This week drums are crashing, flags are flying and arms are waving at the 16th annual Red River Drums & Auxillary Camp.
The camp is focused specifically on drumline, drum major and colorguard training. Co-director Jonathan Francis said students from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Kansas and other neighboring states come back to the camp throughout high school to learn new skills and reconnect with friends they can’t see anywhere else.
“When we first started it was only drumline, then we added color guard, and then after that year we said ‘it would be nice if we could do drum majors, because there’s no specific drum major camp,’” Francis said.
Francis said the future of the camp was uncertain this year, after budget cuts to arts programs statewide. He said the Oklahoma Arts Council and the Jerome Westheimer Foundation helped fund this summer’s camp.
 Roughly 70 drum majors assembled to practice leadership as well as technical skills like field conducting. The role is an important, not always well understood one, for any marching band.
Nicole Holland, a drum major from Kingston High School, said camp gives her a unique learning opportunity.
“It’s about being a functional leader and being able to handle difficult situations,” Holland said. “And even though I’ve been here for three years, I feel like I learn something new every year and apply it.”
Canyon Dean from Stigler High School said the goal is to learn, then turn around and learn how to teach.
“It’s more of a role model thing,” Dean said. “I remember when I was coming up as eighth grader, I’d always looked to the drum major for guidance. It’s way more than just conducting and keeping the beat.”
Cooper Paty from Plainview High School agreed.
“It’s not so much about accomplishing what they give us here, it’s more like giving us the utilities and the tools to go home and then accomplish things with our band,” Paty said.
Claire Castleman, a drum major from Dickson High School, said this is her first year at this particular camp.
“I came here because I knew it was time to get serious as a drum major,” Castleman said. “I feel like I’m getting a lot more here, as a drum major.”
Outside the lodge, colorguard teams worked in groups, learning routines and throwing flags, practicing rifles and sabres. Hannah Cerne and Sam Connor, seniors from El Reno High School, have been attending camp for four years now. They’ve both recently become color guard captains. They said they’re learning how to write, perform and teach their own routines.
“Back home, we’ll teach our whole routine — it’s us,” Connor said. “This helps you learn how to teach, go slow and answer questions.”
Breaking down steps and explaining them in an easy-to-follow manner. This is also their first time dancing with color guard rifles.
“We’ve learned so many new moves here,” Cerne said. “There’s only so much you can learn out of high school. When you come here, you’re mind is blown from the sheer amount of information you pick up.”
All around the shoreline, groups of students drummed furiously, practicing rhythms, correcting minute mistakes, and starting all over again. Abigail Boatmun, a drumline member from Durant High School, said the experience is one she looks forward to every summer.
“It’s really cool seeing the same people and watching them grow as musicians,” Boatmun said. “And it’s nice to meet new kids and teach them.”
She said in her band program, like most, older students are expected to take on a leadership role.
“It’s not just about bettering yourself, it’s about helping others better themselves,” Boatmun said. “People kind of make fun of band because we’re so close, but we really are family and we really do love each other.”
The camp will wrap up with a performance at noon on Friday near Lake Murray Lodge.