We’re Getting the Band Back Together!

What has the Westside High School band program done to combat COVID-19?


Audrey Persaud

Westside marching band performs through specialized masks and bell-covers during the homecoming football game.

COVID-19 has impacted Westside High School in many ways. From restricted walkways to table dividers, almost nothing has been left the same as in past years. This also applies to band, one of the many activities that t Westside has been proud of for many years. 

Assistant Band Director, Keith Schoening, said he has had to change many band operations due to COVID-19. 

“[COVID-19] has affected [band] quite a bit, we’ve had to change a lot of our procedures; even what we’re performing for marching band this year is completely different than what we would do in [years prior],” Schoening said.

The beginning of the year was difficult to figure out, but Schoening said 100% school capacity has made that easier.

“The full band hasn’t really even rehearsed, except for the past two weeks since we’ve been at 100% [capacity],” Schoening said. “Putting a full rehearsal together, it’s been a long process, but now that we’re back to 100% [capacity], it’s going a little more smoothly and things are coming together a little [faster].”

But with the extra students that Schoening has received, he’s also had to add extra restrictions.

“The way we wrote our shows is that every kid is at least four steps away from each other, which roughly translates to seven and a half feet,” said Schoening.

Besides the traditional social distancing, band has taken precautions to cover the openings of students’ instruments and introduced a specialized mask for playing.

“[The specialized masks are] something we’ve had to adjust to as well,” Schoening said. “Some of our routines we can’t do because the mask creates another barrier between us. “The way the mask works is that it’s an overlapping mask and there’s two pieces of fabric that overlap. We can open them up toward the middle and stick a mouthpiece or an instrument in and get it set on your lips, and then the mask collapses back down around it.”

Despite all of the precautions the band department has taken, Schoening said they will still only perform at football games for the time being.

“Our only performances this year [are] at football games,” Schoening said. “So we’re not going to any contests, all of the contests this year have been postponed or canceled due to the lack of fans and the lack of being able to spread out.”

Lead Band Director Tommy Krueger said he has also felt the difficulties Schoening said he experienced.

“[COVID-19] has made things more challenging and difficult, with all of the safety precautions we’ve been taking,” Krueger said. “We have the blowhole-masks, [the masks that allow] the mouthpiece to come in. We’ve had to create bell-covers for most of the instruments.”  

The challenges don’t end there for Krueger, however, he said distance and aerosols are their biggest concern. 

“What’s really affecting us, even more, is, we want to really keep our six feet distance, since through our instruments, really what we’re doing is we’re blowing aerosols,” Krueger said.

Throughout all of their struggles, Krueger has still found a way to make the best of their situation.

“Instead of being able to rehearse with 120 kids in the band room, we’re limiting it down to 35,” Krueger said. “It’s a lot [of] smaller groups, but we’re still able to do a lot of the things we normally do. We’re still going to perform with marching band at football games, jazz bands are still rehearsing, [and] we’ll do concert band stuff. We’re just doing what we can to de-densify and create smaller groups, but we’re still able to work on a lot of the same things and try to provide as normal of an experience as we can.”