HBCU Band News (courtesy theundefeated.com) — The pageantry of bands at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) — the fifth-quarter band battles, the dancers and the halftime shows — are on hold for now with the cancellation of fall sports.
HBCUs were affected on all levels by COVID-19, so now these institutions’ bands are operating in ways they never had to before the cancellation, which includes the homecoming performances. Here is what’s happened with several bands since the summer.
The band at Benedict College, led by director Henry Wade Johnson, was finishing up a Jazz Ensemble tour when the pandemic first affected the world in March.
Johnson says this had a major impact on the summer preparation time, which is crucial for most bands preparing for the fall. He said they had to cancel band camp in the summer because the students were not able to come back to the campus.
“This past summer differed in preparation. We had to actually restructure our entire rehearsal program in terms of band camp, and with the cancellation of fall sports we also had to make a reassessment of how we’re going to move forward with band,” said Johnson.
“Now, we are going into a virtual system with some face-to-face meetings. The best thing, the great thing to know is we are moving forward and are going to have rehearsals in some shape, form or fashion using all of the PPE and all of the CDC standards that have been put in place for us to rehearse.”
The school has a limited number of students on campus due to COVID-19 restrictions. Because of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) cancellation of fall sports, the band will not have a season, either.
“Once we got the information from our conference, the SIAC, we were shut down totally. On average, we’ll go two days a week. We have split up our band into sections, smaller groups, and that way we will be able to follow through with the CDC and all of the protocols set forth to make sure that our kids are safe with social distancing and the washing of hands,” said Johnson.
“We clean the instruments after every session and it’s going pretty good. The negative part of it is we should not perform as an entire entity, the entire group. The students who are living off campus are not allowed to come on campus, which I believe it’s a monkey in the wrench.”
Drum major Grady Bonds III from Macon, Georgia, is not getting to experience the senior season he imagined.
“I’m actually the first drum major in Benedict College history to be drum major for three years. So that is probably what killed me more than just it being my senior year. I really wanted to make this a really unforgettable year over any of the others that we’ve had,” said Bonds.
Not only will his senior season be put on hold, but for the first time, he’s had to pick up a job while attending classes.
“I’ve never worked during school time, like during the actual fall or spring semester, because I’ve always been in band,” said Bonds. “This is just time management, which is one of the things that I’ve learned from the band anyway, one of the biggest life lessons.”
Click here to read more about band activities at Florida A&M, Bethune-Cookman, Texas Southern University, and Southern University.