Marching bands sidelined as football in Louisiana remains on hold

Future of football could have big impact on band members, not just players

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Some may consider the gridiron a football field, for many, it is a stage in which they perform in front of bleachers full of fans.

Those stands are empty and will be for the foreseeable future though, and the stage on which school marching bands usually perform will stay quiet as football season is put on hold.

The lack of a stage is the least of the concerns for McKinley High Band Director Alan Sharlow though.

“As of right now they don’t have instruments so just trying to figure out how we still educate without them having the tools they need to learn,” Sharlow said.

Instruments have not been given out at McKinley as most are still being sanitized and are not ready, but even if they were ready, Sharlow said students would not be able to play them, at least not at school.

First year McKinley High Band Director Alan Sharlow was not expecting to teach his students virtually this year, but its all he can do to ensure they do not fall behind and when practices can resume everyone is ready to hit the right notes.”
First year McKinley High Band Director Alan Sharlow was not expecting to teach his students virtually this year, but its all he can do to ensure they do not fall behind and when practices can resume everyone is ready to hit the right notes.” (Source: WAFB)

“There’s an issue when kids blow an instrument what might come out,” he said. “If a kid might be infected, if anything comes out of the horn and touches another kid, it just increases the risk of exposure.”

That means no group band practice, no band camps, and no marching band.

Sharlow said he hopes to have instruments in his student’s hands soon but they likely will not be able to practice together again until Phase 3 of Govorner Edwards reopening plan.

“To be honest, yeah, it is frustrating,” he said. “I think more than anything it’s frustrating not knowing what’s going to happen and when.”

Until he can get his band back together and instruments in their hands, Sharlow resorts to teaching them virtually.

“I like to start with theory,” he said. “So I would treat band like a physics class or a chemistry class where you have a lecture period and then you have a time for a lab. So we’ll spend a lot of lecture time, we’ll spend time virtually learning the theory, learning scales, the theory behind the scales, finger and slide positions, rudiments, and at some point we’ll get to the lab portion of the class.”

But that is not enough for students like Trent Cox, a senior trombonist at McKinley. He is hoping to take his music to the next level, playing in college. To do that, he needs all the experience he can get, including marching during the halftime shows.

“We get our practice time and development in the class learning with Mr. Sharlow. Getting our technique better, learning all our scales better getting ready to audition for our next step, our college band,” Cox said.

Instead of practicing with his peers, now he and his brother, also a senior at McKinley, practice at home, performing for the ducks in the lake behind his house.

“As long as we’re determined to make the band better we can always just practice at home, and get together in a big field and come together ourselves if we’re really dedicated to getting better,” he continued.

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