How the Georgia Tech Band is Handling Covid

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How the Georgia Tech Band is Handling Covid

Symphonic Band Distanced Rehearsal

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The coronavirus pandemic has forced everyone to change their usual behaviors, and musicians are no different. Throughout this semester, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Marching Band has been finding new ways to make playing music — especially wind instruments — safe.

One of the biggest adjustments is that the band isn’t marching right now. To ensure that everyone stays at least 6 feet apart, band members remain stationary with spacing anywhere from 6 to 15 feet, depending on the instrument. At football games, you’ll still be able to hear their pregame and halftime routines, but from the stands instead of the field.

With approximately 300 members, the marching band is too big to maintain social distancing in its section of the stands. Therefore, at the beginning of the semester, the group was split in two, creating a white band and a gold band. At rehearsal, one group will start together, while the other will start in their individual sections, and they’ll switch halfway through. The white and gold bands are also taking turns performing at home football games.

The symphonic and concert bands have also moved outside for the semester and can be seen rehearsing while 15 feet apart on the Couch Music Building lawn. Both groups started the semester virtually, using the software Jamulus to be able to practice together in real time in smaller groups of four to six students. After a few weeks, they moved outside and shifted to in-person rehearsals. Now, all of the woodwinds and brass are meeting as full groups on alternating days.

“Using the same precautions as the small ensembles, we are able to have approximately 20 to 24 students playing together at the same time, but safely,” said B.J. Diden, assistant director of bands and conductor of the concert and symphonic bands. “The joy of playing music is in doing it together.”

Be it in concert, symphonic, or marching band, wind players are doubling up on masks at rehearsal. The top layer is a traditional face covering and is pulled up when the musician isn’t playing. Underneath is a second mask with a slit cut in it that’s just large enough for a mouthpiece to fit through; this way, as much as the musician’s nose and mouth as possible can be covered at one time. All wind instruments are covered as well, with bell covers, or, for woodwinds in marching band, full instrument covers fashioned from t-shirts or socks.

The band made these decisions in accordance with the results from round two of the International Coalition of Performing Arts Aerosol Study, as well as in conjunction with several campus departments, including the School of Music and Georgia Tech Athletics.

“Band has definitely felt different, but we’re still having fun and making music while supporting the school’s athletics,” said Ben Goldenthal, a fifth-year business administration major and one of the marching band’s trombone section leaders. “These protocols, while sometimes inconvenient, are infinitely better than not having band at all.”

“Our students have done an amazing job adapting to our new protocols and risen to the challenge, as we know Georgia Tech students always do,” Chris Moore, director of athletic bands, added.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at the marching band’s practices this season:

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