At the start of the pandemic, everything was shut down and students were forced to learn from home. Sporting Events, Concerts, Proms, and Graduations were all canceled or postponed. This crushed many students who were unable to finish out their Senior year, sports season, or indoor marching season. The pandemic also led to WGI canceling the rest of their season, followed by DCI and BOA to cancel their 2020 season. This led Band Staff and students to wonder, What would their Fall Marching Season look like? Will there be school come August? Would we be able to march a competitive show this Fall? What about marching contests and assessments?
On May 21st, 2020, Governor Asa Hutchinson released the state’s directive for community and school sponsored sports teams. In this directive, he addressed when school sports teams could return to practice and how those practices should look. This directive also included the practice guidelines for Marching Band. Regarding Marching Bands, the directive stated, “This directive allows bands to practice marching and the use of non-wind instruments. However, due to the potential for increased production of respiratory droplets in wind instruments, they should not be used at this time.” The guidelines went into effect on June 1st, 2020.
It was not until August 14th, 2020 that band programs were given the go ahead to start practicing with wind instruments. Students were required to maintain 6ft of distance between each other, cover the bell or other parts of their instrument, and wear a face covering with a cut in it to play. Bands and other groups were not allowed to travel to away games and perform. These mandates were encouraging for the sport but would lead to a different school year and band experience.
Throughout the school year, students and staff face many challenges. In light of the pandemic, students were allowed to choose to go to school or learn virtually from home. But those students who chose to be virtual were not allowed to participate in extracurricular activities per the AAA. This led to small band numbers in every band program, which affected the smaller band programs dramatically. On top of smaller band size, when students were quarantined for 14 days, directors and students had to work and rework the show to catch those students up.
Many normal school activities were cancelled or altered due to the pandemic. Inside and outside pep rallies were cancelled to prevent any unnecessary close contact for students. Band trips to games and end of the year trips were cancelled, which students lose quality time and memory making moments with their friends. Students were also worried about their friends getting quarantined or sick throughout the school year. Marching contests were not held with the unknown of whether programs would be able to attend on the day of the contest or because of concerns from school administrations. Region Marching Assessment was held at each school’s campus instead of at a single location. All Region and All-State Tryouts were held virtually and there were no clinics held for students to attend.
As for concert band, students still have to be spread out inside, have their instruments covered, and be masked. This provided a much harder challenge for the larger bands to perform and hold practices. This year, concert assessments will be held virtually instead of in a school’s Performing Arts Center. Students and staff have struggled with students being quarantined and not being able to practice at school.
With everything that has happened to these students this past school year, band has been their rock through it all. It gives students a distraction to take you mind off things. Band has provided these students an escape and safe area from the stress of the pandemic. It has shown students that they are a part of something bigger than themselves and that they are not alone. Band is an outlet for students to get away from their individual struggles. Students’ relationships within their band families have strengthened during the pandemic.