Going virtual: BHS band

  • Emily Stewart, a Bearden High School Marching Band ninth-grader, practices her trombone at home during this year’s BHS Band Camp, which took place virtually from Monday, July 20, through Friday, July 31. - Photo submitted

  • Benjamin Cline, Bearden High School Marching Band student, practices his trumpet at home during this year’s BHS Band Camp, which took place virtually from Monday, July 20, through Friday, July 31. - Photo submitted

In light of the last surge of COVID-19 cases, many Knox County schools cancelled their band camps this year.

However, Bearden High School Marching Band directors took their camp virtual.

“We really wanted to do something,” said Megan Christian, BHS’s co-band director with James Wilson. “We’re glad to have the opportunity to do it.

“It’s not the same (as the regular band camp), but it’s something,” she added.

The school held its camp from July 20 through July 31.

“We’re so fortunate to live in a time where we have tools through the use of technology that will allow us to still rehearse where the kids can actually be at their homes, and we’re not all meeting in person,” Christian said. “We’re doing all our sectionals and rehearsal times through Zoom.

“Usually we have a two-week camp, and we still had camp this year,” she added. “We just modified the time so that students wouldn’t be sitting and looking at a screen for the same amount of time.

“Twelve hours on a video screen might become overwhelming for somebody, but we also wanted them to practice things we want them to learn, so we’ve adapted some things.

In addition to “some Zoom sessions where we’re doing things together,” Christian added, “We’ve also made some videos and recorded some things that students are practicing on their own time.

Moreover, BHS students “are also submitting videos to us, and as directors and instructors, we give them feedback,” she said. “They are also doing some buddy systems, kind of reviews or help for each other.

“We might have a section leader who might be a buddy to a freshman student, so they’ll talk and they can use Facetime or some of them use Snapchat,” Christian added.

“(The students) kind of help each other and walk through the steps. Some of our student leaders have even made videos for our freshmen to watch and learn from, so it has been pretty cool to see lots of really great problem solving occurring, which is so fundamental and important to learning.”

Focusing on the positives, “I think it’s really neat to see kids explore their creativity and find little ways to (do things differently),” Christian said. “And we have had some technical moments that (devices) have not worked,” she added and laughed. “There have been challenges, but everybody has been so positive and so on board with everything. It’s been great.”

With seniors and leadership students voting on the theme of their 2020 show, Christian said this year’s show is called “The Ultimate Mixed Tape.”

“You think of those cassettes, where people would make you a mixed tape of songs,” she added.

Reflecting on competitions and football games during which the band performed, Christian commented, “This is such an interesting time we live in.

“We are all trying to move forward with as much of a normal expectation as possible, (but) because of the guidelines that the county provided, there is a little bit of a concern about taking field trips,” she added. “So right now we’re just taking everything about two weeks to a month at a time.

“We still have everything on our schedule, and if those things don’t get to happen, we’re going to find creative solutions to still offer performances for our students.”

One of those ideas is to put together virtual concerts, where students could independently share their performance from their home and those performances could be compiled virtually into a larger performance.

They also are looking at a way of holding an outdoor performance where everyone could spread out in a safe manner.

“With the governor’s announcement (last week), we’re thinking there might be football games,” Christian said.

“We’re kind of getting geared up for those,” she added. “We’ve planned for a normal year, (but) it may just not happen that way.”