Schools will be back in session this week, but on a distance-learning basis. Virtual learning has become a new normal for many students this year, including band members.
Typically, the community is used to seeing marching bands perform during the high-school football season.
With many uncertainties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, halftime performances may be non-existent this upcoming fall. Group UIL competitions for band programs across Texas have been canceled for 2020.
Despite the cancellations and unknown of what's ahead, band programs are still holding regular practices - virtually.
Veterans Memorial High School's band program has over 200 members.
VMHS Band Director Shawn Athey has regular Zoom meetings with his assistant directors and student section leaders.
"There’s no way we could do it effectively without including our student leadership in the teaching process," Athey said.
Then the section leaders practice with just their section during regular practice times.
"You’ll see them grow in time, you’ll see more hands being raised" said clarinet section leader Kevin Nguyen. "Questions being asked, you know? You can still feel them growing."
Luckily, virtual learning has opened the door to many resources available for students to use.
Head Drum Major Emily Villareal said using different programs, such as SmartMusic, has allowed the students to practice at an easier pace and understand their lessons more clearly.
"That’s where this stuff comes in handy, and we use online books, and it can read it to you so you can stay engaged," she said.
Virtual practicing also has become another tool to help students grow.
"I’ve learned how to practice better, and I’ve learned time management more," said saxophone section leader Miles Avelar. "So it’s just taught me how to work with a better schedule with everyone than just working on my own."
Athey said, right now, although group competitions are canceled, individual competitions still will take place virtually.
As for football halftime shows, he said if it is allowed, the band will play at about 25 percent capacity and students will need to be 10 feet apart because of the aerosol droplets from the instruments.
"Although we might not have our traditional marching-band performance this year, if we’re allowed to perform in person at football games, it’s going to be on a smaller scale with smaller groups," he said. "So we’re going to create rotating groups to go to games."