Everywhere around Payson High School, signs of preparations for the first day of school appear.
The smell of fresh-cut grass from the football field ...
School buildings humming with the buzz of air conditioners ...
And the bang, bang, bang of hammers from the old gym, as workers finish up the roof.
But only the sounds of silence seep through the band room doors.
More than 40 band members practice somewhere on campus for the annual pre-school band camp, but at the moment, they cannot be found.
Inside the band room, recent graduates here to help band director Daria Mason run camp quietly chatter after setting up lunch. Piles of watermelons and buns, crockpots full of barbecue, bags of chips, and pans of brownies sit on the table waiting for the hoard of the bonding band group to arrive.
Judging from the camaraderie of these graduates, past band camps have more than accomplished their goal — to create unity and team building. These students, soon to scatter on the winds of their new life, still share that bond.
As they wait, the former students reminisce about humorous moments from their past years at band camp.
“Last year, I got a giant bucket of ice water and dumped it onto the freshmen,” said Tim Wallace, smiling at the memory.
Water fights are a yearly tradition that wraps up the week.
“I remember one year we were madly throwing balled-up paper at each other,” said Shelby Stewart, a glint in her eye.
Both Stewart and Wallace wear ASU colors for their new alma mater, but relish helping out one more time.
Soon, hot, tired, sunburn-faced band members begin trickling into the band room for lunch.
“The low brass goes first,” calls out Mason to shepherd the students into an orderly line for lunch, “then sophomores, seniors and freshmen.”
Mason made all of the food for lunch.
“I had them under the trees so we were in the shade,” she said, “I have them doing squats and sprints for conditioning. They have to be in good shape this year.”
Mason said this year’s marching band show requires more physical stamina than in years past.
Taylor Wallace agrees. When asked the difference between this year and last all he could say was, “Conditioning.”