How can you explain the feeling of returning to a life you once took for granted? I think we’re all starting to experience that, and for me it’s been fading since October. One of the biggest things I’ve learned to enjoy is being part of my school groups. The band has always been my thing. Some people did sports or drama, and I was part of other things, but nothing ever seemed to fit as well as music. So you can see how much it would hurt me to lose something I feel so good about when the world feels like it’s falling apart.
The day we discovered the COVID-19 virus seemed like a big joke. My English teacher was spraying Lysol all over the class and people were laughing when someone asked them to use hand sanitizer. It was all fun and games until my fourth-hour biology class, when the first shock wave came for me. A message from my group teacher stating that “All group events through April 30 have been cancelled.” A murmur started in the room. How is it possible ? An hour ago we were joking about hazmat suits and now we’re losing everything we were working on.
The following months came with more and more cancellations and postponements; the sun seemed to be behind an endless cloud. The next disappointment came in August. The school year would start online. And so my sophomore year of high school began, not with pep rallies and football games, but with pajama bottoms and technical difficulties.
When I got to my fifth hour class, aka band, I noticed something was different from my other classes. I looked around the screen and saw that almost everyone had their cameras on. For some, that might not mean anything, but for anyone who experienced a Zoom class in high school, it’s pretty rare. As I looked around at all the faces I had once shared the field with, I realized that I was not alone in all of this. I wasn’t the only one sitting in my room looking forward to hearing our fight song after a touchdown was scored, or celebrating after receiving the top score at our band festivals. These people felt the same way I did, and it gave me more comfort than I could ever express.
The following month, everything seemed to clear up; we returned to school in person and were allowed to play as a band outside. At this point I can’t even remember the specifics, how many times we had to replay a bar or how hot the sun was in the air, I just remember being there and finally being able redo what I loved. At the end of October, we were allowed to play a football match together. Of course, it wasn’t like before, but that was enough for me.
In the winter we couldn’t play outside as a group because it was too cold which meant we couldn’t play at all. This resulted in the introduction of scoop drums and ukuleles, the band’s new way of continuing to play music at school during this crazy time. (Read more about the band briefly switching to drums and ukuleles in this November 2019 article on Route Bay City.)
Throughout the school year, the district has moved back and forth between in-person school and online school. As a student, that was one of the most frustrating things about the whole experience, and as a musician, it was even worse. My band teacher had offered me a spring gig, I remember her saying it would happen “no matter how we have to do it”. I didn’t believe her, I was sure everything would be canceled like last March – but we received our music via Google Classroom and worked on it in Zoom calls with our individual sections.
It finally felt real when we went back to school for the last time. It finally got warm enough to play outside again and we started our five different songs. My 5:30 a.m. alarm clocks started again as our zero hour steel drum bands started again; never in my life would i have thought i would miss them so much. One of the rehearsal days I remember the most from that time was the class where we were told we were allowed to take off our masks if we were outside. Everyone took off their face coverings and revealed the same faces I saw on screen eight months ago when everything went dark.
On June 1, the day was given over to outdoor jazz, steel drum and brass band concerts. Parents, grandparents and siblings came to watch and, for the first time in far too long, things were back to normal. This spring concert that I never thought would happen, has finally arrived. It was a great day and in the end I finally felt like we were a band again.
As I write this, I’m preparing to go to band camp downstate for the first time since 2019. As you read this, I’m probably standing in a field with a heavy drum on the shoulders, sweating in the sun, and there’s nowhere I’d rather be.