Right In Step
Marching to the beat of the COVID drum
“Dark days are gonna go away. They won’t have the final say.”
The Youngsville High School Marching Eagles are performing in a season fit for the opening line of the Afters song that is part of their repertoire.
The Eagles may not be on the field in front of their fans — and their competitors — as often this year, but there will be judges looking at their work, helping them improve, and scoring their performances.
“During the summer, I had to decide if I was going to do a full-on competition season,” Director Cynthia Scheid said. “Somebody said to me, ‘if you don’t do it, you’re not going to have those memories.'”
That made it an easy call. Her students deserved those memories.
The band was coming off a year in which it took first place in the Tournament of Bands Region 8 1-Open and was only one year out from being named “Best All Around” at the Limerick (Ireland) International Band Championship.
“I love doing marching band because I get to see the kids have success,” Scheid said. “I was very fearful that they would cancel the entire season.”
She made the call that set the fund-raising and other preparations in motion.
“I’m very grateful that we have the opportunity to do virtual,” she said.
The band recently recorded its first virtual performance.
Scheid will send that recording to two different entities.
“The one circuit is just for constructive criticism and critique,” she said. “The second circuit is full-out competition.”
The band will receive a score and a placement from the second circuit.
And, it will get better with the feedback from the first. “The next week, I do all those fixes and we’re good to go,” Scheid said.
The students will miss playing in front of their fans. But, they get to play. They get to challenge themselves. And they get to see how they stack up against other programs – just not so much in person.
“It’s not the senior season I was hoping for, but the experience is still there and I’m glad we have the chance to compete,” senior drum major Lydia Rougeux said.
“We want the full experience of performing a show,” senior drum major Lilly Camp said. “It’s for the experience. It wouldn’t be fun if we just stood on the field and played easy songs.”
There will be something missing, though, that nervousness right before moving onto the field and the boost from hearing the supporters and knowing it’s time to go to work.
“You don’t see the fans. You don’t get that feeling walking on the field,” junior Colton Garris said. “I believe there will be that feeling, just not as strong.”
Even rehearsal has been dramatically changed by COVID-19.
“We’re not able to play inside right now,” Rougeux said. So far, the weather has been cooperative, but that will change.
First-year members of the band don’t have last year to look back on. They can only judge the season by how it’s going for them now.
“It’s very demanding and very tiring,” eighth-grader Jakobe Petachi said. “It’s fun. I like it.”
Eighth-grader Kiana Stanbro has one year to look back on, and this year isn’t stacking up.
“Last year, we got to ride the bus to different fields and perform under the lights and get that whole traveling experience,” Stanbro said. “I really like that. Then my second year came, and coronavirus came, and everything took a weird twist. Everything went virtual. School, family reunions, and now marching band.”
“Instead of traveling and having that experience, we have to perform on a field close to home,” she said.
In a normal year, the band would make several trips to competitions and Tournament of Bands events. Every five years, the band has gone to Dublin, Ireland, and experienced great success along with the international travel.
This year, most of the trips are off.
And, this year in particular, that’s a let-down.
“We were invited to Hawai’i,” senior Kendra Taydus said. “I was very disappointed. That would have been super cool.”
“At least we’re still able to go to Maplewood and Meadville,” Taydus said. “But, it’s disappointing that we are not able to go somewhere big.”
There are some silver linings.
Garris is looking to a senior year when he will be among the leaders as the new members, and those who will be in their second year, get to have the full experience.
“I’m really excited for next year, when all the new people this year can get the normal feeling and they’ll be more pumped,” he said.
The 2020-21 marching band season isn’t what performers and directors had hoped for, but it’s better than no season at all.