Members of the band mime playing the fight song as they practice in the parking lot at Hayes High School Thursday morning.

Glenn Battishill | The Gazette

At the end of a count, the Hayes High School Grand Pacer Marching Band steps onto the field Thursday morning to practice its pregame routine during one of their final rehearsals of this week before band camp begins next week.

Director Bill Fowles keeps the tempo with a drumstick and a gock block, and the members of the band march in formation without instruments while singing the Hayes High School fight song. After finishing the movement, Fowles calls out to band members to look down and adjust their positions if they are out of place. Some students take small steps to fix their placement, some take big steps and some stand still, satisfied to have hit their marks.

Fowles has the band run back and do the drill again and once again calls for adjustment. This time, the adjustments are smaller and more students stand exactly on their marks.

This cycle of practice and improvement has been weeklong according to Fowles, who said he was impressed with the band’s rapid progress through its drill this week.

“We have the entire first movement on the field visually,” Fowles said. “(Earlier this month) we were impressed, and they continued that into this week. They’re pushing really hard and working really hard, with a nice positive attitude even though the heat’s been what it’s been. They’re working really hard. It’s been a good week. Tomorrow is our big push to see how far we can get in the show.”

Fowles said the band has been at the school every day this week from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for its pre-band camp week of rehearsals, and the band returns next week every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. to continue to work on its competition show.

“We start putting drill with music next week,” Fowles said. “(We’ll) focus in on learning more for our show. We’ll be making sure that we continue to improve, and we’ll have team building and fun stuff as well. We’re working hard, and I’m appreciative of all their hard work.”

Marty Howard, a sophomore in the flute section, said the week has been “a mix of emotions.”

“There are times I enjoy it, and there are times I want to go home and be done with marching band,” Howard joked. “But I know by the end of the year, I’m going to miss it.”

Howard said the key to getting through the week has been staying motivated.

“When I get home, I get tired and I feel like ‘I don’t want to go to practice tomorrow, or wake up early and march,’ but you just have to motivate yourself to be able to do it,” he said.

Howard said the best part of the week has been spending time with members of the band, and band camp is going to be challenging but useful.

“It’s going to be fun to do more drill and learn more music, but it’s 11 hours, so I’ll probably be hating it by the end,” Howard said with a laugh. “(I’m) looking forward to competitions and football games. I’m definitely more confident this year than last year. I know what I’m doing. I have a lot more confidence than what I felt freshman year.”

Kyle Cretella, a junior and tenor saxophone player, said pre-camp has been “more productive” than last year.

“(It’s been) rapid improvement and not a lot of repeated mistakes,” Cretella said. “I like being active and productive. It’s a rewarding feeling.”

Cretella praised the work of the band’s leaders and directors. He said Fowles, in particular, was doing a good job of “keeping us productive.”

Sophomore Liam Flynn, who is an alto saxophone player, said he’s impressed with the band’s new members this year.

“The freshman this year are pretty good at listening,” Flynn said. “I feel like we’ve moved a lot faster than we did last year. Everyone is on their game. … It’s a lot of work. It’s really hot outside, hotter than last year, (but) we’re pushing forward no matter what.”

Flynn said he’s excited to see the show take shape in the coming weeks.

“The music is okay this year, but I feel like once we put it together, it will become a lot better and I think people will enjoy it,” Flynn said. “I personally can’t wait for the visuals we do. It’ll improve the way our drill looks. Next week will be much harder work, but (it’s a big step) to where we want to be.”

Flynn said he loves being part of the band and performing music.

“I love music,” he said. “You can express yourself without having to say anything.”

Flynn agreed with Cretella and said the rehearsals have been going so well because of leadership and how everyone in the band influences each other.

“Seeing how hard everyone is working … it’s going to be way better than last year,” Flynn said. “Fowles is always on his game, looking out for everybody.”

The band will continue rehearsals next week and will perform for the community for at Pacer Fest on Aug. 4.

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903.