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Virtual Performances, New Precautions Helping Blue Band Prepare for Unorthodox Season

by on October 23, 2020 3:31 PM

With Penn State football just two days away from beginning its season against Indiana, things may seem like they’re finally returning to a bit of normal a bit.

But even with football returning, it will be unlike any season we’ve ever had. Thanks to the Big Ten’s conference-wide regulations, fans won’t be in attendance, tailgaters won’t be in the lots, and Penn State’s beloved Blue Band won’t be sitting in Beaver Stadium’s stands.

While it may seem odd not hearing the Blue Band trumpets blaring during every first down conversion and three-and-out, the band has still been practicing during these restrictions. To find out what it’s been up to, we sat down with drum major Keith Griffith and President Erin Taylor.

“We’re trying to take advantage of the opportunities we’re getting. We’ve had virtual performances. Those have been our biggest ones,” Griffith said. “Just trying to make the best of what we’re dealt and not take anything for granted. We’re doing our best to make the most of it.”

Taylor added the Blue Band’s livestream performances are later recorded and posted on Penn State Athletics and the Blue Band’s Facebook pages. However, even the band’s biggest names aren’t too sure when those performances will happen this fall.

“With how unpredictable everything is, we don’t have a set schedule for them,” Taylor said. “Fans should keep an eye out on our social media for upcoming events.”

Although the Blue Band’s performances are few and far between, it hasn’t stopped practicing. Taylor said the group has been following the recommended procedures during practices and taking some unorthodox steps to keep performances up to par.

“We have our regular masks and our playing masks,” Taylor said. “Our playing mask has a little slit so that we can put our mouthpieces or any instruments in through the slit so we can play but still be covered as much as possible.”

Taylor added the band’s horns have bell covers that sit on the end of instruments to contain aerosols as best they can. She said director Greg Drane did extensive research to make plans for the band’s precautions.

The coronavirus pandemic has also forced the band to change their recruitment process for new members.

“We are still able to talk with recruits and answer any questions. We have virtual tours that we are hoping to get out in the future since they are unable to enter the building to take a tour in person,” Taylor said. “It’s really taken a hit, but the love for the Blue Band that a lot of people have and their dream of being in the Blue Band hasn’t changed, so we are still able to recruit and have a lot of amazing new members for this year.”

It has been difficult for the members of the band, especially the older members during the coronavirus pandemic, but Griffith, who is a fifth-year senior, is still extremely grateful for the opportunity to perform.

The pandemic’s interruption of regular performances and traditions has been tough, especially for senior Blue Band members. But Griffith, a fifth-year senior, said he remains grateful for every opportunity to perform.

“I would be lying if I said it was easy, but we are very appreciative of the opportunities we have been getting. We’re doing our best to support the team,” Griffith said. “But it’s times of difficulty that you really get to know people. I can say that I’ve really gotten to know my Blue Band Family. My Blue Band Family has supported me, they’ve been there, and I would like to think that I’ve been there for them as well.”

Charles Reinert is a Penn State student and a writer for Onward State.
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