Like any other July and August, the Milton High School Red Hawk Marching Band schedule has many rehearsals. They began July 2. Drill camp was July 20-24, then the band had a scheduled week off, and on Monday rehearsals resumed.
Just those months, for the most part, look as they would look in any other year.
“Practices are still proceeding using guidelines established by both the state and the district,” said Nathan Pierce, director of bands at Milton High School and a member of the Wisconsin School Music Association State Marching Band Committee.
September and October 2020, when the marching band schedule is usually filled with field show competitions and football games, will be different. How different is yet to be determined.
Two weeks ago, WIAA approved a delayed start for the fall sports season. Last week the Badger Conference announced cancellation of the conference fall athletic season in its entirety. Milton School District Director of Athletics and Activities Jeff Spiwak said ultimately the final determination for fall athletics will be made by the board of education Aug. 10.
As Pierce and the band await decisions regarding programming from district administration and the school board, he is looking into options that would allow the band to perform.
“WSMA has canceled the state championships, but we’re looking into some virtual opportunities on a national level as well as a few local shows that may or may not still occur,” he said.
When the band on the field practicing the fall show, it doesn’t look like any other year.
Pierce said physical distancing and the use of face coverings are being used by student and staff. Bell covers will be used for wind instruments, he added.
As a supplement to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) “Guidance for a Return to High School Marching Band,” an aerosol study found bell covers – ideally fashioned from multi-layered, high-denier nylon material and placed over the bell of an instrument – made a substantial impact on performers’ aerosol pathways.
The study commissioned by NFHS is thought to be the first of its kind and will be completed in December. Preliminary results can be found at www.nfhs.org.
“Marching band is the most ideal situation at the moment for students to continue making music,” Pierce said. “We’re outside and can practice physical distancing in a more practical manner than if we were indoors.”
This year’s field drill was written with COVID-19 distancing in mind – students are farther apart than they normally would be, he said.
The 2020 Red Hawk marching band has 106 high school students, a few more than last year, and four middle school students in the color guard.
“We’re trying to give the students as ‘normal’ of an experience as possible considering all the guidelines we must adhere to,” Pierce said. “The students need to get back into a routine, and for the band students, that routine is marching band at this point in the calendar. We may or may not be able to perform as many times as we usually do in the fall, but we’re putting in the rehearsal time like we would any other year.”
The show itself is progressing nicely, he said.
“We learned over half of the show during drill camp the week of July 20 and will have the whole show on the field by the end of the summer,” he continued. “The freshmen are picking things up great considering we lost all our rehearsal time that we usually have in June. We’re well on our way to continuing where we left off last year with our second place finish at the state championships.”