Tuning in: marching band’s pandemic practice precautions

Sophie Yang, Staff Writer

As you pass by the beloved ETHS school building, feeling the cool fall breeze and seeing the beautiful leaves change colors, you may just hear the melodic sounds of the ETHS marching band hard at work. While students will miss the pregame music, fight songs and halftime performances, marching band practices have returned; the space remaining a haven for students to express themselves through music.

“Our group really complied with all of the necessary rules out of an abundance of caution and respect for each other. We are so proud that our students got to experience some marching band traditions and routines so that we can reboot a lot easier next season,” Band Director Matthew Bufis says.

ETHS marching band returned to in-person rehearsals in August, with each section of instruments practicing in-person at the same time for one hour every week. Although there are no performances, the band has taken extra precautions during practice.

“Some band parents made special playing masks with a slit in the middle so we can put our mouthpieces in our mouths without having to take off our masks. We also have bell covers so that there is less air coming out,” senior saxophone player Joanie Daye explains.

Students must participate in a daily self-certification COVID-19 screening, temperature checks and social distancing guidelines. While bands like the wind symphony still practice virtually, the over 140 person marching band rehearses one hour every week. With this number, each section of instruments practices with each other, instead of the whole band all together.

A spirit team was created to run fun activities outside of rehearsals.

Daye leads the spirit team, trying to remain positive.

“We’re trying to get people hyped and involved. [Spirit team] has definitely been the best part for me.” Daye says.

Usually, over the summer, marching band participates in a two-week intensive summer camp in southern Illinois. While this year summer looked a little different, students were not able to travel, they still participated in socially distanced practice every day, but only learned one movement of the piece they normally would’ve played.

“At first, it was difficult to get used to, but now, it’s really become routine. I’m really grateful to be able to play at all,” sophomore Katie Drew says.

Continuing musical education as well as standard school is necessary throughout the pandemic, but playing certain instruments poses a risk of COVID-19 transmission. In particular, playing wind instruments increases aerosol production, which can spread a virus. However, the marching band has remained careful throughout their time practicing.

“We cut the group up into seven groups of less than 25, and wrote our drill to be seven-and-a-half feet apart instead of the recommended six feet,” Bufis explains.

With sacrifices that had to be made to ensure safety, the transition to socially distanced practice was not easy. Typically in the past, upperclassmen have taken underclassmen under their wing to help guide and mentor them throughout the year. This has proved to be challenging with the changes made because of COVID-19, yet, although it has changed, students are finding ways to continue mentoring with an upbeat attitude.