GCHS Band Playing On Despite Marching Cancellations

The band will play on.

Despite not having a field competition season, despite facing the possibility of not having live concerts and despite numerous other challenges the COVID-19 coronavirus has created, the instrumental music program at Glenwood Community High School is marching on.

The marching Rams will perform at home football games this fall, but won’t be competing in any marching band competitions. There will be no trips to Creston Balloon Days, the Fremont Marching Show, Clarinda Band Jamboree, Missouri Western Tournament of Champions and there will be no Loess Hills Field Fest or state marching band competition.

“It’s going to be a really big change because typically we’re competitive marching and in the middle of camp right now,” Glenwood Director of Bands Dave Clark said. “The issue there is nobody can guarantee the safety of the kids and nobody wants to be liable. Once the state cancelled their live marching band competition, most of the schools aren’t even having a competitive season as this point and they’re not doing any type of big marching show. We are following that model.”

The band plans to have a halftime show at each of the Rams’ four home football games, but instead of the show being a build-up and rehearsal for the state competition, each show will have its own theme and songs. There won’t be a lot of intricate marching formations and the band will utilize three- and four-step step spacing.

“Without the actual marching on the field, we’re going to run it more like a college season where every home football game we’re trying to put together new tunes,” Clark said. “We’ll have a block formation and kind of change up a little bit depending on the songs we play – highlighting different instruments.”

Clark said the band will adjust accordingly as COVID developments play out.

“With the fluid nature of the situation, we can’t guarantee we’re going to have enough kids out at practices to do any kind of elaborate formation moves, depending on symptoms and kids that come or don’t come,” he said.

“We’ve got so many moving parts – 147 signed up for band. If you’ve got seven, eight or nine of those kids gone every day – and it’s typically different kids – you can’t put together any type of elaborate show.”

The COVID situation forced Clark to cancel the summer band camp. Some sectional (small group) activities were held, including a leadership camp, drum line workouts and color guard practice.

Marching band members have not been issued uniforms and will perform at the football games in matching T-shirts and black slacks.

“We decided not to wear marching uniforms this year because we’ve got just four home performances. I think everybody will understand. It’s just a unique situation and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to go through that unique process for football games,” Clark said. “ We didn’t want to have people come in and fit kids for their uniforms. We have people who volunteer to do that and we didn’t want to risk that.”

Clark said the band is planning to perform at the homecoming parade on Sept. 25, if it goes on as scheduled.

During the fall months, when weather permits, the band will practice in the green space between the high school band room and Glenwood Aquatic Center. If weather prohibits the band from going outside, class and rehearsals will be held in the auditorium where Clark has already established a socially-distanced, color-coded seating chart.

“I put it together so we can trace easily just in case we have a kid come down with COVID,” Clark said. “Every kid has a specific seat any time we’re inside. We’re going to know exactly who they’re sitting next to.”

Clark noted that the capacity of the instrumental music classroom at GCHS is 105, so the band would be in the auditorium with or without COVID.

Clark and associate band director Dan Schoening are taking numerous preventative measures in band class, including protocol to prevent clustering in the instrument closest, acquiring bell covers for instruments and “spit rags” for students who play a brass instrument. Students are also receiving instructions on the best way to clean their instruments.

“There’s a lot of things you have to think about, but in the end, if the school plans to have live school, Dan and I are definitely doing everything we can to give our kids a safe environment, ” Clark said. “We’re just going to try to limit contact as much as possible, follow guidelines as close as we can to ensure the safety of our students and staff.”
Another major musical event cancelled this year because of the coronavirus is the Southwest Iowa Marching Honor Band’s December trip to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Glenwood is typically one of the most highly represented southwest Iowa high schools in the band.

“The board did not want to commit any parent finances toward the trip because there was no guarantee there was going to be a football season, there’s no guarantee the bowls are going to happen and there’s no guarantee we can travel safely in hotels, on buses and in airplanes,” Clark said. “Parents didn’t want to invest $1,700 with the risk they might lose the money if the trip doesn’t happen.”

The honor band typically travels to a major bowl game every other year, most recently to Tampa, Fla., and San Diego. Clark said the band’s board of directors has yet to decide if a trip will be planned for 2021 to replace this year’s cancelation.

The Glenwood instrumental music program does plan to have some concerts this year, but unless the COVID situation improves, the performances will be recorded and aired virtually.

“My plan is to record concerts and put them out there,” Clark said. “Mr. (Jeff) Bissen can tweet them out there and I’ll put them on social media, facebook and the website,” Clark said. “Parents will still be able to listen to the concerts.”
Both Clark and Schoening realize they’re going to face many challenges this year teaching instrumental music – both in-person and online. The school district has purchased some SmartMusic online software that can utilized in online learning situations, but more will be needed if COVID requires all students to learn from home.

“If we happen to go online sometime, we have PDFs of exercises and that sort of stuff available that Dan and I can easily throw up on my website,” Clark said. “The parents and kids can access so they can follow along when we do our weekly check-ins.

“We do have a plan. It would just take some purchasing power from the district if that were to be the case.”
Clark said he and Schoening are appreciative of their students positive attitude toward the situation and both instructors are committed to providing their students with the best possible experience,

“It’s a change, but I think the kids have really done a good job of staying positive,” he said. “There is a concern kids will lose interest if they don’t have competitions and can’t take trips. We don’t want that to happen. Music is fun without those competitions so we want the kids to know we’re trying to do everything we can to make band as fun as possible so that kids will continue to want to join.”


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