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August 4, 2011

Texas high school band discovers "their ULM"

Every summer, the Pine Tree High School Marching Band participates in a long-standing tradition.

Members leave their Longview, Texas, home for a week-long, pre-season camp that culminates with a competition intended to teach marching fundamentals and hone leadership skills.

In the past, the band – which calls itself "The Pride" - would stay at church camps or other rustic retreats.

But this year, band members discovered for the first time their ULM pride as they slept in the Commons II Dorm above Starbucks, ate meals at the Student Union Building, and enjoyed the benefit of top-notch band facilities.

They also had access to ULM music faculty members who offered their expertise during master classes and sectionals to prepare the students for their upcoming marching season.

"This is the first time our campus has hosted an event like this and so far it been tremendously successfully," said ULM Division of Music Head Derle Long.

"Our faculty have really stepped up to the plate to volunteer their time in working with these young band members, who all expressed their appreciation for the mentoring that was provided."

The highlight for the band was their SNAP competition Aug. 4 in Malone Stadium in which an estimated 50-100 proud parents and Pine Tree High School fans will make the trek to Monroe from Longview to witness the competition.

Pine Tree High School Band Director Mark Melton said he and the band's booster club members were wowed from their first visit to campus earlier this summer.

"We were so impressed; we were knocked out by the dorm and facilities," he said.

"And when we found out that President Bruno was in favor of us coming, it meant a lot."

The band members, which includes 143 freshmen to senior high school students, have a strenuous schedule that started at 6 a.m. for physical training and extended into the evening for debriefing sessions, all in preparation for a vigorous football season this fall.

Perhaps the best part of camp at ULM this year, according to Melton, has been the ability to use indoor facilities and escape the heat in the middle of the day.

"We wouldn't have been able to do half the things we've been doing if we had to hold camp outdoors the entire time," said Melton.

"I think fate brought us together and we're looking forward to developing a strong relationship with ULM in the future."

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