Chris Barbaro is still full of surprises.
For the first time we can remember, the Amherst Marching Comets band director told his young students to stop marching.
“It’s too hot out here,” he said through a megaphone early in band camp as humidity pushed the heat index through the roof. “I’ve always said if I wouldn’t do it, I’m not going to make you do it. So no marching today.”
Steele High musicians have been downing three gallons of water a day to stay hydrated in 90-degree heat, which has taken a toll. Some kids have gotten sick and even fainted in drills preparing for the start of the fall season.
Barbaro said that was a danger signal he couldn’t ignore.
Moving ahead with practices cautiously has put the Amherst band behind pace. So has a large freshman influx to the 135-member group.
But Barbaro isn’t down. He grew animated Friday talking about the complex, steampunk-themed “Enginuity” show his teens have been practicing.
There’s a term that may bear some explanation — steampunk is a fiction genre that depicts a fantastic world where steam technology is king rather than electronics. It often takes on a 19th century feel with gears, sprockets, pipes, airships, and locomotion.
In this case, the Marching Comets have crafted a giant set piece resembling an old fashioned clock. Through their competitive show they’ll assemble the clock on the field while playing until it spews forth steam and the hands move ‘round its face. Instrumentalists will wear goggles and their uniforms will be adorned with cogs.
“We’re going all out,” Barbaro grinned.
Other music planned for the season includes “Aztec Fire,” “Born This Way,” “Little Bitty Pretty One,” the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back,” “Every Time We Touch,” and a medley of songs from Disney’s “Frozen.”
That last selection will be perfect when the band performs this March at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Karen Haberbusch steps in time during the Amherst Marching Comets’ camp Friday.