By Saskia Mentor ‘21 News reporter
With the COVID-19 pandemic restricting proximity and contact, many wonder how Mercersburg Academy’s band will be able to function this fall. The answer is: with tape markings, horn covers, and face shields. For safety reasons, band practice can no longer be held in the band room, where musicians sit in rows within a foot of each other. Instead, the band now practices on the side patio of the Burgin Center for the Arts, where orange tape marks each member’s spot at a six foot distance.
Because the band is too large to fit into this space while maintaining the proper physical distancing, it has been split into two sections. Bryan Morgan, Mercersburg’s band director, says, “This way, everyone is able to play some good repertoire and it challenges them because, more times than not, each musician is playing their own part.” Group one consists of the wind instruments, flutes, clarinets, and saxophones. Group two holds brass instruments, like trumpets and trombones, as well as percussion instruments, like drums and chimes.
The separation of the band does come without difficulties, mainly the lack of time together to focus on synchronization and pitch. However, it has given players the opportunity to become closer as sections and to fine-tune their parts. The groups meet on alternating days, but never during the lunch period. This time has been graciously guaranteed free.
Concerning the logistics of rehearsals, percussion players can simply wear their masks to practice, but this is not the case for brass and wind instruments. To accommodate those musicians, the band has been provided with face shields and horn covers to minimize the expulsion of potentially harmful particles. While they have proven to be awkward at first, most musicians have adjusted quickly and well.
Morgan says, “The social aspect is the biggest obstacle in my opinion.” He recognizes that the first week of virtual classes was less than ideal; nevertheless, it gave the group the opportunity to get to know each others’ faces before seeing each other all masked up. Band members were able to begin the first day of in-person band and confidently greet each other by name.
Even though there are many old and new faces in the group, some are still missing. Morgan says, “We miss our bandmates that are studying at home. It is so much stranger without them with us!” Although we haven’t gotten the band back together quite yet, the band is fervently awaiting the return of its virtual students!