On a blustery grey Wednesday afternoon, about 200 scholar musicians acquired the prospect they’d been ready a yr for – the prospect to be a band once more.
The UW–Madison Varsity Band gathered for the primary giant group practices for the reason that COVID-19 lockdown started. Flashing inexperienced Badger Badges to point out they have been in compliance with campus well being guidelines, they lined up on the follow subject – fastidiously distanced, with bell covers to restrict the airflow from their devices and two masks (one common and one with a small slit, for enjoying).
“It’s been some time since I’ve seen this many individuals in the identical place with devices. So I’m grateful,” mentioned Corey Pompey, the director of athletic bands. “Let’s transfer some air!” he exclaimed, beginning a warmup train. “Sooner, quicker! I wish to hear extra air shifting!”
The band suspended follow final March for what members anticipated could be only a brief hiatus – very quickly, they thought, they’d be on the Kohl Heart performing their annual spring live performance. As a substitute, it’s been a yr of rehearsals by way of Zoom and in small teams of the identical instrument. Now, eventually, they have been collectively – trumpets, trombones, clarinets, saxophones, mellophones, euphoniums, flugelhorns, drums, cymbals and naturally the tubas. It wasn’t fairly your complete band – college students break up into two teams, every working towards for an hour, and a few members who’re learning remotely weren’t in a position to be part of – nevertheless it was a begin.
When the primary three notes of the warmup sounded a little bit tentative, Pompey gently chided, “I understand it’s been a very long time since we’ve been collectively however absolutely we will produce an even bigger sound than that!” The musicians responded immediately with fuller sound.
“Extra brass! Extra brass!” urged Pompey, perched atop a ladder, coatless regardless of the coolness. “Tubas, let me hear a B flat. And hopefully it’s the identical B flat from all of you.”
Then it was time to attempt “Varsity,” the tune that closes each sporting occasion and celebration. The primary be aware began… and stopped. “Woof! Attempt it once more!” Pompey mentioned. A number of extra begins and stops and the band started to hit its stride. “Good, lovely sound,” Pompey mentioned. “Oh! You sound good!”
They moved by way of all of the favorites – “On, Wisconsin,” “If You Wish to Be a Badger,” “A Scorching Time within the Previous City Tonight,” “The Horse” – Pompey’s ladder quivering as he stomped his foot.
It’s not but recognized when the band will carry out for followers once more at venues like Camp Randall and Union South’s Badger Bash. On at the present time, just some folks have been close by to benefit from the music. Kaysi McGhie, a pharmacy teacher at UW Hospital, and her 3-year-old son Leo have been passing by and Leo acquired so excited by the sight of the band that they took a detour, pausing to hear and dance.
Katy Jurgella, a senior trumpet participant from Middleton, thought this follow may make her a little bit unhappy as a result of the total group wouldn’t be collectively. “Now that I’m right here, I’m very excited,” she mentioned. She hadn’t performed in public for the reason that Rose Bowl in January 2020.
Jurgella lives in a home with seven of her fellow trumpet gamers and mentioned that helped her preserve a way of neighborhood by way of a difficult time.
For some, the follow was about greater than music. “It’s undoubtedly an indication of what’s to return, simply across the nook,” mentioned Zachary Bethel, a educating assistant with the band. “The sunshine is on the finish of the tunnel.”
Because the follow wound to shut, Pompey urged college students to maintain up the security precautions which have restricted the unfold of COVID-19 and allowed follow to renew.
“This can be a actually, actually momentous event and the hope is that we don’t go backwards – we hold shifting ahead,” he mentioned. “It’s good to see you, all people. I can’t wait to do it once more.”
Drum main Josh Richlen of Greendale stepped as much as lead the band in its slogan of the day.
“Eat a rock!” the scholars shouted. “It’s good to be again! On, Wisconsin!”