For members of the Pittsburg community, game day has many recognizable traditions, one of them being the Pride of the Plains Marching Band.
The Pride of the Plans Marching Band, under the direction of Doug Whitten, professor of tuba and euphonium and director of athletic bands, met after the summer break for their annual band camp from Thursday, Aug. 13 to Saturday, Aug. 15. Thursday consisted of first year band members, both freshmen and transfer students, going through orientation, and the band rehearsing together for the first time. Friday consisted of reviewing their marching technique as well as putting together the marching routine for their pregame show.
Like many facets of campus life, the Pride of the Plains Marching Band have adjusted normal operations so that they can comply with the health and safety guidelines put in place by Pittsburg State University, the Crawford County Health Department, the State of Kansas and the federal government. All students in the marching band are required to wear masks while not playing their instrument and most players also place some sort of covering on the end of their instruments. Students also social distance at rehearsal to mitigate any possible spread of COVID-19.
“This is super exciting, even though it’s very different than other years we have done,” said Erica Baldwin, junior in music education and one of two drum majors for the Pride of the Plains Marching Band. “However, it’s also an opportunity to do things better than we have before.”
The safety regulations for music ensembles, like the Pride of the Plains, the wind ensemble, the university choir and the Southeast Kansas Symphony, come directly from preliminary results from studies out of the University of Colorado and the University of Maryland. These studies aimed to scientifically research the transmission and proliferation of aerosol particles by which COVID-19 travels in a performance setting. These settings also include dancing, theatre and public speaking. The study found that various performance settings became much safer for both audience members and performers when performers wore masks and put safety equipment such as bell covers on their instruments. The study was funded by a variety of performance organizations, including consortiums of college band programs, associations of music directors, national music fraternities and state activities associations.
“… This year has been really interesting because information is literally changing day to day to day to day..,” Whitten said. “We still don’t know exactly what the end picture of what we’re working for is. If we have football games, which at this point I’m going to assume we will, it won’t be ‘til the middle of October. That gives a really long amount of time to work and perfect…”
Whitten also said despite the challenges facing performers during the COVID-19 pandemic, this time is an opportunity for growth.
“It’s hectic..,” Whitten said. “It’s easy to panic and say the world is ending and say this is the worst thing ever but I’ve been a band director a really long time. I’ve learned a lot of ways that things work… This is forcing me to rethink… I think… it’s a great opportunity. It’s a chance to try new things.”