The drum line was under a canopy of trees and clattered between rolls of sextuplets, their flushed shoulders gleaming. As the sun blanketed the parking lot, lines of trumpet, tuba, and mellophone players marched back and forth, wiping sweat from their foreheads at the end of each musical passage.
The temperatures here in Daphne, Alabama had exceeded 90 degrees and the humidity made it feel at least 10 degrees warmer. Yet even as a record-breaking heat wave hit most of the American South this week, members of the Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps chose to keep going, not wanting to miss a moment of the intensive camp they’ve been waiting all along for. ‘year.
« The heat has gotten me once or twice this season, » said Gracie Binns, an 18-year-old member of the color guard. « He’s already exhausted me. » But, she added, « I like a challenge. »
This is summer in the south. The heat is pervasive and requires adaptation. Construction workers, gardeners, and delivery men don cooling rags under their wide-brimmed hats, and some even turn to Florida water — a cologne made with alcohol and the scent of citrus — to cool their necks. Dog walkers, joggers, farmers, and just about everyone else know it’s best to venture out early in the morning or in the evening.
But after a significantly hotter June, and with climate change pushing temperatures higher and higher, this longstanding patchwork of medical and home remedies is becoming ever more crucial to preserving summer livelihoods and traditions. .
Leading up to the July 4th holiday, the sweltering humidity was bound to linger along the Gulf of Mexico, keeping conditions dangerous and sweltering even as temperatures began to drop a few degrees. And while humidity is expected to be lower in the west, central California and places in the desert southwest will also experience a heat wave this weekend.
In the South, the first heat wave heightened family fears about heat stress and dehydration and added some new concerns. The combination of heat and drought in the small town of Erath, La. at one point raised questions about the safety of the annual fireworks display.
« This thought is incredible, » said Leslie Mencacci, president of the Erath Fourth of July Association. « We’ve never had this problem. »
Accommodations are available throughout the region: earlier start times for postal workers, more pitchers of blue Gatorade at a summer camp on the shores of a Texas lake, and the opening of cooling centers in Tennessee, Texas and Mississippi.
« All we can do is better prepare because unfortunately it’s here and it’s not going anywhere, » said Sonny Schindler, the owner of Shore Thing Fishing Charters in Mississippi, who woke up at 2:30, an hour earlier, for a fresher start.
On the sprawling campus of Daphne High School near Mobile, there was no doubt that the heat had gotten worse this year. The musicians kept each other up to date with heat index readings and data on how quickly the sun could burn them. Within days of starting a three-week camp, the sunburn had begun to blister and the awkward tan lines that marked socks, watches, sleeves and shoe straps were deepening.
But the band would carry on, with just two weeks left before they prepared to travel across the country and compete in a series of performances.
« The reward is definitely long overdue, » said Sophia Farfante, 19, the lone woman who hoists a tuba around her shoulders every day. “You’re here for three weeks, doing all the work, working your ass off, sweating. But when you take the show out into the field and you start looking back at videos of you performing it and you start remembering the things you’ve done and the traditions you have to share and everything in between, it really means the world. «
This time of summer is crucial for Southwind, one of 40 marching ensembles competing under Drum Corps International, which has maintained the national post-World War I tradition of civilian drum and bugle corps. Tuition for the full year, including lodging, uniforms, food, and travel during practice and for each competition, is approximately $4,200.
After months of auditions and more scattered rehearsals during the winter months, these weeks are an opportunity for musicians to delve into the complexity and precision of a 10-minute medley and the choreography that accompanies it on a football field.
Musicians can practice their melodies and train their lung capacity indoors, often to the insistent ticking of metronomes. Yet there’s little substitute for hours spent outside rehearsing how to traverse the field in unison, incorporate commanding scenes, and most importantly, avoid collisions with equipment and each other.
« It’s like believing in an experience, » said Lucas Houston, 16, a mellophone player from Hernando, Miss. « Every single second that passes feels sentimental in a way. »
The heat, however, remains perhaps the most insidious threat in a 12-hour day that is often filled with injuries and emotional stress, including fingers broken and hit by rifles and waving flags, tight hamstrings, performance anxiety, nostalgia of house and red ant bites. Even at night, when ensemble members gather to rehearse entire sections of their performance, the humidity makes them sweat, with little chance of cooling down.
And dedicate a thought to the drummers.
« It makes you want to put them right back down immediately, » said Brenden Wickliffe, an 18-year-old music education student who likened carrying the weight of his six drums to holding a barbell behind his back before a squat. « I’m just soaked from start to finish. »
Some of the instructors recalled instances from their drum corps days where water breaks were not encouraged or even denied as punishment for poor rehearsal.
But as educational practices have evolved, those tactics have disappeared. The corps keeps an athletic trainer and several volunteer medics on site, and the performers were hustled inside when it became clear the heat index was rising. Instructors insist on taking breaks for water when the heat is visibly taking its toll, supervise shaded breaks and advise performers to listen to their bodies.
By the fifth day of the camp, some of the volunteer medics still seemed a little perplexed by their patients’ enthusiasm, particularly with the rising temperatures.
« They’re on the sidelines dripping from every crevice, » said Makayla Chrismon, a 27-year-old med student among those keeping tabs on musicians. « And they don’t even seem grumpy about it. »
T’Yanna Williams, an 18-year-old color guard, felt her body go heavy after a brief outdoor tryout in the sun on Wednesday. Within minutes, she was flat on her back inside the air-conditioned, her friends and instructors fanning her, handing her water, and assuring her it was worth taking a few minutes now rather than risk jeopardizing the rest. of the season.
About 30 minutes later, he was back in ranks, twirling and spinning a rifle high above his head.
« I love the feeling of performing and having a support group to be there with me, » Ms. Williams said later. “Either you work hard or you don’t. You kind of get what you put into it.
In a food truck, cooks strategized on salads, fruits and pastas that could help refresh the musicians, writing warnings to « Hydrate!!! » and « Apply sunscreen! » next to the menu of the day on the blackboards.
« When it snows here, the world stops spinning, » said Jeff Parsons, a kitchen staffer, as he prepared to place a tub of the peanut butter and jelly mixture in the shade of a tree for lunch. In the heat, he added, « life goes on. »
The report was provided by Mary Elizabeth Oliver, Stacy Cato AND Mary Beth Gahan.