Many of us are feeling great regret at the lack of readily accessible live music right now; necessary health and safety regulations understandably restrict the ability for music lovers to gather together to enjoy a performance, as well as make it difficult for groups of musicians to engage in rehearsals, let alone prepare for a show.
However, one local musical ensemble is not only rehearsing regularly, but has already performed a show for an appreciative audience. Greenville High School Marching Band opened its season last Friday night at Harmon Field during the school’s initial 2020 football game; since only close relatives of those students involved in football, cheer, or band were eligible to receive tickets, the stands were not packed as in a usual opening night, but to say that the band played to an appreciative audience would be an understatement.
Of course, as with life in general these days, the band show was different from those of the past, although, as usual, it was an impressive extravaganza. Judged competition among schools’ marching bands was canceled this year due to COVID-19, leading to a somewhat unusual playlist and a different kind of show; the band’s competition show, “Mulberry Street” based on the works of Dr. Seuss, was put on hold until next season, while Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby” and “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons were included in the program entitled “The Three R’s.”
Aware that all interactions with others must be carried out safely, Band Director Sara Lewis created choreo-moves that are similar to popular dance movements, working out mathematical equations so that social distancing of six feet or more is always observed. Indoors, bell covers act as “masks,” preventing disease-carrying aerosols from spewing out of the instruments, thereby protecting against the virus spreading through the air.
Ms. Lewis also directs GHS’s symphonic band and wind symphony, although due to restrictions on indoor gatherings, the date of those ensembles’ first concert is unknown at this time. When asked to explain the difference between a concert band and a marching band, the Northmont High School graduate said that the instrumentation is essentially the same, but with adaptations made to attach certain instruments to the body. For example, in marching bands, drums and sousaphones are worn, rather than carried, allowing the musicians to move while at the same time playing instruments.
According to Ms. Lewis, the 54 students who make up the band are considered musical athletes, and get gym credit for their efforts to “work out in a different way.” Although gifted eighth graders are usually rewarded by inclusion in the marching band, this year is different because of the pandemic, resulting in those young talented musicians having to wait till next year to march on the field.
In her fourth year at Greenville under the leadership of department chair J.R. Price, who Sara lauds as a community pillar and a good mentor, the band director is especially looking forward to the Green Wave’s football game against Xenia where her husband David is in charge of the marching band. The couple met while students at Ohio University, and now live in Brookville with their dog and two cats. During the summer, the couple usually enjoys playing with Greenville’s Municipal Band in Greenville City Park, but — as mentioned before — this is not a normal year; the popular concert series did not take place. According to Sara, she and David participate in the Municipal Band because they “want to keep up,” adding that doing so makes them better teachers, then says “And it’s good for the soul.”
Indeed! Music inspires, music heals, music can lessen daily trials and reduce the stress one encounters when journeying through life. So, even in this year when nothing is normal, at least one constant remains — the “universal language” of music speaks to us all, from those in the Greenville High School Music Department to everyone in the greater world now coping with a fearsome predator of unknown dimensions, music provides escape, pleasure, joy, and peace; we can all be grateful for its sustaining gifts.