No Sports, No Problem: SHSU Band Marches On

Photo courtesy of SHSU Bearkat Marching Band

Before this semester, Sam Houston State University announced the cancellation of fall sports due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Bearkat Marching Band now has limited opportunities to perform. 

Assistant Director of the Bearkat Marching Band Darla McBryde said one of the most challenging aspects of the pandemic is being unable to make music in a group setting. 

“As musicians, much of what we do is relational,” McBryde said. “Each person prepares their part, and then they perform it in tandem with other musicians. Much of the ‘magic’ in a rehearsal is in how all of the parts fit together. There is not really a way to recreate the interdependence, action and reaction between players in a virtual setting.”

Currently, the Bearkat Marching Band is not planning on hosting any live performances. However, McBryde said the music department owes its gratitude to Mark Spede, the President of the College Band Directors National Association, for creating the International Performing Arts Aerosol Study, which allows students to practice their craft in a safe environment.

According to McBryde, the School of Music on campus helped keep its students safe by purchasing several air purifiers that run overnight and between classes, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Students in the band are also required to wear masks and any in-person classes have to follow social distancing guidelines.

The Bearkat Marching Band and its staff understand how challenging times like these can be, which is why they are working to ensure every student is staying engaged, even though face-to-face instruction and rehearsal is limited.

“Keeping every person in a 200-member organization is already a challenge,” McBryde said. “Add social distancing, and a blended format, and engagement can seem impossible. Our leadership team has held social events on Zoom, and they will even break up into smaller sections and conduct remote rehearsals to ensure that everyone in their section is experiencing success.” 

Although the cancellation of Fall 2020 sports was a huge disappointment to the band, McBryde said it challenged them to go back to their mission statement and figure out the best path forward for the students.

“The Bearkat Marching Band is all about Passion, Family and Excellence,” McBryde said. “Those three ideals guide every decision we make. So, while we may not be working toward our usual halftime shows, we are using this time to continue to refine our marching and playing fundamentals to engage students in learning how to teach their future students about playing and marching fundamentals, to create promotional materials for future recruiting efforts and to create recordings of our famous pre-game routine and popular tunes.”

While it is hard to predict when the pandemic will end, it is safe to assume that when sports resume and the band can perform, we won’t be disappointed.

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