Competitive marching band returns to the area after the pandemic canceled the 2020 season

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Area marching bands are in the heart of their competition season and it has not been an easy road to return to the field.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the 2020 marching band competition season to be canceled. Carroll High School Band Director Doug Hassell says they did not find out until five days before band camp this was the case. The canceling of the competition season created a host of challenges and it took some ingenuity to reinvent the season. Hassell organized opportunities for the band to make music together and for the color guard to perform, but it just was not the same.

Bands were still able to submit a video recording of their music to judges with the Indiana State School Music Association (ISSMA). Members were seated in the gymnasium and were socially distanced. They still received feedback, but this virtual setting could not replace a traditional marching band competition.

This season, students have quickly readjusted to a normal season, as they have stayed fresh with their marching fundamentals. Students would still practice their basics, even though last season was canceled.

However, an unexpected challenge the band has faced is getting back into the routine and focus of rehearsals. The mental side has needed more retraining compared to the physical side. Students have also struggled with anxiety as a result of the pandemic. Hassell explains that students may still feel anxious about various circumstances surrounding the pandemic and it is difficult to pair that with an intense activity like marching band.

The weather has also provided an unexpected challenge. When the band is forced to move their practices indoors because of inclement weather, it presents a challenge with the current masking and distancing rules. This can put the band behind schedule.

Homestead High School Band Director Bryen Warfield considers this season to be a blessing. Warfield feels for the seniors who could not experience the traditional season last year. It was also difficult to keep students engaged and recruit members. The freshmen and sophomore classes both have not experienced a normal season, so it has made for a larger learning curve.

Warfield also says the students have learned how to adjust to quarantining rules after last season. Members are able to cover for absences rather seamlessly. However, Warfield stresses the evolving situation with the pandemic adds extra pressure, as the season could change or be shut down at a moment’s notice.

Both bands struggled after the Johnny Appleseed Festival was canceled last year. They had to cut back on staffing and the budget was tighter.

Ultimately, marching band is all about the kids. It is a chance for them to come together and create something special. Hassell says it is the ultimate group activity. When you watch all the kids help each other and do their best, it makes you feel good about our future.

If you want to check out the bands this weekend, Homestead High School is hosting their annual fall festival of bands this Saturday. The first week of ISSMA competition then begins at Homestead the following weekend. As the hosting band, Warfield says you can look forward to a safe and enjoyable experience at both competitions.

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