For DeAnna Uranga, a Canyon del Oro High School senior, playing in the school band is just as much a diet tool for her as it is a way to express her musical talent.
"If I wasn't in band, I would probably be sitting around gaining 20 pounds," said Uranga, one of the band's two drum majors.
Her co-drum major Stacey Garcia had a more difficult time imagining what her life would be like if she didn't have band to go to every day.
"Life without band? I guess I would just be sitting around doing nothing," she said.
Garcia said she used to classify herself as very shy, but said band has offered her more opportunities to open up.
"It's definitely made me more outgoing," she said. "I probably wouldn't have as many friends if I weren't in band."
Uranga will be one of two drum majors leading the 58 band students in song during this year's marching show, under the direction of Darrell Prochaska.
The band is relatively small for a school of CDO's size, with a student population exceeding 2,000.
Prochaska said he's not sure why more students aren't interested in joining band, but said he is trying to recruit more members.
He said his program is unique because of his "bad jokes" and because "we definitely have the best group of kids."
"Whenever we're at a competition, everyone always tells us what upper-class citizens they are," he said.
However, despite the great group of kids, Prochaska said last year's season wasn't as good as he felt the kids deserved it to be.
"We survived," he said.
"Surviving" meant trips to several band days, where students were able to perform their marching shows before judges for a rating, and, during concert season, more competitions.
Prochaska said if bands don't consist of more than 100 members, they're usually not taken seriously by judges compared to other high school bands, whose numbers can reach up to 200 or more.
But he added that competition can offer students a sense of personal accomplishment, no matter how well the band does as a whole.
"Getting the blue ribbon is not always the measure of success," Prochaska said. "Sometimes, it's a lot more than that."
However, Prochaska said he would of course like to see the band get the recognition it deserves. This year's marching show will consist of songs made famous by Henry Mancini and his orchestra.
To prepare for its season, the students will be going to band camp in Thatcher at $150 a head.
To help cover the costs, Prochaska said the students raise about $10,000 a year in addition to the $2,000 allotted to him by the district.
Prochaska said what his students get most out of being in band is the feeling of working hard at something and a sense of family.
"You really learn about social skills, about what your job is to do," Prochaska said. "Hopefully, we instill some of that good work ethic."
Students also get the opportunity to take on leadership roles, which can help them as they move on to their future careers, or even just in daily high school life.
Uranga and Garcia often take on greater responsibility than conducting the band on the field.
"We have to deal with conflict sometimes between people in the band," Uranga said. "That can sometimes help me deal with conflict with my friends."
In choir, on the other hand, it's usually Director Kenne Adams who is the mediator when conflicts happen, but that is very rare.
"I hardly ever have discipline problems," he said.
Usually, Adams said he tries to have a careful balance of fun and focus.
"Yes, I like to joke and have fun, but I'm not paid to be your friend. They tend to respect that," he said. "If we need to take a day off to discuss something that's going on in their lives, we'll do it, but then the next day they know that they need to work twice as hard."
Adams directs the concert choir, the show choir Sound Express and Canyon Singers, one of the most respected choirs in the state and also one of the most exclusive with only 20 members. In all, Adams said he has about 60 students.
"I have a lot of kids who say they've dreamt of being a Canyon Singer since third grade," he said. "That's their drive. And since they're practicing for their individual purposes, it makes the group better."
Colin Robeson, a senior and member of Canyon Singers, didn't have that dream.
He had spent much of his pre-high school days belonging to various local choirs, but didn't join the choir at CDO until the second semester of his freshman year because of a negative choir experience in middle school.
But after going to some Canyon Singer performances, he knew he had to join.
"I really just like to perform," he said. "I like to work on something really hard and then go out and show the world."
That kind of mentality, which Adams said seems to exist in most of his singers, also led to some national recognition. At the Heritage Festival, a concert competition in Los Angeles held annually, the concert choir and Canyon Singers received the Gold Award, the highest award a choir can get. That led to a performance in the Gold Festival, a competition between all of the choirs in the country earning the Gold Award, where the choirs did very well, Adams said.
"When they went out and saw how they ranked nationally, it charged them up," he said. "They were really excited and happy and they know that what they're doing, they're doing well. That can only help them."
In order to pay for the trips and other necessities throughout the year, Adams said the choir has had to do some "amazing" fundraising, which generated about $10,000 in extra money last year, in addition to the $2,000 he gets from the district.
And ultimately, Adams said, its up to the students to decide how much they want to practice and how well they want to do.
"In the end, I'm just the guy standing up there waving my arms," he said.
Hilary Jones-Wujcik also leaves it up to the students to decide how well they want to do.
"If they get to be better than me, then I'm happy," she said. "That's my goal."
Jones-Wujcik is in her 24th year of teaching visual arts at CDO. She has seen her students succeed in art both personally and professionally.
Just this summer, for the second year in a row, one of her students won the Congressional Arts Competition, earning her, her family and Jones-Wujcik a free trip to Washington, D.C. for the unveiling of her artwork in the Capitol building.
"It was so exciting. I just couldn't believe it," she said.
She also had two students place first and third in the Arizona Watercolor Guild for work they did in her class, earning one student $1,000 and the other $800.
She said both the students' ambition and some gentle encouragement on her part accounts for the success her students see.
"Part of it is the willingness to enter, the willingness to bring the student's work to the competition," she said. "The other part is the willingness to encourage students to create work that we can put in competition and let them know that if they don't win the competition that they're not a bad artist and if they do win, that's just a perk."
Some of her students, totaling about 200 each year, are so enthusiastic about her class, they say it's the only reason they come to school.
"They tell me it's the only reason they get up in the morning," she said.
Evan Gyllenhaal, one of Jones-Wujcik's advanced studio art students, describes himself as an "all-around student," enjoying everything from math to art.
But he also said what he gets out of Jones-Wujcik's art class, he can't get anywhere else.
"It really nurtures creativity," he said. "It helps me to experiment and take risks, not just with art, but also in subjects like English, where you also have to be creative sometimes."
Students do have to pay a $32 fee to be in one of her classes, which consist of beginning two-dimensional art, advanced studio art and advanced placement art history. She added that the budget allotted to her by the district is only about $500.
Jones-Wujcik, who said she likes teaching because of all of the creativity she sees in her students every day, said she tries to convince every one of her students that they have some sort of artistic talent.
"I think anyone can learn how to draw," she said. "Just because you can't draw a straight line doesn't mean you're not an artist. If I can just keep them excited about doing it, then they'll see how much better they can become."
CDO also has an extensive drama program, but all drama teachers were on vac