Collegiate Marching Band under COVID-19

If you are not a student at the University of Akron, you may not know that the university is executing a hybrid semester. This means that classes are a combination of online and in-person. The Mid-American Conference (MAC) our football team is in also canceled this season of fall sports, so marching band became very interesting, very fast. We went from band as usual, to shortened band camp, to no band camp, to no band, then back to band on an online format, and finally, we are at where we are today: hybrid band. We meet once a week on campus with masks, social distancing and no playing of instruments. The other two days, Thursday and Friday, are designated for turning in videos of music and fundamentals, and potential section bonding that fits the university’s guidelines.

Marching band is one of the biggest aspects of my life. Even though I’m a Geology major and considering switching my major to Biology to pursue Wildlife Biology or middle-level education with a dual certificate in English and science, I am very passionate about music. The thing holding me back from not becoming a band director is playing in front of people because I can not do that. In the past, solos would sometimes go well during rehearsal, but once it comes during the performance, my tone and pitch go out the door. I have been marching for six years now, and the restrictions due to COVID-19 are taking some of the special qualities out of it. 

three girls during golden hour Photo by Simon Maage from Unsplash

Bonding is a major component that has changed. Usually, we are all able to bond during the week of band camp and become great friends. This year, we didn’t meet each other until the first rehearsal after the semester had started, and we have only seen each other twice since then. In the time it takes to prepare for the season, we make memories, have a good time and make great music. Originally, we planned to have bell covers (masks for our instruments) for the games, but then the conference canceled this season of football. Grades haven’t been figured out yet, on my end anyway. In the past, we would get points for attending performances and rehearsals. Now that we can’t play together, I have no idea how we are getting graded, but I’m sure we will figure it out soon because, at the end of the day, this is a class. When considering the music itself, we are practicing at home and are submitting videos of us playing to our section/music leaders, and then they provide us with feedback. The same goes with our fundamentals. 

In the end, I hope next year is normal, and we get to have our traditions back. They are so simple, yet so important, and I miss them a lot. One is always singing the alma mater together before every performance which quickly became my favorite part of my college experience. If you’re a freshman in college this year that did high school marching band and aren’t doing marching band this year, please do it next year. You won’t regret it.