JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The East Tennessee State University Marching Bucs were supposed to start their sixth season Monday, but thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, that is yet another thing that looks different in 2020.
The Marching Bucs will continue their studies virtually, Director of Athletic Bands Joe Moore told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais, with the exception of a few, smaller on-campus concerts.
“Unfortunately, it’s going to look a little different than it normally does because of the COVID situation and because of football being moved now to the spring,” Moore said. “We had a lot of students who were needing the class and so we have moved the class to a virtual format online, which we’re still going to be able to meet their educational needs through instruction, bringing in various experts in the marching arts and doing seminars with them and a variety of things like that.”
As marching band typically means scholarships, the question remained about eligibility.
Moore explained that the marching band class that normally would have met three days a week, outside, will now meet virtually. And as long as students with scholarships are enrolled in that class, they will remain eligible to hold those scholarships.
“We’re working on content to make it meaningful, not just busy-work,” he said. “Things that will help them improve as musicians, improve visually as marchers and provide some leadership and educational opportunities for our students who are going to be band directors in the future and things like that.”
As ETSU has a lot of students who live on or near campus, Moore said university administration hoped to organize a few smaller performances throughout the fall, regardless of sports.
“We sent out a volunteer survey just to see who would be willing to come back and within a minute of sending that email, the responses started pouring in and so I think we have close to 160 students who want to volunteer,” he explained.
One of the Marching Bucs’ student section leaders explained to News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that this season’s kickoff looks completely different as he walks on ETSU campus alone.
“Usually we come in and we work from what feels like sun-up to sundown to make sure that we’re ready for the season and whatnot, and today would’ve been the day that we have everybody coming in – actually, today would’ve been the first day that we would’ve been on the field,” Jacob Perhne said.
He said that he usually would be bonding with old and new friends but spent most of his first day back compiling music for his section of the band.
“Having it a little different this year, we’re coming in as a leadership team, kind of just sorting through music and getting prepared for this smaller version of the band this year,” he said.
As a section leader, Perhne has added responsibilities, and he thinks going virtual might make it easier to communicate and connect with some band members.
“Currently, we’re doing a lot of stuff talking to people via text, via Zoom, and whatnot, just trying to keep the morale up. There’s a lot of people that are still bummed out over not being able to come to campus but it’s allowing us the opportunity to virtually get to know people, there’s that hidden wall on a screen that you can talk to people easier sometimes it seems. A lot of people have opened up a whole lot more on that front and it’s helped us get to know people quicker as well,” he explained.
Apart from the musical side of the Marching Bucs, the color guard and majorettes will also train a little differently this season: