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Marching band students fight to play

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 10:20 AM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - They are the ones that bring the pep to pep rallies, and help get fans excited at football games. Everyone who attends a high school sporting event is aware of the band, but not many people know the work it takes to get performance ready. Local band students are trying to change that.

“We just want the same opportunities that full-contact sports have been given recently.”

Alex Josephson is a junior at Damonte Ranch High School. As a middle school student, she found her passion when she was introduced to Winter Guard and Marching Band, and that passion has carried on.

“I never had a community of people who were there, valued my presence and wanted me to be a better version of myself - not just as a performer, but as a person,” she said.

As a member of the drumline, she has hundreds of rehearsal and practice hours under her belt. Before the pandemic, it wasn’t unheard of for these students to spend 12-hour days at the high school.

“Our rehearsals are 3-4 hours during the week, but like 8 hours on Saturdays. Those are very long rehearsals that you need to be in shape for.”

However, all of that changed with COVID. Suddenly, Josephson and her fellow band and guard members were no longer able to practice together. The only time they could play their instruments was in class. But a few hours each week is just not enough time to stay performance ready.

Josephson said they understood the restrictions, until Governor Steve Sisolak gave the green light for full-contact sports to resume. Since band and guard are not regulated under the NIAA, they are still sidelined. Josephson says it feels like the arts are being overlooked.

“I feel like we kind of get pushed aside,” she said. “We make money, but not as much as sports do, so it’s not as appreciated. It’s not much of a priority. Even though we put in all the time, people don’t readily see that. Whereas with sports it’s obvious because they get how sports work.”

She argues, their activities are safer. Band members don’t share equipment. At DRHS, wind instruments have special shields to limit aerosol droplets. But the most important difference, Josephson points out, is even pre-COVID social distancing was a key element of practice.

“Our flags are 6 feet tall. If you go closer than that, you’ll get hit. Same with the drums. You can’t necessarily go that close.”

Josephson says it just doesn’t make sense that other high school athletes can tackle each other, but the band can’t rehearse even though they have less contact.

So she started a petition.

“We’re asking for conditioning. We’re asking to be together and prepare for our season. Because by next year, we are going to have two years of inexperienced marchers and that’s a lot.”

That’s like going two years without any team practice and then asking the football team to play a game.
Josephson says she believes state leaders just don’t understand what goes into marching band and guard, so they aren’t on the radar. The students hope the petition will change that.

“We don’t know what they think about what we do,” Josephson said. “We don’t even know if they know what we do. So it comes a point, is it because they’re not educated or they don’t know what to do so they are pushing us aside?”

Since they have built-in safety measures, Josephson believes the students of guard, marching band and drumline have just as much of a right to play as student athletes do.

“There are these things in place, and we’ve shown these are safe, these are things to do. And if we can play in the classroom, why can’t we get together and condition.”

KOLO 8 News Now reached out to the Washoe County School District. In a statement they said:

“We understand and appreciate the fact that our students and families are eager to participate in activities as soon as possible. District leaders, principals, and teachers are preparing guidance for school staff members, families, and students as we begin to resume these important and much-anticipated activities on our campuses soon. An important part of this effort involves establishing the proper safety procedures in place to protect the health of our school families. We look forward to communicating with our students, families, and staff members when we have information to share.”

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