It’s not the way Andrew Hicks thought he’d be starting his first year as the Burnet High School band director, but it’s the one COVID-19 threw at him. Despite the challenges, he is excited about the coming year.
“It’s been amazing,” he said after the high school marching band’s first week of practice. “The kids have been just incredible. They show up, they follow all the protocols we’ve set, and they do it. They don’t complain about it, they just come in ready to go.”
This could be an especially exciting season for Burnet as it is a state advancing year for the school district. University Interscholastic League regulations only allow bands to compete beyond the regional level every other year. As a 4A band, Burnet is among the schools that can advance in 2020.
When Hicks and the other Burnet Consolidated Independent School District band directors began formulating the marching competition routine, they wanted one that would stand out.
“We were going to take a big swing with a big production,” Hicks said. “Then, all the COVID stuff happened. So we thought, ‘Let’s scale it back a little bit.’”
While it’s not the “big swing” they had hoped to take, it’s still going to be an impressive show. Hicks and the band directors crafted a competition that challenges the students and still gives them a chance to advance to state.
The show is called “Our Story.”
“We thought this was fitting, especially for this year and what the students have gone through,” Hicks said. “It’s a story of perseverance and where we’ve come from.”
The band directors dug into past performances to create a show featuring some of the musical highlights of previous years. It gives the kids, and Burnet band followers, a connection to the past and today.
Getting the band back together has been interesting this summer. The UIL is allowing for bands such as Burnet to hold summer practices as long as they follow certain rules and guidelines pertaining to COVID-19. While they can rehearse, Hicks said they are limited to what they can do regarding the competition routine.
As for practices, the directors have split the band into two groups with alternate days for practice.
The UIL, BCISD, and band leaders have outlined a number of protocols to help keep the kids and adults safe and healthy.
“Everybody’s temperature gets checked before they come into the band hall,” Hicks said, adding that they must wear face coverings when inside.
After check-in, the work begins with outdoor marching drills, sans instruments. Faces must stayed covered until they get into position, then they can take masks off while practicing. During breaks, they cover their faces again.
The band rehearses outside for a little more than an hour, then heads indoors. Inside, they rehearse with instruments in sections, which keeps the numbers low enough to allow for social distancing.
All the while, the band directors are monitoring them.
While separating the band in two has it challenges, it provides some relief for the students and the directors.
“This week (Monday, July 27) we started fall camp but cut the band in half,” Hicks noted. “Which was great because the turnout was so huge the first day. Half our band was about the size of other full bands you’d see in 3A or even some 4A bands.”
Students have responded well to the new guidelines, Hick said, adding that being able to come to band practice has boosted their spirits.
“At a bare minimum, it gets them out of the house and outside,” he said. “Even though they are distancing, they’re glad to be here. It’s good to belong, to be part of something, especially right now.”