The Central Sound of Chattanooga Faces Unforeseen Circumstances


Sarah Katheron Latham

PHOTO GALLERY: HOMECOMING 2020 — The band performs their half-time show, “This is Me: The Music of The Greatest Showman”, post-game, homecoming night.

Sarah Katheron Latham, Assistant Editor

As COVID-19 has changed everything, schools have done their best to keep students in a ‘normal’ routine.  Classes, sports, band, and choir have all continued with certain modifications.  This continuation has not occurred without some challenges.  Not only has the band had to adjust to COVID-19 regulations, but they also had to vacate their room first quarter.

The year began in July for the marching band as they began to learn the music for this year’s half time show: “This is Me: the music of the Greatest Showman”.  The halftime show includes songs from the major motion picture such as, “The Greatest Show”, “This is Me”, “Never Enough”, and “From Now On”.  During the July band camp, they were able to begin learning the music, but it was difficult to tell what the school year would look like with some students learning at home and others learning in-person.

“When school started we had a better idea of who was going to be involved…We had the theme of the show and the music picked out, and that didn’t change, but I couldn’t start writing the pictures until school started,” explained Joseph Archer, Band Director at Central.

The band’s number of participants has remained relatively the same.  The Jazz band contains 10 people, with four learning at home; marching band has twenty-two participants this year, with 10 learning at home.  Therefore the marching band has been practicing on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 to 6:30.  This has allowed them to practice as a full ensemble.

When school started, guidelines were released for bands and choirs in Hamilton County to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Aerosols are the droplets that come from people’s breath; scientists have studied these to create guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.  As a result of the study, Hamilton County has set guidelines that allow students to sing/play wind instruments for thirty minutes indoors, with a twenty-four minute break before resuming singing or playing.   Outside, the bands and choirs can sing for thirty minutes with only a five minute break.  When bands are playing inside, students and instruments must be masked; only students need to be masked when taking a break from playing outside.

As a result of these guidelines the band has been practicing outside in the lower guest parking lot during the first quarter.  However, this is not the only location change that the band has gone through this year; they have also been without access to their room for several weeks.  This is due to an incident that happened over the weekend of August 15-16. A problem with the school’s Air conditioning caused mold to grow on the band room floor.  The mold made the room an unhealthy environment, so the it was off limits.  The flooring was removed and replaced with tile.  While the room was cleared, the opportunity was taken to paint the band room; the leadership class, parent volunteers, and band students all helped complete this task.

“We had about half an hour to figure out what to do because it was not a good environment for kids to be in.  [Administration] was very prompt in getting me a new space…We have a brand new tile floor…a brand new paint job,” stated Archer.

While the band room was being take care of, Archer’s classes were meeting in Portable 4, which was otherwise unoccupied this year.  The band stored their equipment in G-209.  The Marching and Jazz band began class in Portable 4, then they moved to G-209 to gather their equipment (instruments, music stands, etc.), and finally to the lower parking lot for practice.

“It’s nice practicing outside when its not too hot,” declared Brecken Griffith, a member of both the Jazz band and Marching band.

“It could be worse,” expressed Griffith’s classmate, Alex White.

Archer’s classes were able to move back into the band room Monday, October 5.   They are continuing to practice outside, but as it gets cooler, they will practice inside with bell covers.

This year, the band has had the opportunity to play at five home games.  According to Hamilton County guidelines, bands are not allowed to travel with football teams to away games, which means the band has played at half the number of games that they would normally play at.  Also, all band competitions and festivals are cancelled for 2020, which means the marching band will not get to perform their halftime show at the competition that they normally participate in during the fall semesters.  The band is going to be able to have their winter concert December 15 with the Central Voices, pending Hamilton County approval.

The band has gone through a lot this year, and their normal schedule and routines have been completely altered.  They have learned how to function in a hybrid situation with people learning virtually and in person. They have learned how to adapt to being outside of their room, and they have adjusted to all the new guidelines concerning COVID-19. The band has really learned to face all kinds of problems this year and still enjoy making music together.

“A lot of people haven’t been able to have a marching band season, but we were able to get on the field,” expressed Melanie Rousseau, a Senior participating in both Jazz Band and Marching band this semester.