Band directors in the Tri-Cities work to navigate new normal as summer practice nears


TRI-CITIES (WJHL)- The school year is coming to an end but some programs would normally be getting started; High school athletics and bands are trying to figure out what’s next due to the Coronavirus.

Band directors in the Tri-Cites are trying to find ways to prepare for summer camps and next school year, but that could look a whole lot different from years past with social distancing measures.

“Ultimately I think it’s important that the public knows and the parents know that we have these procedures in place,” said Science Hill High School’s Band Director, Carson Vermillion.

From having nine students to one instructor and chairs six feet apart, Vermillion has been trying to prepare for what teaching his students may look like.

“These are set up at six feet intervals,” Vermillion explained pointing to the chair as he walked around the band room, “and I can get one more row in here which would be 54 bodies”

He has around 160 students, but the room would usually sit around 200 students.

Social distancing measures cutting those numbers drastically.

Over in Kingsport, Dobyns-Bennett High School’s Band Director, Lafe Cook, said he’s been in contact with multiple band directors in the area struggling with the same issues.

“There’s a proposal out from the area health directors and superintendents to the health department that proposes like a plan to go back to athletic practices and band would be wrapped up in that,” said Cook.

With over 300 students in his band, those practices could be a little complicated.

“With a band of 379 kinds that’s going to require a weird schedule where the clarinets come in for two hours, and then the trumpets come in and then the trombones come in,” explained Cook.

Holding band auditions would be the first step band directors would have to conquer.

“What we have not had auditions for yet is our drum line and color guard, and so our idea is that if we can get into our small groups in the first of June we can have those auditions like we normally have done two or three weeks ago,” said Vermillion.

Dobyns-Bennett High School’s band is making June their go-to date.

“In a normal year we would start summer band rehearsals in late June and so we got a little time to see what happens. So at this time I would say we’re not behind if you will,” said Cook.

Both school’s full band camp isn’t scheduled until July and they both have their camps on their own school campuses.

Their asking students to be prepared for changes.

“These bands are going to happen one way or the other. Now what high school band looks like this fall may be really different,” said Cook.

It’s important to note that these plans can change at anytime with new guidelines coming out on a daily basis.

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