COVID-19 pandemic complicates how high school marching bands prep for UIL contest

UIL Participation

LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - During halftime at a high school football game, everyone expects to see that high school band hit the field and perform. This year it may or may not happen. But those halftime performances are just part of the warm-up to the Region Band Contest that has now been pushed back a month.

Mike Bullock, executive secretary for UIL Region 21 Music, coordinates several regional contests throughout the school year, but the first one involves high school marching bands.

“What a band normally does is they start learning their contest drill on Aug. 1 first on a normal year. And that continues up until marching contest which is usually October. And so normally they’re going to put more and more and more of their competition show as football season progresses,” Bullock said.

But that pattern has grown complicated during the pandemic. Several schools have already decided to cancel sending bands and drill teams to away games. They can’t begin their competitive marching drills until a certain point, which is set for Sept. 7.

He said COVID-19 has added at least six weeks to their season since they now overlap.

“Normally we’re through in early November, with our state marching contest, which is usually in San Antonio. This year it’s going to stretch out into December, and I’ve heard rumor that it might even go to January,” Bullock said.

Bullock explains his charge is to:

“Set the contest up; the Region Contest and Area Contest, hire the judges, get it all ready, but it could all be cancelled in an instant,” Bullock said.

So, at this point all he can do is to keep moving forward with planning a site, hotels and judges. And as far as students learning from home or a classroom:

“The UIL has said either track is OK for football, band, choir; those students can still perform at contest regardless of the situation. However individual schools can make a more stringent rule if they’d like to,” Bullock said.

Bullock said a few high schools have told him they are not going to contest, but add they’re still going to “see what happens”. So things are obviously still up in the air.

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