Thirty-two drum majors from numerous high schools and a few middle schools from across Texas gathered in Carthage last week for a military drum major camp hosted by Panola College and Carthage High School.

Nick Durham, the Carthage High School band director, and Dwayne Hubbard, the Panola College band director, teamed up to make the camp possible. Students slept in Panola College dorms, and the camp was run at Carthage High School.

Although it was the first time being the Panola College Military Drum Major Camp, it was in fact a restart of a camp that has been going on for much longer.

“Randy Dawson has the best camp,” Durham said. “He started it in the 70s at SFA, and then it moved to Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, and then it moved to Kilgore College until the Kilgore College band director got sick and they had to cancel it last year. There are other drum major camps as options, but Randy’s camp is by far the best, and he wasn’t doing it anymore because it didn’t have a home. We’ve got such great facilities at Carthage High School, and Panola College also has great facilities too, I mean it’s like, get them here, let’s have the camp here, because I want my drum major to have the best training, and that was through his camp.

“Fortunately it all worked out with Mr. Hubbard and Panola and Mr. Dawson bringing it here,” he said.

The camp taught the best from schools around Texas.

“It’s important because these are gonna be the leaders in these bands during the fall for marching band,” Hubbard said. “The things that these guys have to do is they have to be the best marcher in their school. So a lot of what they did this week was really work on marching to sharpen it up to be to where they can be an example to the kids in their bands. Some of these smaller schools have seventh-graders marching in the high school band, eighth-graders, so it gets them to that point, we talk about leadership, how they’re going to deal with kids who are similar to their age — they still have to find a way to get them to follow them, and so a lot of it was just ideas, ideals about leadership, ways that they can become better and better leaders.

“There are so many fundamentals of what to do with a baton and whistles and all that, and if they don’t know it, it slows things down to a halt (like) when they’re trying to get ready for a football game on Friday night,” Hubbard said.

John Calderon, a junior drum major from Ore City, won the award for best drum major at the camp’s closing ceremonies.

“We learned a lot,” he said. “We did cover a lot of leadership stuff, and last year I was a sophomore drum major, and I didn’t go to a camp like this last year. It made me realize that I really should’ve, and I could really (have) learned a lot of stuff.”

Lawson Green, a senior at Harleton High School, said the camp teaches you how to be a leader of your band.

“You can better hone your skills as drum major with everything, with your leadership, your vocals, your mace work; it just overall helps, and it lets you know the other drum majors in the community, so it makes sort of a bond between each of the bands,” he said.

Durham said he sees the camp getting bigger and bigger.

“For a first year camp this is at 32, and it’s gonna get upwards of 50-60,” Durham said. “Recruiting-wise, he’s getting the top kids out of each band program on his campus, so this is great, great recruiting for Panola College Band and Panola College in general. But it’s bringing business into Carthage, I mean it’s just a win for everybody. ... We’re hoping actually to expand into a military marching band camp for the marchers, not just the drum majors. So I’m telling you, we’ve got some big stuff coming, it’ll be fun.”

The camp gave students a chance to sharpen their skills.

“Everybody who’s a drum major is comfortable in their own skin, in their own home,” Durham said. “This takes them at their most comfortable and shakes it up so that they have to improve while under pressure, which is the essence of a leader. Things don’t go well all the time, you still have to grow, get things right, and it sharpens their marching skills, sharpens their leaderships skills. It just turns out better students.”

Beyond all that, Durham said the camp, while a lot of work, was also a lot of fun. Skyla Speer, a junior drum major at Harleton High School, said the camp was great.

“Band is like the coolest cult, but we’re the coolest of the cool of the cult,” she said. “So we’re like the leaders of each school.”