Expect the unexpected in this year's marching band performances. The theme is "outbreak," and the epidemic is sure to plague all of Bulldog nation with its first performances set for Aug. 21 at Frank Dutton Field as Mahomet-Seymour High School faces Charleston.
"We've done themed shows in the past, but we haven't gone to this extreme," M-S band director Michael Stevens said. "We're going to be a research team developing new cures for diseases and there's going to be a lab accident and they're going to change into who knows what."
Neon shirts worn underneath scrubs will reveal the infected band members. But the real question is, will it take over all 214 members?
"There's one part in the show where we actually do a tango, but it's going to be a tango of infected crazy people," Stevens said.
Stevens and Philip Meyer, the assistant band director, drew inspiration for the show after sitting down and listening to music trying to come up with the perfect pieces for the 2018 season.
"We had seen a drum corps a few years ago do Radiohead's 'Creep,' and it was really, really cool and we thought that would be a really cool piece to play," Stevens said.
Other pieces throughout the performance include "Liturgical Dances" and "Red Cape Tango."
Band members started their seasonal efforts with a week-long marching band camp last week.
The resounding favorite piece to perform for the band members and color guard performers is the show's first movement that features "Creep."
"'Creep' is really good because in the beginning we're acting like some happy scientists and then it's like an experiment gone bad and that's when we get all infected," said Lexi Watkins, a junior color guard member.
Watkins enjoys the "freedom" the routine provides her to get creative with the performance.
"We use our entire body and we're using all sorts of facials and emotions," she said.
But it also requires a great deal of teamwork to perform in such a collaborative environment.
"It's listening to other people and suggestions because there are sometimes when we don't know what to do for our routine or our counts are off," she said. "We just come together and when we do, it just pulls off and it's done really well."
For junior drum major William Larson, his favorite part all comes down to one note.
"We have one part in the show where there's this one note that just sort of comes out of nowhere and the drum majors do this really funky head nod," he said.
Though Larson plays the French horn in concert band, the thought of conducting was a new adventure for him.
"I always thought it was really neat," he said. "It's that person of authority up there helping the band and keeping them going."
The hardest part of band camp?
Keeping everyone in time.
"It's the one big problem that we have," said senior Karli Waldrep, who plays the alto saxophone.
"I'm not a section leader, but the big thing for the freshman is keeping their feet in time," she said. A lot of times we'll count through the run-throughs and then we'll stop playing and count for them so then they can see when their feet match up with the music and then eventually we do that like 20 times and they end up getting it."
Despite not being a section leader, Waldrep enjoys being able to assist the freshman performers as she can recall the experience of being a new marching band member herself.
"As a freshman coming in, you're like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm a freshman in high school. This is the scariest moment of my life,'" she said. "But if you're in marching band, then you make so many friends. Like I can hardly count. All of my friends that I've made in high school were all in marching band."
Junior flutist Kameron Hacker knows she and her fellow bandmates require a great deal of "self-discipline" before taking the field in three weeks as this will be the driving force that carries them throughout competition season.
"I'm a nervous person and I'll go out there and my face kind of goes numb," Hacker said. "It's silent. Whereas out here (in front of the high school) there's so many other sounds going on, there's cars driving by and they honk at you, but when you go into the performance it's silent and peaceful and calm."
More than a focus of self-discipline, Hacker said the performances require "patience" and "preservation."
Disciplines aside, Hacker finds a great deal of enjoyment from marching band.
"We ride on the buses and we sing Disney songs and we get to take naps," she joked. "We get to see other bands and their shows. It's just a learning experience because we get judged and critiqued."
Larson said the band will look to continue its consistent efforts to perfect the show before its grand reveal and the start of competition season.
"Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday during the school year we're here at least 2 hours working on it and running things over and over and over again until we get it done," he said.