Marching Band adapts to practice during the pandemic

Ally Guo | Staff Writer

Marching band members await instruction in masks, staying a safe distance away from others.

Flags spinning, horns blaring, the marching band surges onward in spite of a pandemic.

On July 14, Mason High School’s marching band began its summer practice. Numerous health and safety precautions had been put in place to ensure the safety of the band members, based on guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

MHS Director of Bands Ed Protzman said that before in-person practice could begin at the school, the marching band had to submit a plan to be approved by the Warren County Health District and the school, outlining the safety precautions that would be put into place.

“In the past for summer marching band everybody would show up at once and just come into the school,” Protzman said. “This year every student, as they were arriving, would go through a line in their car. We would take their temperature and ask them if they have had any symptoms or if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19. We also staggered our arrival times so that all 250 kids didn’t show up at once.”

Other precautions include separating the students into several locations; wearing face masks, except when playing certain instruments; using face shields; using hand sanitizer; and maintaining a distance of six feet between individuals.

According to Protzman, the band department felt the need to go overboard with precautions in order to ensure the safety of students and staff and to allow the marching band to continue.

“We were not required to take temperatures every day,” Protzman said. “If you read the health department guidelines, students were supposed to do that at home, but we felt like we wanted to overdo everything.”

Senior saxophone section leader Ryan Weckstein said that he felt confident in the marching band’s ability to maintain safety during these times and believes its safe practices will continue into the future.

“Marching band has one of the best tight-knit communities, and everyone is all in it together,” Weckstein said. “The band staff and directors have told us what to do, and we’ve done such a good job in the past month, I don’t think it’s going to change in the future.”

Protzman said that despite initial worries about how the relationships between students would be impacted by social distancing, he was impressed by how well the students have obeyed safety instructions while still maintaining strong bonds.

“We were worried at first that [social distancing] was going to cause a negative impact,” Protzman said. “But we have found that because everybody was away for so long, everyone’s really happy to be here. Because there’s been a lot of things canceled and we’ve had to plan new things in place, we really developed a sense of camaraderie and a desire to achieve together so it actually in a way has made it a little bit tighter of a group.”

Though this camaraderie was not able to be created in a traditional band camp experience,  freshman baritone player Lydia Lysko said that she still felt extremely welcomed and close to the others in her section.

“The baritone section was so welcoming and we’re already all best friends and we just love hanging out with each other,” Lysko said. “They’re all so nice and they do the best they can to help everyone, and it’s really become like a second family to me.”

While the overall dynamic of marching band has not changed, there have been some negative consequences as a result of COVID-19. Most disappointing to many students, according to junior clarinet section leader Krish Shah, was the many events that were canceled.

“Usually we would have this really big Grand Nationals tournament held in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil [Stadium],” Shah said. “And while this year we are going there, it’s not going to be a full competition; it’s just going to be us at Lucas Oil doing a showcase… That kind of takes away from working hard all throughout the year, and while there is still pay off this year, I feel like there’s greater pay off in going to Grand Nationals.”

These canceled events hit the freshmen and seniors especially harshly, as the freshmen have yet to experience a major performance and the seniors have just lost some of their last events. To combat this, the band directors worked hard to find new opportunities for the students.

“On September 17, we’re going to have to have our performance at the high school, just for us,” Weckstein said. “October 10, we’re still doing our Mason Invitational just like normal with other bands and there will be some cool festivities. We lost some amazing opportunities that we used to do every year, but we’re gaining a lot of awesome opportunities this year as well.”

There are also plans to rent out a big venue, such as a stadium, for a couple hours to do a final performance of the year.

Despite all the challenges that the marching band has experienced this year, its members have been working hard to make this season the best it can be and are eager to be a part of this amazing community.

“We all want to participate in marching band–that’s why we signed up in the first place,” Lysko said. “It’s just unfortunate that COVID had to happen during our season, but everyone is really just trying to do their best that they can to make sure that we can have an enjoyable season, even though all the challenges that we’ve had.”

Photos by Evelina Gaivoronskaia