Getting the band back together

After a year on the sidelines, marching band resumes their halftime performances


photo by Makenna Blonshine

The saxophones and trombones play during the Winter Springs half time. On Sept. 10, the group played Queen songs “Don’t Stop Me Now” and “Fat Bottomed Girls”.

The beat of the drumline, energy from the trumpets and flow of the marching band as they covered Queen song “Don’t Stop Me Now” excited the crowd for their return to Friday night lights. However, as last year’s COVID-19 outbreaks posed a great risk, the marching band’s performances had to be put on pause. After one year of standing on the sidelines instead of marching on the field, the band has now returned to the football games, showing their progress despite the disadvantage of having no season last year.

“We’re much further along this year than we have been in previous years, which is kind of weird considering the circumstances,” baritone section leader Zack Dayeh said. “Some of the stuff that we do have is still pretty sloppy, but we’re working on it.”

The band returned to Sam Momary Stadium on Sept. 10 for the varsity football game against Winter Springs. For seniors, this was their first time back on the field since their sophomore year, and many felt back at home.

“It was nice [getting to march again],” Dayeh said. “We didn’t get it last year and it’s our senior year, so we get to do it again before we leave.”

With returning members getting back into their normal routines, many parents also felt relieved as their students stepped back under the spotlight for the halftime performance, unlike last year’s remote concerts.

“As a parent, it was hard watching [him] sit in his room with his bandmates on Zoom screens, playing alone,” mother of drum major Braden Bast, Lisa Bast said. “These kids just want to perform, and they are back. They sound great, they are having a blast, and I must say more than a few tears were shed by parents when they marched onto that field for the first time in two years.”

However compelling their performance may have been, it takes the band all marching season to perfect their routines, so critiques were still seen by band members.

“I think we did well, but there’s still a lot to go,” trombone section leader Cade Rogers said. “That’s kind of natural this early, but I think it’s mostly just how consistent we practice as well.”

Although some band members may not have performed to their expectations, they still entertained the spectators with their rendition of Queen songs, including “Don’t Stop Me Now” and “Somebody to Love.” For sophomores who missed out on the opportunity to play at football games last year, they were grateful for the experience and proud of their performance.

“I think the sophomores did really good and the practices after school really paid off,” flutist Arielle Medina said. “It was very exciting marching, seeing all my friends in the stands and being a part of the marching band.”

Even though the marching band has come back to the field, COVID-19 still affects the program due to the group’s large size.

“We have to have more buses for away games because we are more spread out,” Bast said. “We even have to take pictures on the travel buses in case we need to contact-trace or prove who was sitting near whom and who had masks on.”

Despite the current struggles COVID-19 has presented the band, directors and students put in long hours to prepare for their return to marching season, including a two-week long summer camp to introduce new members to the program and set the group’s first movement of the halftime show. Clinics were set up for the different instruments and sections to practice on their own, and the groups came together to practice their drills from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We move very quickly during camp,” band director Brian Kuperman said. “It is required for all students to attend because we accomplish so much.” 

Although the band was able to have their summer clinics this year, last year’s concerns over COVID-19 led the directors to make a difficult decision.

“A lot was unknown about COVID. Daily cases were very high, and vaccines were not available,” Kuperman said. “All the directors were concerned about the safety of our students and their families, so we determined it was safest to not hold a normal band camp and have large groups of students meeting together for hours at a time.”

With last year’s concerns causing the directors to cancel the camp, the marching band was unable to cover the basics of marching and begin setting the halftime show, leading to the overall loss of marching band last 1 school year.

“A few weeks into the school year [2020-2021] we were approached by administration about performing at the home football games,” Kuperman said. “Our main concerns were all related to having enough space and being able to spread out.”

 Even though the band could not perform their marching show last year, they were still able to play at the home football games in a new location.

“We decided being down behind the endzone would allow us to spread out and not take up room in the stands for spectators to spread out,” Kuperman said.

During the 2020-2021 school year, the band directors worked to make playing as safe as possible for their students. They provided face masks with slits near the mouth, which allowed students to play their instrument without risking exposure. However, due to current SCPS policy, masks can no longer be enforced during outside activities or for students with opt out letters.

“We now highly encourage masks while in the stands when we are closer together,” Kuperman said. “Everyone receives a black surgical mask at the beginning of every game to look uniform.”

Wearing masks, spreading out and attaching cloth filters to the brass instruments made playing last year difficult for band members, even those with more experience. Although these policies have been put to rest, many still felt the repercussions of not having a true marching season last year.

“Half the people have never marched before since we didn’t have a show last year,” Dayeh said. “This means instead of one class not knowing what they’re doing, two classes didn’t know.”

With the whole program back in person, those who had marched previously were able to reconnect with their friends, directors and sections, while new members were able to find a family within the group.

“It is good to have the marching band part of our class back,” Kuperman said. “It helps build relationships between the students.”

Despite the social distancing, mask mandates and sideline performances of last year, the band has officially come back into full swing with the help of their band directors’ cautiousness. This gives many a greater understanding and respect as to how the halftime shows contribute to the football games and high school experience.

“I think all of us involved in band have a much greater appreciation this year. We loved it before, but now we know what it’s like not to have it,” Bast said. “My greatest appreciation, however, is for the band directors and how they kept those kids sane last year… they rose to the occasion to keep those kids engaged, give the parents concerts, and give those seniors a senior year.”