This blog is the 10th in an occasional series written by local people and businesses as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, Route Bay City features Bailey Krause, a Bay City Central High School junior. Bailey is one of the Percussion Section Leader in the marching band. This week, the marching band started its first in-person camp since 2019.
How can you explain the feeling of returning to a life that you once took for granted? I think we’re all beginning to experience it, and for me it has been fading back into view since October. One of the biggest things that I have come to appreciate is being a part of my school’s bands. Band was always my thing. Some people had sports or theater, and I am a part of other things, but nothing ever seemed to fit as well as music. So you can see how much it would hurt to lose something I take such comfort in when the world felt as though it was crashing down.
The day we found out about the COVID-19 virus seemed like a big joke. My English teacher was spraying Lysol all around the classroom, and people scoffed when someone would ask them to use hand sanitizer. It was all fun and games until my fourth hour biology class, when the first wave of shock came for me. A message from my band teacher reading that “All band events through April 30th have been canceled.” A murmur started around the room. How could this be? An hour ago we were joking about hazmat suits and now we’re losing everything we had been working toward.
The following months came with more and more cancelations and postponements; the sun seemed to be behind a never-ending cloud. The next disappointment came in August. The school year would begin online. And so, my sophomore year of high school began, not with pep rallies and football games, but with pajama bottoms and technical difficulties.
When I got to my fifth hour class, aka band, I noticed that something felt different than my other classes. I looked around the screen and saw that almost everyone had their camera on. For some this may not mean anything, but for anyone that has experienced a high school Zoom class, this is pretty rare. As I looked around at all the faces I had once shared the field with, I realized that I wasn’t alone in all of this. I wasn’t the only one sitting in my room and longing to hear our fight song after a touchdown was scored, or to celebrate after we received the best score at our band festivals. These people were feeling the same way I was, and that brought me more comfort than I could have ever expressed.
In the next month, everything had seemed to brighten up ; we returned to in-person school and were allowed to play as a band outside. At this point I don’t even remember the specifics, how many times we had to replay a measure or how hot the sun made the air feel, I just remember being there and finally getting to do what I loved again. In late October, we were allowed to play as a whole band at a football game. Sure, it wasn’t the same as before, but it was enough for me.
In the winter, we weren’t able to play outside as a group since it was too cold, which meant that we weren’t able to play at all. This brought about the introduction of bucket drums and ukuleles, the band’s newest way of keeping the music playing at school through this crazy time. (Learn more about the band switching briefly to drums and ukuleles in this November 2019 Route Bay City article.)
Throughout the school year, the district went back-and-forth between in-person and online school. As a student, it was one of the most frustrating things about this whole experience, and as a musician it was even worse. My band teacher had proposed a Spring Concert, I remember her saying that it would happen “no matter how we have to do it.” I didn’t believe her, I was sure that everything would be canceled the same as it was last March - but we were given our music through Google Classroom and worked on it in Zoom calls with our individual sections.
It finally felt real when we returned back to school for the last time. It eventually got warm enough to play outside again and we got started on our five different songs. My 5:30 a.m. wakeups began again as our zero-hour steel drum bands started up again; never in my life did I think I would miss them as much as I did. One of the rehearsal days that I remember the most from that time was the class when we were told that we were allowed to take our masks off if we were outside. Everyone stripped off their face coverings and revealed the same faces that I had seen on the screen eight months ago when everything had felt dark.
On June 1, the day was spent holding jazz, steel drum and marching band concerts outdoors. Parents, grandparents, and siblings came to watch and, for the first time in far too long, things felt normal again. That Spring Concert that I never believed would happen, finally came. It was a great day and at the end of it all, I finally felt as though we were a band again.
As I’m writing this, I’m getting ready to go to band camp downstate for the first time since 2019. As you’re reading this, I’m probably standing out on a field with a heavy drum on my shoulders, sweating under the sun, and there’s nowhere I would rather be.