During the summer of 2020, a feeling of doubt was cast on the advisors and members of the Amsterdam Marching Rams (along with other clubs and sports) about whether they would be given the opportunity to play, twirl, and dance. Features that the Rams are well-known for (their formation changes and movement or the majorettes’ arm-linking during kickline) would need to be adapted or removed all together. GASD and New York state safety precautions seemed impossible to overcome; for starters, how exactly do you play an instrument with a mask on?
The group acclimated to many modifications and new rules throughout the course of their practices and performances. Temperature checks on arrival, mask mandates, and social distancing measures were obviously adopted. Practices varied in length and location and were spontaneously canceled or planned; members remained six to twelve feet apart at all times; shows were held in the high school’s parking lot and were live-streamed for fans at home instead of on our football field for a roaring crowd.
Katelyn Mickel (senior), the captain of Color Guard, brought up an issue that student leaders and advisors experienced while teaching newcomers. Mickel says, “We had to be positioned at least six feet away from one another, even in practice, which presented new challenges in being able to teach the younger members of the band.” In some cases, band members had to learn and practice from home. “Teaching yourself a dance with your only reference being a video on your phone can be pretty hard, especially for those in their first year of majorettes,” says Brenna McNamara, a junior majorette.
Ann Wilary, the Marching Rams and Wind Ensemble Director, was concerned about the adjustments and difficulties, but was ultimately upset that members would be disappointed by the shorter, restricted season. “I think the greatest challenge of the season was not a result of the changes that we had to make for safety, but the fact that my heart was truly broken for the students who look forward to being together for Friday night games, parades, trips, and even fundraisers.”
While the unprecedented circumstances may appear to have been a hindrance to the enjoyment of the season, the participants I spoke to made the best of their time together. Mrs. Wilary acknowledged Assistant Director Cody Chamberlin’s self-training with the technology used to live-stream, and mentioned that the technology will most likely be applied to future seasons, post-pandemic.
The season had a disappointing yet foreseeable end, as the Marching Rams’ last show – the Latin show – was canceled in order to preserve participants’ health, but another opportunity to pick up where the season left off is being considered. Fall sports – including football – are currently planned to start at the beginning of March, which gives the band a chance to perform under Friday night lights. On September 23rd, the NYSDOH released an update regarding higher risk sports and recreation activities. It states that these groups “may partake in individual or distanced group training and organized no/low-contact group training.” They also announced that sports would be able to take part in competitions and tournaments, “only permitted by the respective local health authorities.”
Wilary says as long as the group is able to perform safely at games, they will be there to support their team. Catharine Chapman, the Junior Drum Major, says she is very excited about the possibility. “I want a shot at normalcy, not only for my year of Junior Drum Major, but for the seniors who have worked themselves for 4 years now; they deserve a good marching season.”
As a majorette, I believe I speak for the team and entire marching band when I thank our advisors for putting together the best season they could offer. As a senior, I hope to be able to march once more, and eagerly anticipate what the spring will bring.