After COVID-19 upended the music, school band is back in Spokane

<p><p>The Mt. Spokane High School marching band is in mid-season form. And what a season it’s been.</p></p><p><p>Earlier this month, the Wildcats journeyed to Yakima and finished third out of 17 bands. Then they packed their gear back into the bus and didn’t get home until 2 a.m. – an inconvenience they’re happy to endure after what happened last year.</p></p><p><p>That’s when the music died, or at least went into hibernation, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic – much like the players, who were reduced to recording themselves at home.</p></p><p><p>“It was a pain in the butt,” said Sy Hovik, director of the marching band.</p></p><p><p>But band is back.</p></p><p><p>In schools across Spokane County, musicians in band, orchestra and choir are getting ready to show their stuff with fall concerts on the schedule.</p></p><p><p>A year after COVID upended their practices, the Wildcat band was practicing on a perfect October afternoon. The football and soccer teams were doing their thing nearby, but the marching band commanded a stage framed by the mountains behind them.</p></p><p><!–[photoset id=11526]–></p><p><p>“Our kids are just excited to be on the field,” Hovik said as his 137 players took their places to rehearse a Western-style show for an upcoming football game.</p></p><p><p>A few miles away, Brandon Campbell and the Mead band were perfecting a Japanese-themed performance entitled “Samurai.”</p></p><p><p>It was the same show Campbell was ready to roll out last year .</p></p><p><p>“It’s been a little bit of a challenge because it was written for a different group, so we’ve had to ask some kids to step up,” Campbell said.</p></p><p><p>And that’s OK, said Mead senior Eli Ordaz.</p></p><p><p>“I just appreciate it a lot more, because a lot of my friends are in band and there are so many people I’ve gotten to know,” Ordaz said.</p></p><p><p>“We always tell the kids that it’s not about the trophies, it’s what you get out of the experience,” Hovik said. “It’s also about the friendships you make.”</p></p><p><p>Most of those friendships endured , but the pandemic didn’t make band easy.</p></p><p><p>“Last year was interesting,” said Tyler Garrett, a senior brass captain at Mead. Recalling online projects and “standing still and playing random songs,” Garrett said it was difficult to improve.</p></p><p><p>“That really impacted people,” Garrett said.</p></p><p><p>Abigail Golan, a senior drum major at Mt. Spokane, said she was “devastated” when the band was sidelined by COVID.</p></p><p><p>“Honestly, band is so hard, and time-wise, it’s like such a huge commitment, but it’s so rewarding – one of the best experiences you can have in high school.”</p></p><p><p>Marching bands have the best of all worlds. Performing outside means they can literally breathe free, without a mask.</p></p><p><p>Few appreciated the moment as much as drum major Kaley Anderson.</p></p><p><p>A clarinet player since fifth grade, Anderson said joining band was “completely life-changing … I really found my place here.”</p></p><p><p>It’s a big commitment, but that’s the whole point, Anderson said.</p></p><p><p>“Everyone has to have their whole self invested in the show, because there aren’t any star players,” Anderson said.</p></p><p><p>Hovik agreed.</p></p><p><p>“I tell everyone that they are the starting quarterback,” Hovik said before mounting a scaffold and directing a rehearsal.</p></p><p><p>As Hovik watched from above, the band performed a show called “Outlaw,” inspired by Aron Copland, “The Good, the Bad and The Ugly” and something modern.</p></p><p><p>“You can’t do a Western show without Bon Jovi,” he said.</p></p><p><p>The challenge this year is bringing the newcomers up to speed.</p></p><p><p>In football terms, this is a young team: Out of 137 marching band members, 89 are freshmen and sophomores who’ve never done this before.</p></p><p><p>“It’s a steep learning curve, but I’m definitely proud,” Hovik said.</p></p><p><p>The numbers are down a bit at Mead, but the Panthers finished just behind Mt. Spokane in the competition held in Yakima.</p></p><p><p>“It was really good,” Campbell said. “We definitely put on our best performance … overall it was a really good experience.”</p></p><p><p>For both bands, the Yakima competition was important enough that they missed performing at the “Battle of the Bell” football game between the two rivals.</p></p><p><p>Then again, rivalry only goes so far.</p></p><p><p>After missing out on a fall season, the Mead and Mt. Spokane bands joined forces last spring in what turned out to be the christening of the district’s new Union Stadium.</p></p><p><p>Because of COVID-19 restrictions, band members were required to stand still.</p></p><p><p>“But it was so cool, to be able to join with our sister school,” said Jordan Dubinsky, a senior member of the Mt. Spokane color guard. “It was just a great sense of community.”</p></p><p><p>That sense of community will endure, the players agree.</p></p><p><p> “As a freshman, I was playing with people who were better than me,” Garrett said. “Now I get to help the underclassmen.”</p></p>