PICKERINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) – A summertime tradition returns for band members at Pickerington Central High School as students and staff come back together for band camp, which kicks off this week.

Students said they welcome the much-needed sense of normalcy at the camp this week.

The pandemic forced the Marching Tigers to modify its practices last year. Playing their instruments side by side in a traditional fashion is the right step toward a normal school year, the campers said.

From the woodwinds to the brass, band members feel grateful to be harmonizing together again.

“It’s kind of like a family in a sense, you know, and last year was kind of rough,” said senior tuba player Ryan Oulmet. “I felt bad for the seniors because they basically had their senior years robbed from them.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the band had to rearrange its rehearsal style to keep students and staff safe. Gov. Mike DeWine even featured both Pickerington bands virtual performances during on of his statewide coronavirus briefings.

“The virtual things were fun, and they were relevant for the situation that we’re in, but it was very impersonal,” said Pickerington band director Nathan Stowe.

Stowe said part of the goal of the camp this year will be to make band members and family oriented once again.

“It’s so important for us to get back together because we can do so much more and have a larger impact on student lives,” he said.

The camp not only offers students the chance to learn the fundamentals of their instruments, but it also sets the tone for the band’s performance throughout the coming year.

“I’ve very happy to be back to normal, basically, especially because of the younger underclassmen,” said senior head field commander Trinity Clark. “They really don’t know what’s going on.”

Members of the community often refer to the Marching Tigers ad the Pride of Pickerington, so student leaders said their standard of musical excellence starts this week with the return of a traditional band camp.

“The theme like this year is kind of like gratitude, be grateful for the opportunities that you get,” Oulmet said.

“Focusing and honing in on details that make the big picture that much more impactful,” Stowe added.

The students said the camp serves as the unofficial start to the school year. They have five weeks to perfect their music ahead of performing at football games starting in late August.