‘It’s not the same’: Marching band plays this season by ear

The Kansas State marching band rehearses outside with instrument coverings and face masks. August 27. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Between breaking into groups, practicing at home and canceling band camp, the Kansas State marching band has been through a lot of changes in the past few months.

“It is not the same unless you’re playing ‘Wabash Cannonball’ in the Bill,” Lindsey Verran, sophomore in animal sciences and industry, said.

While the band is known for its “family dynamic,” members haven’t been able to meet all together this fall. Some band members have said they haven’t had the chance to become as tight-knit as in past seasons.

Ryan Nelson, senior in music education, said though the band’s identity “hasn’t been formed yet,” members are still excited to help pump up the crowds, players and students this year.

During rehearsals, the band splits into instrumental sections around campus to practice while social distancing. Each rehearsal lasts 45 minutes to prevent time exposed to any aerosols that could spread from the instruments, and members are given bell covers to place on their instruments, further preventing the spread of germs.

The bell covers are especially important with wind instruments, Brett Broadbent, senior in theatre, said. Broadbent is the section leader for the alto saxophones.

“With wind instruments, you have a cannon of air that could potentially get affected,” Broadbent said.

Katie Messerla, senior in mass communications, is an assistant tuba section leader. Messerla made special masks that instrumentalists are able to wear that cover their noses while enabling them to still play their instruments.

This fall, the band is dedicating most of its rehearsal time to working on music rather than marching.

Broadbent said he is excited for the K-State staff, students and fans to hear the band all together this year due to the improvements and dedication made to the music itself.

In previous years, the band would meet two times per week for two hours of class time and only an hour of music time. This semester, meetings focus purely on the music. Band members are still learning to march, but members said they feel the music is the real showcase this year.

The band canceled the summer band camp due to COVID-19. To replace in-person camp, directors recorded videos of the music and basic marching steps.

Rookies took the time this summer to memorize the music and marching steps online.

Payton Lee, freshman in mechanical engineering, said even through videos, listening to band director Frank Tracz was a helpful experience as a new member of the band.

Many members of the marching band also expressed their disappointment with the possibility of not being able to perform as a complete band at football games. Currently, there are no plans for the band to perform on the field, but options for members to be in the stands are being considered.

The band has been split into two groups: the silver band and the purple band. The current plan is for these two groups to either alternate games or switch out at half time.

Although the band has not been able to meet as a complete group yet, many members have enjoyed growing closer within their sections.

Lee said he is “glad to be part of the marching family” and excited to see where his next years in the marching band will take him.