‘The show must go on’: Marching bands adjust to socially-distant practices

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Cullman High School Band Director Christopher Smith (left) helps a band student tune her instrument at band camp. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – From a performer’s perspective, “The show must go on,” but the COVID-19 pandemic has made that challenging. Cullman High School Band Director Christopher Smith proved that saying true with the band gathering Monday morning for its first day of band camp for the wind instruments.

“We’re incorporating a lot of new rules and procedures in order to make sure that we’re able to have band camp and have it safely,” said Smith. “Everything from wearing masks to using social distancing to rehearsing, in particular, with assigned spots where everyone is 6 feet or more apart and also incorporating protocols out on the practice field and even how we designed the show to make sure we have good social distancing. Each part of the ensemble has certain procedures they have to follow in order to keep everything safe, sanitized and everyone social distanced. So, it’s more complicated than it’s been in the past, so far. We’ve been rehearsing for about a week and a half with some of the band and now most of the band today. Everything has been going smoothly so far.”

Smith talked about how the band’s leadership team has handled the year so far.

“About a week or so ago, we had a big meeting in the band room and we went through the things I needed them to do, because without them, without a great leadership team, this is not going to be successful. (CHS Assistant Band Director) Mr. (Doug) Teuscher and I cannot handle all these new procedures without their help making sure that we’re able to implement. They’re an instrumental part in our success and they’ve stepped up to the task, and it looks like everything is going well so far.”

So how does COVID-19 impact the marching part of a marching band?

Smith answered, “Interestingly enough, basically, our marching design already incorporated the social distancing; all we’ve had to do is adjust some things in the design. Our practice marching block is already set up at 7-foot distances. A lot of the outdoor components of marching band already were working, we just had to make some minor adjustments to make it work. That aspect of it is probably the easiest part so far. It’s mostly indoor time and rehearsing in groups that have been more challenging.”

Nathan Kilgo, director of the Fairview Aggie Band, said there will be five changes made to this year’s band camp: daily temperature checks; small indoor groups will only be done where students can maintain a 6-foot distance; students will bring their own water; camp will be split so students can go home for lunch and dinner; and full band will only meet together outside.

Jesse James, director of the Hanceville Bulldog Band, announced a few changes on the band’s Facebook page. “Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are trying to limit the number of people we have during rehearsals until full camp week,” he wrote after announcing that the Rookie Camp will only be for new marchers, transfer students and leadership. Students will need to bring their own water coolers with their names written on them. He also wrote, “Due to guidelines and restrictions, we have changed not the days of the camps but times. This is to ensure your safety and helps us still do all of the things we enjoy!” Full band camp will take place July 27-31.

The Good Hope Raider Band, directed by Zac Tyree, announced on its Facebook page, “Please know moving forward we are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe during camp and rehearsals.” One change was that uniform fittings will take place during the camp to make it easier for students to distance during the fittings, though there were no other changes announced about how the regular band camp would be conducted. The two weeks of camp will be July 20-24 and July 27-31.


Cullman High School Band students are spread out in the auditorium for inside rehearsal Monday at band camp. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)

Maggie Darnell



Heather Mann