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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.”