Mason Band bursts COVID bubble for performance of the year

Meghan Dincler | Online Editor

Mason Band performs final production at Lucas Oil Stadium

It might have been their most satisfying performance of the year, but it was only witnessed by a handful of parents and 67,000 empty seats. 

That was the reality for the Mason Marching Band’s final performance at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on October 24. Due to their inability to perform at competitions this season as an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the band and guard worked hard and made their own personal sacrifices to be able to have a final performance.  

In order to perform, Color Guard captain, Junior Dayna Pinsky, had to adjust her leadership style and even chose to self quarantine in order to participate in the season ending performance.  

“I did the voluntary quarantine because I felt that this experience was too unique to miss, and from a leadership standpoint I did want to be there,” Pinsky said. “In addition to the self quarantine, I chose to ride in the car up to Indy rather than the bus, because I felt it was just safer in general.”

With the cancellation of numerous competitions this fall, Mason High School Band Director Ed Protzman and fellow band leaders were dedicated to ensuring that the band had at least one event to strive for by the end of the season.

“We really felt like if we didn’t have a goal, it would be hard to keep going at a certain rate.” Protzman said. “We also felt that if our freshmen and seniors didn’t get that experience this year that would be a true loss in the four-year scope of their band participation. And we also just wanted to reward everybody because they were working so hard, and they earned something really great.”

Due to the lack of normalcy this season, it was easy for band members to get disheartened. Pinsky believed it was deeply important for them to still work towards a performance in Indianapolis, especially after so long of not knowing what exactly they were going to be able to do.

“I noticed a large change in the attitude of the team,” Pinsky said. “When we eventually found out about our Lucas Oil showcase, I think the entire band, not just the guard, realized how special this opportunity was and that we really did need to put in work to stay up to par with what we had done in past years.” 

Color guard members weren’t the only ones who felt the unique team bond that was developed as a result of the crisis created by Covid. Saxophone section leader Spencer Cannon felt the trials of the season brought the team together and improved their connection as a team. 

“With my experience being a senior I felt more connected to my freshmen than I did with the seniors my freshman year even though our time together was shorter,” Cannon said. “I believe that through the struggles of COVID we were able to gain a better understanding of each other and got to know more about each other.”

Plans could be solid one day and completely change the next, leading to complication amongst the band leaders. A lack of concrete information greatly contributed to the strange atmosphere of the season. 

“Indiana was actually under travel advisory from Ohio two weeks before we left.” Protzman said. “We were thinking we were going to have to potentially cancel, and then the Wednesday before we left they came off the list and we were able to go.”

Preparing for the showcase required not only careful financial planning, but also travel accommodations that adhered to safety protocols required by Mason City Schools, the state of Ohio, and Indiana health officials. Mindy Patton, the band’s Travel Director, had the daunting task of financing 240 band participants, as well as parent volunteers and staff members while also adhering to the strict requirements for interstate travel during the COVID pandemic. 

“We had a lot of safety protocols in place, and as soon as they canceled the competitions we reached out to Lucas Oil Stadium to see if they’d be willing to work directly with us.” Patton said. “They were very receptive to doing so… if we were able to keep everybody healthy and involved and engaged with rehearsal.”

With everything this year being very up in the air, Patton had to be prepared for things to change very quickly. Despite the current protocols making their efforts already complicated, Patton continued to push for even more drastic measures to ensure that they  had done everything possible to make the Indianapolis showcase possible. 

“When recommendations changed, we really looked at our busing situation- we did provide busing but we reduced our density to half, so every student had an empty seat- that meant a lot more people drove their own students,” Patton said. “We bought KN95 masks for everyone to wear on the bus, and we made sure we had good protocols with safety.”

Even through all of the challenges, Pinsky said that she felt a tremendous pay-off for the members of the band and guard. She was uplifted by the community’s support and ability to come together and provide help where it was needed in order  to be able to create this special experience even in a very strange season.

“Without the support of our community and administration working with the directors to make nearly any of this season happen, we wouldn’t have gotten the many opportunities we did, and a season at the very least,” Pinsky said. “The hard work that was put into making sure our band had a season this year increased my respect and appreciation for this program even more than it already was. It was just so easy to see this year compared to others how passionate people are about this program, and the measures they are willing to take to keep it alive.”

Photo contributed by Mason Bands