At Blue Band practices this Fall, Blue Band Director Dr. Greg Drane has not conducted a song. Not one.

“True — I haven’t conducted a single tune,” he acknowledges. That is because, in these strange times, his primary role as Director is not using a baton but as the Band’s Safety Officer. He spends practices up on the tower making sure that all Covid-19 guidelines are met and followed.

That does not mean the Blue Band is not prepared to perform. Far from it. Whether the Big 10 resumes some sort of football season or another opportunity arises, Dr. Drane’s mission is to assure the Blue Band will be in fine musical fettle.

“If something does happen, we are prepared,” Dr. Drane promises. “All of our plans have been submitted to Athletics and we are ready to pull the trigger if something changes.”

empty Blue Band tower

Meantime, the Blue Band has gone old-school with practices. Things would look strange to ABBA members. For starters, all Blue Band members meet at a place off the practice field and then break into sectionals. For another, practice has been called off more than once due to the threat of rain. But it is mainly Covid-19 that is messing with tradition.

Thanks to support from ABBA, all of the current Blue Band members received draw-string backpacks filled with sanitizer, face mask and similar items. No, Dr. Drane says, there are no mouthpiece holes in those face masks. Therefore we have had special masks made with a hole for the mouthpiece which students use while playing.  

All of this enforced separation has had an impact on the Blue Band’s sound. “We’ve taken maybe 15 to 20 percent off our sound,” he worries. To make up the difference, they are working on things like articulation to build a presence.

“We’re going to be tight,” Dr. Drane promises. “We’re going for that Chicago sound.”

Should the status quo continue, ABBA members can anticipate the possibility of virtual Blue Band programs. “That could be extremely big,” Dr. Drane says. There may be performances using the same technology platform that the athletic department utilized for its family dinner.

“Whatever happens, we’re hoping for the best,” Dr. Drane says optimistically. “We’ll be ready to go!”

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