In a Brownwood High School parking lot one recent morning, the scene was nearly hypnotic as band director David Lambert called out a cadence of commands through a megaphone.

“Hip switch hip … ready front ready … forward march forward … “

Band students, marching in formation, holding their hands near their heads to simulate holding instruments, counted aloud as they maneuvered like a military column. 

“One-two-three-four …”

Occasionally a student dropped out of the formation and joined a group of band members who watched from the sidelines.

This was a competition that has concluded the band’s outdoor marching practice, which began Monday. In the competition, any marcher who flubbed up as Lambert called commands came to the sidelines. The formation of marchers grew smaller as the group of sidelined band members — who shouted out encouragement to the remaining marchers — grew larger.

The last marcher remaining would win that morning’s competition.

***

The husband-and-wife duo of David and Lesley Lambert are beginning their seventh season as director and assistant director of bands, respectively.

The band is in the midst of summer band camp — the equivalent of two-a-days — as the Lamberts and recently hired assistant band directors Josh Carroll and MaryAnn Spurlock prepare the band for the new school year.

With 140 in the band, it’s the largest since the Lamberts arrived. David Lambert said the band had 80 members his first year.

Seniors Laurel Kate Glass, Tanner Scull and Britlynn Bitters are returning as drum majors.

Lambert said last year’s concert band advanced to a state competition called Texas Music Educators Association Honor Band and finished in 13th place. Lambert said he thinks this was the first time a Brownwood band advanced to state in that competition. “We were extremely happy and excited about being at state,” Lambert said, adding the band will work hard to finish higher in future competition.

“It’s going to be a great group of kids,” Lambert said as the band prepared to resume drills after a water break.

***

“Left face left face … backward march backward … slide left slide,” Lambert called out through the megaphone in a nearly non-stop rhythm.

“One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight …” the remaining marchers chanted.

“Turn about left … mark time mark … backward march backward … slide left slide.”

Lambert halted the marchers occasionally and turned his attention to the band members relegated to the sidelines. “Who’s gonna win it? Who’s gonna win it? Give ’em some love, come on! Who’s gonna win it?”

The sidelined band members responded with shouts directed at the remaining marchers.

***

In addition to the leadership from the band directors and drum majors, it is a student-led band as section leaders give instructions, touching band members lightly on their arms and shoulders as they guide them through movements.

“Don’t be scared of something that looks hard,” section leader Luke Morris, a junior trumpet player, called out to a group of band members. “Take it as a challenge.”

Instructing the entire band, Lambert gave a brief geometry lesson as he explained the angles —45 degrees and 90 degrees — that the band members’ body parts needed to form.

“I studied my math last night,” Lambert said.

***

“All right! It’s the battle of the classes,” Lambert said through the megaphone as he looked over the remaining four students in the competition — a senior, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman.

“Left flank left … right flank right … To the rear march rear … double left double … triple right triple … double left double … triple rear triple … double left double … double left double …”

At that cadence, the marchers — continuing to count as they maneuvered — rarely took more than a couple of consecutive steps before pivoting in a different direction.

One marcher remained: senior Kaytlin Welch, a trombone player and color guard captain.

“Band halt band,” Lambert said, addressing the champion of that morning’s competition. “Congratulations. Very good.”

***

The outdoor marching portion of the day was over, and Lambert dismissed most of the band to get breakfast before assembling in the band hall to play some music.

Lambert called the large group of freshmen band members to gather around him.

“You’re marching great,” Lambert told the freshmen. “Do you like the way the band sounds? Isn’t it cool? I’m very proud of you all.”