(CEDAR HILL, TX) The ultimate goal may have been updated, and protocols are far different than in the past.
But there was an optimism in the air when the Cedar Hill Red Army Marching Band hosted its first fall practice on Tuesday, which was also the first day of 2020-2021 virtual learning.
“It’s not as hard as I thought it would have been,” said Amelia Valenzuela, a senior section leader/flute player. “We really try to enforce social distancing, wear masks at all times and sanitize. We’re just more spread out.”
Red Army Band Director Derrick Walker said he and CHISD Director of Fine Arts William Young didn’t expect any more than 80 scholars to practice with the band.
On Tuesday, 140 of 210 band members showed up to practice.
“It is a big challenge to make sure everybody is safe and still trying to keep everything as normal as possible,” Walker said. “We have the scholars keep their distance, even when we’re outside. We have to slow the method down – something that would take us a week to learn now takes three weeks.”
Walker said he and the band staff completely respect that some parents are not comfortable with their scholars participating in the band during this time.
A Mask Designed For Band
Band members are able to play their instruments through a specially-designed mask that assists with social distancing.
In most years, the Band would prepare for the upcoming school year with a mini-camp in May. That was not possible this year due to all schools and extracurricular activities being closed.
During most summers, the band practices for an entire month. This summer, they had two weeks, while some of the schools in the area received more practice time.
Dallas County, because it has a much larger population, placed stronger restrictions than some of the schools in neighboring counties.
As a result of the lack of practice time, Cedar Hill opted out of the UIL Marching Band Competition this year.
“I’m disappointed about missing competition, but if it keeps us safe, so be it,” said senior flute player Anthony Conley, who is also a section leader.
The goal is to compete in concert band for the Spring 2021 Semester.
Double The Buses For Football Games
The band is still scheduled to perform at football games, both home and away. The season opener is October 2 against Arlington High School at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
But traveling to football games will require 14 buses, rather than the usual seven, due to social distancing.
“When we’re on the field, we want the performance to be of a quality that it looks as if COVID never came,” Walker said.
Still, the band members will be spread out, by at least six feet.
The home debut will be on October 9 vs. Allen High School, at Longhorn Stadium.
Senior Baritone Alexandria Kelly, a section leader who hopes to become a band director in the future, said returning to band practice has been emotional.
“I had tears in my eyes, and the band really helps me personally because I connect with music,” Kelly said. “It helps me express myself. The band is a family, and we missed each other a lot. I definitely love band.”