Weeks of practice in the hot summer sun. Countless hours out on the football field. Numerous weekends spent traveling to schools across the state.

It may sound like high school football, but it instead describes the high school marching band season.

The start of a new school year also means busy weekends — with Friday night games and Saturday marching band competitions — for dozens of high school students in Columbus.

Right now, students in the Columbus North and East high school marching band programs — dubbed Sound of North and Columbus East Olympian Spirit, respectively — are gearing up for their 2016 seasons, which will include performances close to home and across the state almost every weekend.

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Last fall, under the instruction of marching band director Keith Burton, Sound of North placed 13th in the Bands of America super regional competition at Lucas Oil Stadium, where the local band program competed against more than 60 others from across the Midwest.

Sound of North also competed in the Indiana semistate marching band competition, where Burton said the band fell just two-tenths of a point short of moving on to the state finals.

For the Olympian Spirit, the 2015 competition season in Indiana ended after the band placed 11th at regional competition in October, which kept East students from advancing to the semistate round, band director David Rodgers said.

The East band then moved on to the Mid-State Band Association competition in Mason, Ohio, in November, but failed to make the final round, a result that was unusual for the Olympian Spirit, Rodgers said.

As the two bands prepare for their 2016 seasons, which will kick off later this month, the band directors said they are hopeful the unique show concepts they have developed for the upcoming season will set them apart from the rest of the competition.

This year, Sound of North is preparing a performance that will be known as “Slither.” As the name implies, Burton said the show will be designed to elicit the imagery of snakes in the audience’s mind.

Caleb Abscire, a sophomore Sound of North member, said “Slither” is noticeably different than other marching band shows he has seen because of its free-flowing movements meant to mimic those of a snake. Most bands march in a very structured, defined pattern, Abscire said, so “Slither” likely will stand out in the crowd.

Marcus Murray, a North senior, said he has marched with Sound of North all through his high school career, and “Slither” is one of the most unique shows he has ever been in. With its engaging music and unconventional visuals, Murray said he thinks the show has what it takes to get the band into the state finals later this year.

Across town at East, Olympian Spirit’s show, “Pyramidion,” is meant to take audiences back to the days of ancient Egypt.

Pyramidion is a word used to describe the capstone that was placed on top of the ancient Egyptian pyramids when they were built thousands of years ago, Rodgers said, so the performance by the same name is designed to show the process of the pyramids being built.

The East band director said part of the reason last year’s performance did not advance to the final rounds of competition was because the band received poor scores for its visual elements. So this year, Rodgers said he has been working with the school’s color guard to find ways to make judges feel as though they have traveled back in time to the days of pharaohs and pyramids.

Last year’s show followed a specific storyline, which put some limits on how the guard could visually tell that story, said Haley Hazard, a senior East color guard member. But this year, Hazard said the show is less about telling a story and more about highlighting the Egyptian culture, which allows the guard members to be more creative with their portion of the performance.

For example, Rodgers said “Pyramidion” will feature 10-, 15- and 20-feet pyramids on the field during the band’s performance. Those types of elements likely will help Olympian Spirit earn higher scores for visuals this year, Hazard said.

Students in both bands worked through the summer months to hone their marching skills and begin putting their shows together.

The extreme heat and high humidity levels that plagued all of Columbus during the summer months made the annual band camps at both schools more difficult this year, the band directors and students said.

Sound of North’s two-week band camp ran from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. one week and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. the next, while Olympian Spirit held a one-week camp from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. right before the beginning of the school year.

During East’s camp, Rodgers said he tried to constantly remind his students to stay hydrated to help protect them from the negative effects of nearly triple-digit temperatures. No students ever became seriously ill because of the heat, but the band director said a few did have to step inside during practice to get away from the sun and help their bodies return to a normal temperature.

Heavy storms forced some of North’s rehearsals indoors, Abscire said, which caused delays in the band’s progress of putting its show together.

Both bands are currently finishing the first portions of their shows and are beginning to move on to the middle of their performances.

As musicians at both schools prepare for the upcoming season, Burton said his only goal is for his students to put on the best performance they possibly can. The judging process is largely subjective, he said, so many elements of the scoring process are out of the band’s control.

Like “Slither,” Rodgers said “Pyramidion” is a unique show, so Olympian Spirit will have to wait and see how the judges respond to the band’s concept. If the judges take to it, the East band director said he thinks his students could qualify for the finals this year and even earn a spot among the top five finishers.

Both bands will unveil their shows at the first home football games of the season for each school on Aug. 19, then will open their competition seasons at the Sound of North Invitational on Sept. 10 at Columbus North.

Upcoming performances

Sound of North

Thursday-Saturday: Drum Corps International at Lucas Oil Stadium

Aug. 19: Home football game

Aug. 26: North-East rivalry game at North

Sept. 9: Home football game

Sept. 10: Sound of North Invitational at North

Columbus East Olympian Spirit

Aug. 19: Home football game

Aug. 26: North-East rivalry game at North

Sept. 2: Home football game

Sept. 9: Home football game

Sept. 10: Sound of North Invitational at North

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.