Behind the scenes of the Merrimack band

If you have gone to a football game at Merrimack High, then you have probably seen the band playing the halftime show. Perhaps you have seen one of their concerts, or performing in the Christmas or Memorial Day parades.

But you probably don’t know much about what goes on behind the scenes, like what happens at rehearsals, the time put into learning the pieces, or the people in the band.

The band starts two weeks before school does with band camp, which lasts one week. Every day, the students in band have to go to camp, sometimes in 100-degree heat, from 1-5 p.m. to learn the new halftime show. Music can range from "Tommy," by The Who (last year’s halftime show) to the new "Star Wars" movie (this year’s halftime show).

I can tell you from firsthand experience that it’s miserable, especially when your clarinet breaks on the second day and you can’t get it fixed until the last day.

"I thought marching band camp was fun," said Josh Puzzo, a ninth-grade trumpet player. "Well, aside from being outside for four hours marching and wasting my last days during summer, I thought it was fun."

After the school year kicks in, the band rehearses first period in school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to practice for halftime and for the Salem Band Show, an event where marching bands from around the state perform their halftime shows. This show is usually the third week of October.

After the Salem Band Show, the band goes down to one rehearsal a week, usually on Wednesday, and eventually switches to concert band after the regular season is done.

This year, however, since the football team went to the playoffs, the band practiced extra to play at all their playoff games, and would have traveled to the championship game if we had won against Bedford.

After all of this is over, the band prepares for the winter concert and the Christmas parade.

That means that we have to learn complex concert music, such as the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel’s "Messiah," and simpler parade music, which includes "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

"I really have liked my experiences in band," sophomore clarinet player Gavinn Roby told me, "and I am looking forward to the rest of the year."

Chris Puzzo is a sophomore at Merrimack High School.