As long as there’s Mountaineer football, the Pride of West Virginia hopes to perform.
We all sighed with relief when we learned earlier this week that the Big 12 will play football this fall. But right behind that answer comes the question, “So, we’ll get the Pride, too, right?” Because football isn’t quite the same without our rousing WVU marching band.
Like most things these days, it depends. “We’re looking at different options right now,” says WVU Director of Bands Scott Tobias.
We already missed the pre-season fun of seeing the marching band practice in the Coliseum parking lot. That band camp would have started on August 9, but it was cancelled because of students’ more complicated move-in procedures and the long downtime after camp before the delayed start to classes.
When the band members do arrive, one consideration is the fact that wind instruments make players do to an extreme what we’ve all been told to control for the past five months: blow and spit. Band directors across the nation are eagerly awaiting the results later this month of University of Colorado research that places trumpet players in aerosol chambers to learn how far their spit travels. “Those results may affect our plans,” Tobias says. “They may say ‘You’re safe to go ahead’; they may say ‘You can’t do it unless you’re 20 feet apart.’”
The big wild card is, come the first home game on September 12, who’s allowed where.
“Some schools around the country are putting a bubble on the field and only allowing players, coaches, and referees there,” Tobias says. “If that happens but people are allowed in the stands, maybe the band would sit in the stands rather than going on the field.”
Also, our big, beloved, wall-of-sound Pride is just too huge to practice safe distancing when they’re all together. “We might be breaking the group up—instead of the 350-piece group, have three large pep bands of some sort to minimize the number of students in one location at any time,” Tobias says. “So perhaps one pep band would be there for the first game, a second one for the second game, a third for the third game, so all the students have a chance to be involved.”
And what about the homecoming parade—everyone’s best chance to see and hear the Pride up close? “Even in a normal year, downtown controls the parade, so I don’t know if there will be one or not,” Tobias says. “If there’s a parade, we’ll have to see what the parameters are and whether we could do that.”
It’s the band’s intent that, if people are allowed in the stadium this fall, the Pride will perform in some way that prioritizes everyone’s safety, Tobias says. “And the moment we get the all-clear, fall of 2021 if things have passed, we’ll be right back out there.”