When Morgantown’s high school football teams play home games, the bands will be allowed to play. Here’s how.
High school marching bands did not expect to perform this fall, says Morgantown High School band parent Amanda Hall.
“Sports teams were doing everything they could over the summer, even knowing the bottom might fall out,” Hall says. “But I think our director and bands across the state had the anticipation that there wouldn’t be a season, so they were just doing a little to keep skill sets up.” Her son is a junior in the drumline in MHS’s Red and Blue Marching Band and, compared with usual drumline summer practice of 30 hours each week, their Zoom practices this summer totalled more like two hours each week.
But when Governor Jim Justice made the unexpected announcement on Tuesday last week that he wants marching bands to play this fall, the MHS drumline wasted no time—they had their first in-person practice on Wednesday.
“My son and his friends were all very excited,” Hall says.
Wind instruments can’t practice indoors for at least the first nine weeks, says University High School band director Mark Palmer—that’s a county Board of Education policy. He’s been doing online practices with wind instruments since July and, when school starts, he’ll continue doing online practices after school. The percussion and color guard will be able to practice on the field.
The UHS marching band has about 150 members, minus 25 or 30 who play sports and wouldn’t march anyway. Palmer’s plan is to separate them into three bands of about 40 and have those smaller bands play at different games. “They’ll come out on the field before the game and play ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ and the fight song.” They’ll sit socially distanced in the stands during the first half—wind instruments won’t be allowed to play in the stands, but percussion will. “And then at half-time we’ll go out and play our songs.” Wind instruments may be sent home after half-time, since they won’t be able to play after that. “We’re doing the most we can while putting the kids least at risk,” Palmer says.
The bands won’t travel—they’ll only play at home games. MHS’s first home football game is scheduled for tomorrow, September 4, against Bridgeport, and that game will take place in spite of Monongalia County’s recent COVID spike because the county was yellow on Saturday, the day that counts. Junior and senior band members will perform at that first game, in Hall’s understanding, along with the drumline and the majorettes. She’s expecting both pre-game and halftime shows and no formations. Freshmen and sophomores will have opportunities to get on the field at future games.
The UHS band’s first chance to perform—the first home game is currently scheduled for Friday, September 11, against Brooke High School—will depend on Monongalia County’s COVID color on Saturday evening.
Everyone is jonesing for some fall marching band excitement. Unfortunately, only parents of participating team and band members will be allowed to sit in the stands at games this fall. But Hall is hopeful that the MHS band’s performances will be streamed, and maybe UHS’s will, too—check the MHS band and UHS band Facebook pages closer to the games for information.