cutting through the hot, muggy air.
Nearly 200 Northview High School band members, dressed in summer casual clothing, snapped to attention.
OK, the snapping part wasn't as crisp as it will be next week when the musicians take the field for the first Friday night football game show, but that's why they call it band camp.
Band director Gene Bohland and assistant band director Mark Kroll have been putting the students through the paces, and some precise steps, for several days. Band camp began last week at Northview's practice field near the high school, and practice sessions will run through the first day of school on Aug. 23. The following night is the first home football game.
Band camp hours are long - from 9 a.m. to noon and then from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Band members get a bit of a break on Fridays when camp runs only from 9 a.m. to noon.
Last Friday, Mr. Bohland and Mr. Kroll cut short marching practice to give band members time to spruce up the school's grounds in anticipation of the new school year.
But just before that, Mr. Bohland earned some well-deserved whistles and cheers as he demonstrated the crowd-pleasing, high-stepping moves that are a trademark of the high school band's pregame show.
"Go! Yeah! Woo-woo!" students yelled as Mr. Bohland demonstrated the proper placement of legs, feet, and instrument.
It's not as easy as he makes it look, said Kristin Wilson, a junior. She and Emily Hage, a senior, were selected as field commanders for the marching band this school year.
"You have to point your toes, and you have to have your leg high enough so your heel is against the calf on your other leg," she said.
Done properly, you look something like a chair (don't quite get the visual? Well, it is a band thing).
Both field commanders are drilling some enthusiasm into the marching band this summer, they said. "It did not seem like we had that much excitement last year, but we're working to change that," Miss Hage said.
Ms. Wilson added: "We're having fun. That's important. Having fun was the connection that was missing last year."
Meantime, the band's geeky coolness factor is just fine, thank you.
Check out Katie Schafer's T-shirt, for instance. "Hard Core Band Geek" in black letters on a white shirt tend to catch attention.
"My father got me the shirt in New Jersey. He knows I'm a band geek and I'm proud of it," the junior clarinet player said.
Northview High School's longstanding tradition of excellence in its music programs draws students into choir, orchestra, and marching band, Mr. Bohland said.
That, he noted, has helped turn around the "geeky image" of band students. "Students really are proud to be in the band," he said. "They socialize with each other. It's a close-knit group."
Several students said a trip scheduled in the spring, 2009, to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida will be an added bonus for the hard-working, dedicated band members.
But first things first.
After handing out work gloves, rakes, and garbage bags, the band directors just before noon last Friday orchestrated the campus beautification program. Mr. Bohland told students they didn't have to pluck every weed, but they had to make a concerted effort to get the larger ones.
And that they did.
They tucked into their work, and soon the front of the high school was cleaned up and ready to welcome the students back to class.