Show must go on: high school bands continue to play during pandemic

Local News

OZARK, Mo. — For students who have played in the school band, their entire life COVID-19 restrictions have made things a bit unfamiliar.

But one thing is for sure, it hasn’t taken away their passion for music.

At both Nixa and Ozark schools, chairs are spread apart, and every instrument has some form of personal protective equipment.

Horns have bell covers, and flutes have shields to prevent the spread of aerosols.

“It’s a weird difference,” Aaron Tomczyk a senior bassoon player at Ozark High School said.

“I hope it kind of gets back to normal soon,” said junior Mylinh Hoelker a trombone player also at Ozark High School.

What does “normal” look like to band students at Ozark High School?

“Normally we’re in rows and sort of like arches, which makes the sound a lot easier to hear,” senior Brett Meyer a trombone player for the Ozark High School band said. “You can hear the other side of the band bounce off the wall and hit you.”

Now, Meyer says they play seven feet apart from each other.

“Whenever’s everyone’s playing to the front, and you’re all really spread out, it’s hard to hear some people,” Meyer said. “And, that was really hard to adjust to.”

Some students cover their instrument with a white bag, like Tomczyk on the bassoon.

“A lot of instruments are designed to be super powerful, and to make a ton of sound,” Tomczyk said. “And when you put a bag over it, it can kind of contain the sound a little bit. So we’ve had to adjust to playing with different amounts of style and error to get it back to normal.”

Trombone player Mylinh Hoelker says these changes have only been a minor inconvenience.

“I don’t think it’s taken away from the actual enjoyment of the music and the process of making it,” Hoelker said.

“We have a general rule when the kids play: the horns go down, masks go up,” Craig Finder director of bands at Nixa High School said. “So, that’s something that they’ve had to get used to.”

Finger says students follow similar guidelines, like masking, distancing and having PPE on their instrument.

“Really sold it to the kids that the precautions aren’t a bad thing,” Finger said. “I know a lot of people see it as a negative. We see it as a positive because it allows us to keep doing things. It allowed us to continue having a show this past year. We didn’t get to do it in as many places, but we still got to do the normal thing, which was great.”

In Nixa, 100 students are enrolled in Finger’s band class, but for safety reasons, the class is split into two groups.

50 kids practice the same music in a different room, and the groups go back and forth.

Finger sometimes brings the whole class together in the gym for more space.

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