The Band Marches On

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With high school sports returning to the playing fields in Illinois and remote learning for Districts 203 and 204 ready to get underway in September, hundreds of Naperville students are looking to get back to participating in their favorite extracurricular activities. Whether that activity be show choir, color guard, or the marching band, teachers and administrators have been working hard to get kids back in action in a safe and slightly modified environment.

“The band staffs at Neuqua, Metea, and ourselves here at Waubonsie had a couple of zoom meetings where we determined how we could safely do this with the number of kids that we have,” said Waubonsie Valley Marching Band Director Kevin Carroll. “We followed the IHSA and the ISPE rules as well as some research from Colorado State and a few other Universities on the wind vapors that actually come out while you are playing. So we figured out how we could distance the kids safely so we could still play and rehearse.”

Marching Warriors

At Waubonsie Valley, the new routine for the Marching Warriors designed by Director Kevin Carroll needed to find the perfect balance of spacing in regards to both safety and sound quality.

“Traditionally in marching band you would never have kids stand so far apart unless it was for effect. You would only do that for like a big moment or maybe a slow piece of music,” Carroll described. “Traditionally you want them close together because they can’t hear outside like they can inside. So you’d want them about two step spacing away from each other, rather than the six or seven and a half feet apart that we have now. Musically speaking that was challenging because music and sound tends to tear and what we call “phase” and there is a lot of phasing when you have that much distance. But the kids have been great about listening to the drum line and they’ve overcome the obstacles.”

Drum Majors Lead the Way

With the routine ready to be rolled out, Waubonsie band members and the drum majors Joe Burck, Ryan Skurnak and Siya Hugar are ready to get the team prepared, focused and energized despite the extracurricular challenges that arrive with this unprecedented season.

“Because we can’t be around each other as much, that makes it really difficult to bond with people and having masks makes it difficult to meet people you’ve never met before like freshmen coming in,” senior drum major Joe Burcks pointed out.

“It’s been really humbling to be in the position of, even though we’re in a crazy time, we’re still able to do everything that past drum majors have been able to do,” said junior drum major Ryan Skurnak. “Just being that spirit person making sure everyone is happy and staying mentally ready.

“It’s really fun. Even if it’s not for a live audience, it’s still for us. I think it’s good for new marchers and everyone to get that experience so they are not confused or sad they missed their first year,” said senior drum major Siya Hugar.

Community Atmosphere

Despite so many performance traditions of marching band and other extracurricular activities being off the table this year, being able to participate in these groups, clubs and teams is just as important as ever.

“We don’t have fall football, so we’re not going to have home football games. We love doing extracurricular marching band competitions, competitions in Illinois have been canceled for this season. And we don’t have any parades,” said Carroll. “So we had to find a way to make it engaging and fun for the kids and worthwhile. Kids have been inside since the middle of March. They really need something. They need to be outside, they need to interact safely with each other and feel a sense of community. And I think marching band provides that for these kids.

So even if the stands are empty and the only audience is each other, Naperville area bands will continue to march on.

For Naperville News 17, I’m Justin Cornwell