Competitive fanfare returns to region after pandemic cancels 2020 season

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FORT WAYNE, Indiana (WANE) – Area bands are in the thick of their competitive season and it hasn’t been easy to get back to the field.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the 2020 marching band competition season. Carroll High School group principal Doug Hassell said they only found out five days before the group’s camp. The cancellation of the competitive season created a multitude 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 wasn’t the same.

Groups could still submit a video recording of their music to judges at the Indiana State School Music Association (ISSMA). The members were seated in the gym and were socially distant. They always received feedback, but this virtual setting could not replace a traditional marching band competition.

This season, the students quickly readjusted to a normal season as they stayed fresh with their walking fundamentals. The students would continue to practice their basics, even though last season was canceled.

However, an unexpected challenge the band faced is getting back to the routine and focus of the rehearsals. The mental side needed more retraining compared to the physical side. Students also struggled with anxiety in the wake of the pandemic. Hassell explains that students can still feel anxious about various circumstances surrounding the pandemic, and it’s hard to associate that with strenuous activity like a marching band.

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

Homestead High School group principal Bryen Warfield sees this season as a blessing. Warfield feels for the seniors who couldn’t live the traditional season last year. It was also difficult to maintain student engagement and recruit members. Freshmen and sophomores didn’t experience a normal season, which resulted in a longer learning curve.

Warfield also says the students learned to adapt to the quarantine rules after last season. Members can cover absences in a fairly transparent way. However, Warfield stresses that the evolving situation with the pandemic is adding additional pressure, as the season could change or be closed at any time.

Both groups struggled after the cancellation of the Johnny Appleseed Festival last year. They had to downsize and the budget was tighter.

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

If you want to check out the groups this weekend, Homestead High School is having their annual Fall Festival this Saturday. The first week of ISSMA competition then begins at Homestead the following weekend. As the host group, Warfield says you can expect a safe and enjoyable experience at both competitions.


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