Daniel Jackson, Correspondent
The year 2020 has been one that no one could have foreseen and no statistical analysis or personal hunch could have prepared students for the tumultuous events that would happen over the past several months.
While the impact of the virus has been felt around the world, the ever-rising COVID cases in this nation have impacted us both from knowing those personally struggling with the virus and from the perspective of wondering if the Marching Southerners would be able to perform was on everyone’s minds. With the Big 10 and Pac-12 postponing their seasons, I began to ask what this meant for Jacksonville’s football and Marching band programs.
I felt unsure how my second year in the Southerners would play out. My biggest fear was that the Southerners would not meet at all due to social distancing concerns. I was greatly relieved to receive an email from Dr. Bodiford, JSU’s director of bands, indicating that the Southerners would still meet but with enforced social distanced guidelines.
I was later informed that the Southerners were dividing into three bands in preparation of socially distanced rehearsals. With these new guidelines and rules put in place during rehearsals, the Southerners staff was able to create a safe and instructive environment for students to be with their perspective sections and in my view the results have been outstanding.
Because the band had been split into three sections, the drumline also had to be split as well. Because the drumline has a flub and cymbal line, there were some people who were “grandfathered” into a drum and had to learn a different instrument and music. When school started, the drumline had not met as a group since the last Wednesday night drum class last spring semester. Normally, the drumline has its tryouts scheduled at the end of May. However, due to COVID shelter at home restrictions, we had to audition virtually by submitting videos.
Approximately two weeks ago, Southerners rehearsals started, which meant that this was the first time the drumline had played together this semester. With the division of the drumline and addition of new freshmen, the expectations and demands seem to be higher than previous years, perhaps because we have such a strong desire to triumph over adversity.
I asked the Southerner’s Marching Percussion Captain, Zach Odom, a couple of questions regarding his thoughts on the Southerners 2020 season, notably with social-distancing rules in effect, how the way the drumline rehearses has been impacted.
Odom indicated that “the most significant change to rehearsal this year is the drumline, band, colorguard, and Ballerinas are all divided into three separate bands. This was done to limit the amount of contact between all members in order to hopefully minimize the spread of COVID-19. Each band only rehearses once a week with Band A being on Monday’s, Band B on Tuesday’s, and Band C on Wednesday’s. All members are always required to maintain a distance of at least six feet from each other. Each day when we arrive at rehearsal, we must immediately get our temperature taken and then submit an electronic document that contains information including, but not limited to, our name, temperature, section, and band we reside in.”
He was also asked about what has been the biggest challenge he has had to face this season.
“The biggest challenge for me thus far has been the fact that the drumline is split into three smaller drumlines,” said Odom. “As Drum Captain, it is my responsibility to see through that the drumline is on par with our goals. Because we’re split up, it is impossible for me to be able to keep close tabs on the other two lines which I am not a part of. Therefore, I have had to relinquish some of my duties to other senior members in the ensemble. However, because of this division, the 2021 edition of the JSU Drumline will be even stronger. With the leadership experience that most of our veteran members are receiving this year, everyone will be better equipped to handle any challenges they face in the future.”
Asked how has the Southerners staff prepared the students to have a successful season while socially distanced, he said “Because the Southerners are divided into three bands and are not allowed to perform on the field for the 2020 season, the staff has re-evaluated our goals for this year. First, we’re taking the time to revamp our stand tune repertoire by asking both staff and students to arrange tunes from some of today’s most popular songs. The exciting part is that each band will be performing different pieces. You can expect to hear these arrangements along with our standards for this football season and many seasons to come. Secondly, the Southerners will soon begin to learn music to our 2021 program. This will be a tremendous benefit for the upcoming season because of the amount of time we will have to prepare before our first performance.”
While no one can predict the future, my personal impression is that the band will in the end be stronger than ever, closer to each other in many respects, and better able to handle the many challenges that life may throw our way.