August means one thing for many teens around the county.
Whether for one, two or three weeks, band camp includes full days of learning music, marching drills and putting the two together. It is also a time of camaraderie, traditions and fun that carries the band and its members through the football and competition season.
Early on a Tuesday morning at Francis Scott Key High School, students in the band's color guard were handed briefcases to learn to toss to music.
"The idea is, we're the bad guys and we steal the case with the important secret mission," said Keri Roberson, the color guard instructor, to three youth as they practiced twirling the cases to mixed cries of "Ow."
"I like that we have props," said Carly Gabriel, 15, as she examined her case.
This year, the band's show has a spy theme, according to Bill Duffy, band director. The 50-member band is the largest since his arrival at Key eight years ago.
"When I came, there were 14 members," Duffy said. "We've been growing every year."
It is also a young band, Duffy said, with many underclassmen.
"For a lot of the kids, it is really learning to do a lot of different things at once, like playing your instrument while moving your feet," Duffy said. "It's multi-tasking."
"It's very difficult for new students," agreed Lisa Castellano, band director for Manchester Valley High School. "On the pavement for eight hours, on the blacktop, it's hot. It's a long day. It's very challenging."
Manchester Valley's marching band grew from 26 members last year to 45 members this year, according to Castellano, though there is no color guard. Despite its growth, the band is not doing competitions this year but will continue its practice of traveling to away football games to play in the stands. Its band camp prepares members for pregame and halftime shows at home football games.
"We're doing a super hero theme this year," Castellano said, of the half-time show.
To keep things fun during band camp, each day has a theme, such as "Tropical Tuesday" and "Throwback Thursday." A water balloon fight is also a tradition.
At Key, Duffy started music rehearsals the week after school let out for summer vacation. Once a week, members meet to go over the music.
During band camp, the music comes together with the marching.
"It's five months of work," said Jake Gabriele, 16, a senior and one of two drum majors for the band.
"It's nice to be the leader and set the example," Gabriele said. "I'm really excited about doing it. It's a good show."
Senior Travis Copenhaven, 17, is the other drum major. He was busy filling up water balloons for an afternoon break.
"I don't know how many I've done," he said, looking into the bucket.