Marching Pirates Go Camping

As the majority of East Carolina students were cramming in their last week’s worth of summer fun before heading back to school, the members of the ECU Marching Pirates were already back on campus, taking part in their annual band camp from August 14–19.

For six days, the musicians, drum majors, color guard, and dance team members who make up the Marching Pirates, put in long hours learning the routines Pirate fans will see and hear this fall.

The ECU Marching Pirates are made up of musicians, dancers, and members of the color guard, seen here.

Band camp is an important week for the marching band. Not only is it the most intense practice time they have all year, but it is also when the band comes together as a unit.

“[Band camp] is the equivalent of five to six weeks for us, because when classes start I only see them for six hours a week,” said ECU Marching Pirates director Dr. Christopher Knighten. “To be with them for eight hours a day makes for long days, but we get a huge jump start on the season. It’s a really key time for us to set the trajectory of the season.”

The days during band camp are devoted to rehearsals—there are two full-band practices as well as sectional rehearsals each day. In the evenings, Knighten and his staff coordinate team-building exercises and social events as both rewards for the hard work the band puts in each day, and also to help develop the “family atmosphere” the band is known for. The events range from a campus-wide game of “capture the flag” to a casual evening at Mendenhall Student Center.

“We work really hard to help these students establish a niche at ECU,” said Knighten. “A lot of what we do this week is geared around helping them feel welcome here.”

The evening activities help introduce band members to one another, especially across section lines, but according to head drum major Tremayne Smith, band members don’t need any assistance developing friendships.

“We are wired differently in our heads, so we just click immediately,” he said. “We spend so much time together in close, personal situations, that we bond quickly. It really is a community. It’s like one big family. It sounds clichéd but it really is.”

This year, Dr. Christopher Knighten is celebrating his 16th year at the helm of the ECU Marching Pirates.

Membership in the Marching Pirates has increased with university enrollment, the band growing each of Knighten's 16 years as director. This year’s record freshman class has bumped the amount of freshmen in the band to around 40 percent. Making sure these freshmen become successful contributors to the band first depends on making them comfortable in their new surroundings.

“The [staff] really break things down for us to help ease the transition from high school to college,” said freshman trumpet player Brittney Schlagenhauf. “This group makes it a whole lot better. They make it easier to get to know people.”

One need only look at the past few years to find evidence of the band’s growth. Two years ago, band membership was fewer than 200 students. This year, more than 240 Marching Pirates will take the field. Growth is expected to continue in the coming years and to remain positive.

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