Texoma Marching Arts and Leadership Academy underway at Convention Center this week

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

Scores of teens from across Oklahoma and Texas have moved to Ardmore this week for the third annual Texoma Marching Arts and Leadership Academy. While a majority of the week’s calendar is for high school marching band members to collaborate and hone their skills, Wednesday and Friday will invite the public out to Noble Stadium for performances from multiple bands. 

The academy, sponsored by local nonprofit Southern Oklahoma Community Arts, has been bringing high school students to southern Oklahoma each summer for three years. First held at Lake Murray in 2019 with a narrower focus on band leadership and auxiliary roles, it was moved to the Ardmore Convention Center last year with online offerings and expanded to horn sections.  

More:2nd annual marching arts camp sees drastic changes during pandemic

Drummers prepare for auditions outside the Ardmore Convention Center Monday, July 12, 2021. The Texoma Marching Arts and Leadership Academy first started at Lake Murray in 2019.

This year returns to a fully in-person camp that concludes with a closing ceremony at Noble Stadium on Friday. SOCA coordinator Chauvin Aaron said this year’s academy had a record 173 students registered from 34 different schools. He hopes multiple lessons about leadership can be given to students through marching arts and then returned to schools across the region. 

“All of these students here are leaders in their band,” said Aaron. 

An instructor directs horn players at the Ardmore Convention Center on the first day of the Texoma Marching Arts and Leadership Academy Monday, July 12, 2021.

Band director Drew Etheredge brought almost a quarter of the Pauls Valley High School marching band, including drummers and horn players, to Ardmore this week for the academy. The Ardmore High School graduate said that the 18 students he brought to Ardmore this week will definitely take lessons back before their band camp later this summer. 

“Not just are they honing their music skills this week, but they’re sharpening their leadership abilities as well,” Etheredge said. 

Ardmore High School drummer Noah Lyons prepares for auditions outside the Ardmore Convention Center Monday, July 12, 2021. Lyons was one of over 150 students taking part in the Texoma Marching Arts and Leadership Academy this year.

Ardmore High School drum major Charles Brady has been in band since sixth grade and started attending the academy in 2019. The saxophonist and drum major said that some of the biggest takeaways from the camp have been the connections he has made over the years. 

“The camp was probably the best way that I got to interact with the seniors,” Brady said of past camps.  

More:Inaugural band camp to start this week at Lake Murray

Students each spent $300 to attend the five-day camp that includes meals and hotels. Aaron said donations from area banks secured meals for campers and the Ardmore Tourism Authority helped secure use of the convention center. Southern Oklahoma Community Arts members organized the event by securing sponsors, locations and equipment from nonprofits, business sponsors and organizations within Ardmore. 

Horn players warm up for auditions on the first day of the Texoma Marching Arts and Leadership Academy Monday, July 12, 2021. Performances on Wednesday and Friday will be free to the public.

One particular challenge for organizers was how to deal with the pandemic and a looming third wave. Aaron said the academy is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding youth camps. Along with recommendations like social distancing and mask usage for unvaccinated campers, the guidelines also include updates from May regarding outdoor mask usage and vaccinated attendees.  

On Wednesday evening, two drum and bugle corps will visit the camp for performances. The Texas-based Compass Drum and Bugle Corps and Guardian Drum and Bugle Corps will perform at Noble Stadium after academy presentations at 8 p.m. A final closing ceremony will be held at the stadium on Friday at 11 a.m. 

Drummers from Hennessey and Coalgate rehearse audition music on the first day of the Texoma Marching Arts and Leadership Academy Monday, July 12, 2021.

Unlike past years when Brady could connect with Ardmore High School seniors at the Texoma Marching Arts and Leadership Academy, the incoming senior is looking forward to connecting with underclassmen and section leaders this year. 

“I want to get closer with people in my sections because I’m a senior now. The tables have turned, right?”