By Debbie Adams
The William Byrd High School Marching Terriers band will be performing at this week’s home football game against Patrick County on March 18—despite the many challenges of playing an instrument, practicing, and performing during a pandemic.
The band members won’t actually be marching. They will be seated in the stands to perform, due to COVID restrictions, and they won’t be in uniform this week. (Seniors will be in uniform for Senior Night at the March 27 game.) They will be wearing face coverings—masks or shields—as appropriate for the instrument they are playing. They will be socially distanced in the stands with lyres and flip folders holding their music, not music stands. Their instruments, in some cases, will feature bell covers for protection.
There is no formal marching band theme program this year; no props, no half-time show–but the Marching Terriers sounded wonderful in practice in the main gym at the school on March 15, performing the traditional stands music (the “Fight Song, Hey Song, Let’s Go, Land of a 1,000 Dances,” and more) along with the national anthem and several pop arrangements, which included “Sweet Caroline,” “Thriller,” and “I Get Around.” They played around with some old favorites—“Vehicle” and “Hey Baby, Will You Be My Girl,” which probably won’t make the playlist due to lack of in-person practice time and ever-changing rules, guidelines, and group-size limitations from state officials.
Spectators are limited to one per participant (football or band), except for seniors on Senior Night who can invite two guests.
Dan Plybon remains the band director this year with Denise Aspell as assistant director.
Plybon says that band numbers are a little lower this year—with membership in the 60s; however, they have added some new students to the band.
There is a Color Guard, fewer in number as well, that has been practicing on a weekly basis all school year—unlike the marching band, that has had three in-person practices as an entire group this school year. The drumline has practiced separately as a group, along with sections such as trumpets, low brass, woodwinds, etc.
At this week’s practice, Plybon’s request to band members was that they “play as loud as you can without making a bad sound. If you’re not playing loud in marching band, you’re not having fun.”
He also reminded them to “bring the excitement and play with heart.”
“The kids have been doing really well, especially considering they haven’t been able to practice together,” Plybon said.
Their plight is similar to every other marching band in the region this year as “no one is marching.”
The school, the community, the band, and its directors have sorely missed hearing and watching the band perform this year.
Plybon pointed out his belief that, “Marching band makes you a better person.” You learn teamwork and cooperation, hard work and perseverance, how to be part of something bigger than yourself, responsibility, the value of community, in addition to the fact that it has been proven that playing music makes your brain grow and develop. He also mentioned that the band practice was one of the happiest days he has experienced in the past pandemic year.