“Check and Adjust” a film by Lee Camhi
This article was originally published in 2014.
By: Sharon Aron Baron
With just a a couple of cameras and a borrowed computer, Lee Camhi set out to tell the story of his daughter’s high school band. However, the story didn’t have an ending. But he knew that if he kept filming, something inspiring would happen.
It was all by accident that Camhi made the documentary “Check and Adjust” the story of the JP Taravella High School marching band. Camhi, a Fedex employee and 22-year resident of Springs Lake Villas in Tamarac, had a daughter starting marching band her freshman year at the school.
While attending a parent meeting at the Coral Springs high school, parents were asked what services they could volunteer to help the band. Camhi had done freelance video work before, so he volunteered to make a behind-the-scenes video so the students could eventually sell it as a fundraiser.
“This was just a simple, fun little volunteer project that turned into a year-long labor of love,” said Camhi.
Camhi’s daughter had been in band at Ramblewood Middle School, which he said had a great music program as well as a marching band. But nothing prepared him for the big leagues of the JP Taravella High School marching band led by Band Director Cheldon Williams, with all of the costumes, equipment, trucks, props, and the large amount of students involved.
Band camp bagan and Camhi started filming. The band’s first competitions weren’t all that great he said. The other schools seemed to be much better. But everyone kept soldiering ahead, and he kept filming.
Halfway through the competitions he said that things started clicking, and the show started looking better and sounding better. The band was even more confident and they soon became grand champions after a competition in Naples.
This was the third year for the seniors in marching band who were trying to get to the Florida Marching Band Coalition (FMBC) state competition, a one day competition held in the Tropicana Dome in St. Petersburg.
“This was the last shot for the the seniors, so there was a lot of pressure on themselves,” said Camhi. “It wasn’t coming from anyone else. They’re really self-driven.”
Taravella band is a 5A – the biggest class which is measured by the number of wind instruments. For instance, a 1A band would have 1-28 winds and a class 5A would have 81 or more winds. During the state competition, they take the top five of each class, so there are 25 bands playing at the Tropicana Dome. All of this happens in the course of one day.
“There were 81 bands that qualified for semifinals and nine in Taravella’s division.”
After competing, Taravella won a spot in the finals.
“They had more fun during their final show than the semifinals because they knew they were in,” said Camhi.
Because of contractual agreements with other companies filming the event, Camhi wasn’t allowed to film the final performance at the state competition, so he had a big hole in the story. This allowed him to stand back and watch the show instead of being behind a camera.
“The roar in the stadium, when they finished was overwhelming. It was tremendous. I had a few tears in my eyes as it was really emotional. I just felt good for the team.”
But afterwards, when the band learned they had placed second in the finals, he started filming again. “When I saw the celebration, that’s when I knew I had a movie. No more behind the scenes. This was now a movie; a story that had to get out.”
“When it came to editing, I could have done a simple behind-the-scenes, but I knew there was a really good, inspirational story here and you don’t have to like marching band to like this.”
Camhi said that the people that have seen the documentary are already a captive audience, so of course they probably loved it, however, no one outside of Taravella has seen it.
“Mr Williams, the band director, actually uses it as a recruiting tool. He showed it to the middle school band students last year to get them psyched up for high school.”
He said that all of the proceeds for the movie go towards the band. He said that it costs $300,000 a year to run the band program because JP Taravella has no stadium and every home game is an away game and trucks have to be loaded. On top of that, uniforms have to be purchased and props have to be designed and created.
“It’s an insane amount of money. Each student in the marching band pays $675 for year. The students in color guard pay more as their competition season begins after marching season so they have to pay again for that,” added Camhi. “They also hold fundraisers by having car washes, gift wrapping, and restaurants chip in by donating a portion of earnings.”
He said that to make sure that students are committed to band, they have to sign a contract at the beginning of every season, basically agreeing that band comes first.
In light of all the negativity surrounding some of the local high schools, Camhi wants people to know that these are good kids.
“They work hard and they are the ones that should be on the news. These are the kids that should be out there, and this is the story that should be told.”