NACOGDOCHES, Texas – As schools and universities carefully crafted their reopening plans amid the coronavirus pandemic, questions about health and safety for students and faculty were at the forefront. Right along with those were questions about sporting events and extracurricular activities.
Although Stephen F. Austin State University currently does not have any home football games scheduled following the Southland Conference’s decision to postpone conference competition for the fall, the athletic department is working to amend that. SFA Athletics Director Ryan Ivey said in a recent press release that SFA will explore avenues for fall competition against other institutions looking to compete.
The Lumberjack Marching Band will be ready if and when that happens.
SFA band directors worked throughout the summer on more than designing marching routines; they are fine tuning plans to keep their student musicians safe. Directors opted to split the university band into two separate groups of equal instrumentation to better accommodate social distancing guidelines on the field and in the stands, according to Dr. Tamey Anglley, associate director of bands at SFA and director of the Lumberjack Marching Band.
“We are requiring students to wear face masks anytime they aren’t playing their instruments and brass players to have bell covers for their instruments to help lower the aerosol emission from their bells,” Anglley said.
Additionally, all drills on the field will be at six-step intervals, which means students will be 11.25 feet apart while performing.
As the far-reaching effects of the pandemic began to become more apparent last spring, SFA band directors started researching best COVID-era practices for band instruction and performance. In May, the directors attended a virtual athletic band symposium sponsored by the College Band Directors National Association. The symposium featured presentations from the scientists who were leading the aerosol studies out of University of Colorado and Colorado State University and also clinics from various marching band directors around the country, Anglley explained.
“At that time, no one knew football could or would be canceled or moved to the spring semester,” she said, “so we were mostly discussing the safety measures we needed to take for our students and the many details to think about with social distance protocols. Since then, I have been in communication with our regional CBDNA and Southland Conference athletic band directors where we discuss how everyone is planning this season.”
As a result, fall rehearsal days, performances and game day times for the LMB will be alternated as needed, Anglley explained. If home football games can be scheduled, the band plans to perform, albeit in a limited fashion.
“We went into this season knowing that we wouldn’t be performing at pregame or halftime, but we are still discussing with athletics the possibility of a postgame performance once all football personnel have vacated the field,” Anglley said.
Color guard and drum line camps were conducted this week; leadership camp is Aug. 22; and split-band rehearsals are scheduled during regular class time once the fall semester starts.
For many, performing in the Lumberjack Marching Band is a highlight of the SFA university experience – one that builds memories and fosters friendships that last a lifetime. The 2020 fall LMB season will be like none other before it, and directors are committed to making it memorable and safe.
“The health and safety of the students is our utmost priority at SFA and in the Lumberjack Marching Band,” Anglley said. “We have and will continue to work diligently to provide a safe rehearsal and game day space for our students to have a fulfilling musical experience.”