While the future is still uncertain, schools are starting to hold band camps, including Grand Island Senior High.
Going into his second year as the band director, John Jacobs was excited they could hold the camp.
However, with 231 members involved, he knew there would be many safety regulations to follow.
“We really didn’t know until about a month before it started looking like [band camp] was gonna happen,” he said. “We started talking…[how] to manage a large group of kids at one time.”
Jacobs became the new band director in May of 2019 and “fell in love with it.” He and his son, Bobby Jacobs, were already making plans for the 2020 season in October of 2019.
Bobby Jacobs wrote the band’s show music before Christmas and was working on the marching drill before the pandemic.
“[The marching band show has] been in the works for a long time,” John Jacobs said. “We didn’t really want this year to fall by the wayside.”
The assistant band director Kelly Coslet thought there would be no band camp this year because of COVID-19, but was glad that they were able to find a way to do it.
“I was really surprised when I got that we were going, but it’s very exciting,” she said.
Jacobs came up with a few of the precautions he wanted the band to take, but most of the regulations set from the Grand Island Public Schools administration pandemic team.
“[The pandemic team has been] trying to keep a thumb on the guidelines from the state and the nation,” he said. “We had a big couple of Zoom meetings where we had all the safety guys [and] the pandemic team…basically, we had to convince them that we could do this safely.”
First-year drum major Sofia Dominguez thinks that all of the restrictions set are good, even though she is still getting used to them.
“I understand that this year is…just kind of weird,” she said. “I think they’re doing their best to keep us safe, which is really important now.”
For her, all of the precautions set will be beneficial for the band so they can have a season.
“I think that taking extra precautions are necessary so that we can be successful, keep ongoing…[and] so we can have a season,” she said.
For the students’ safety, Jacobs decided to have them in groups of 25 or less, which he calls “pods.” Every pod is five yards away from another and can only socialize with those in that group.
“If anybody gets sick within a pod, then we got to quarantine the whole pod, but it’s better than quarantining the whole band,” he said. “I think pods are probably, the biggest thing that is able to keep us going.”
Some of the other regulations include health screenings, temperatures taken before entering the school, wearing a mask unless playing their instrument and sanitizing the rooms in the school.
Band booster president Chantel Silva is proud of how the students have responded to everything.
“We haven’t had any problems at all,” she said. “Everybody does what they’re [expected] and the band students are terrific.”
She was in charge of organizing the volunteers for band camp. In the morning, five parents and alumni students helped with check-ins, which included taking temperatures and filling out forms. The afternoon shift only has one or two people. However, Jacobs said there are more volunteers “behind the scenes.”
“We have about a dozen parents that are doing our check-ins in the morning,” he said. “They’re [also] getting our water and snacks…there’s probably 25 or 30 people working.”
Silva said that an essential group of people helping with band camp are the custodians.
“[The] custodians are absolutely terrific,” she said. “[They] are helping [by] filling water stations for the students throughout the day.”
With all of the new regulations, senior trumpet section leader Abraham Lopez-Ramirez says band camp still feels the same, mostly.
“The only thing [different] is the masks…but we can’t do anything,” he said. “We live in this world now.”
The band is required to wear masks at all times until they play their instruments. After being with the other trumpet players, Lopez-Ramirez has noticed that a few of them are tired of the masks.
“Some of them don’t mind…[but] some of them get tired of the masks, it gets pretty hot under the sun,” he said. “But they get their mind off of that…[as] Mr. Jacobs said, music kind of makes us feel better.”
On July 22, Nebraska State Bandmasters Association released a statement saying state band competitions are canceled for the 2020 marching season. On July 23, the Harvest of Harmony Parade was canceled.
The marching band still has two competitions scheduled, but Jacobs said that if their season does get canceled, he plans on creating events for the band.
“Our intent is to create event(s) for schools in close proximity,” he said. “This could look a little more like a festival or friendship event than traditional competition.”
Lopez-Ramirez has no idea how the season will look, but he is hopeful that everybody following the safety precautions will lead to him having one more performance.
“Everything is possible if we take our distance [and] we take our protocols,” he said. “Every senior here wants…to have one more competition.”