‘Football and band are such important aspects of community life’: COVID-19 alters Science Hill band program

Keeping Schools Safe

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- High school band programs in the Tri-Cities are just one of many groups impacted by COVID-19.

Many schools have had to alter their programs in order to meet meet TSSAA guidelines.

News Channel 11’s Pheben Kassahun spoke with Science Hill High School’s Topper Band officials that said they have had to cut rehearsal, change music and postpone trips.

COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of many band competitions but the Topper Band is not allowing it to put a damper on its marching season. The marching band is a huge part of the high school experience.

Carson Vermillion is the band director at Science Hill High School.

“Football and band are such important aspects of community life in the south and we’re just doing everything we can to keep it going so that there can be some sense of normalcy in our communities in the fall,” Vermillion said.

Before practice, temperatures are checked and groups are divided into separate pods.

“We’re doing the things in pods. All the brass players are together. The woodwind players are in a separate location, our percussion is in a separate location. Our guards in a separate location,” Vermillion said.

Band rehearsal has been split into two different meets.

Practice usually takes places from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. During this time, students are usually fed lunch but that will not be the case this year.

“We’ve been rehearsing from 9:30 to 12:30 in the morning and then 6:30 to 9:30 in the evening, kind of avoiding the heat and just doing our best to stay distanced,” Hunter Jones told Kassahun.

Hunter Jones plays the trumpet at for the Topper Band.

“Normally, when it rains, we can just go inside to the gym or to the band room and continue with our rehearsal, work on some music or stuff, but with the guidelines and everything, we can’t go inside so when it rains, we gotta go and try to wait it out,” Jones said.

The band is still waiting on guidelines from the TSSAA about crowd size at football games.

“We’re looking at somewhere between 25% and 33% or attendance. Obviously, that’s going to effect our concession sales,” Vermillion said.

The band relies on revenue from concession sales which helps with fundraising.

Vermillion said, “We’re concerned with a lot of students that were impacted financially with the COVID. Not only are we losing our fundraising dollars, but we’re also losing our fee dollars with our students so we’re going to really try to rely on our community to kind of help us out.”

As soon as the school year starts, the band plans to hold fundraiser activities to help offset the cost burden on its players.

“For certain type of donation, we would give the patron a band magnet to put on the back of the car just to show their support of the Hilltopper Band. We’re looking at donations of $20-$25,” the band director said.

They are also not sure if they are going to be able to hold their own competition. Anything could change from now until the school

Vermillion said, “We were originally scheduled to perform in the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade, in November and we just made that decision this past summer just to go ahead and postpone that summer trip as well until 2021.”

“I’m sad because the competitions were kind of fun,” Cadence Holley, who plays the flute said.

The band also switched out their new show with one from the past.

“We’re bringing back a show that we did in 2012– The 70s Show– and it’s a little more fun, upbeat show for our fans for Friday night, but also it can be competitive if we do have the opportunity to compete either regionally or locally in any type of marching band competitions,” Vermillion said.

Vermillion said because of concerns surrounding COVID-19, this year’s Science Hill High School Band participation decreased by about 10%.

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