MIAMI – A new school year has kicked off in the area and that means marching bands and football games, even in these trying times of living with COVID-19. And while some things may look and feel a little different due to social distancing and facemask regulations, some things remain the same — and that includes the spirit of the Miami High School Wardog Marching Band.

Toye Harris, Director of Bands at Miami Public Schools, said, “We have a lot of provisions in place when we are inside, but there are not a lot of restrictions when we are outside. Of course marching band is all about spacing anyway, so maintaining the six feet for social distancing is really easy. Average spacing is six to seven and a half feet, so there isn’t a need for masks.

“Now inside, you would think that we have gone to outer space if you were to come in and see the kids wearing their ‘playing’ masks, which are masks with slits cut in them for the instrument mouthpieces to go inside of, which also cuts down on the aerosols that might exit the mouth,” she said. “All of the brass instruments also have new bell covers that limit aerosols coming out of the bell, and all the chairs are spaced at 5-foot intervals, so each student has a 5-foot square area.”

The comedic thing, according to Harris, is that the brass sections have “water” keys that they empty (commonly called spit valves), only now due to COVID-19 they have to empty the keys onto “puppy pads” and those are under a lot of seats all over the band room.

“It’s pretty incredible, the requirements that we need to exist right now, but it’s working. The kids are very diligent and I am super proud of them,” Harris said. “I only had to say ‘This is how it’s going to be’ and they’ve just done it. I haven’t had to worry about things like having to remind them to put their masks on or to wear them properly. I’m very grateful for that,” Harris said.

When the band went to Jay recently they couldn’t social distance themselves at the stadium because there wasn’t enough room in the space they had been given, according to Harris, who said that other schools have called to say they couldn’t provide appropriate distancing space either. “We have been doing a lot of communicating with other schools because things change on a weekly basis. In our stadium we are able to spread everybody out so we don’t have to worry about that when we are at home, and I’m pretty grateful for that, too.”

At the end of the day it’s about the kids and them being able to do as much as they can do under the circumstances, Harris continued. “We want to try to offer at least status quo.”

The band isn’t operating at status quo, however, because none of the competitions they had planned to participate in made the COVID cut and all but one have been cancelled, according to Harris.

“The OSAA state competition will still be held Oct. 13, but usually from the last week in Sept. to Nov. we are out every Saturday, so we won’t have that this year. It’s kind of a bummer for the band kids. And it was heartbreaking for the seniors who had three stellar years and then had to end on a sour note. We were actually in Bartlesville in March getting ready for our state qualifying competition when they closed everything down (due to the pandemic),” Harris said.

“We are trying to make it the best we can. Our marching show right now is not a competition show, and people will probably notice that, but it’s all about family this year, so our marching show is titled ‘Momz ~ Dadz Playlist’ and we have picked some songs we know our parents will like and sing to. We are just focusing on family and what’s most important in times like this.”