By Brandon Martin
The Bassett High School Band performed a series of public concerts while observing pandemic precautions.
Wearing masks and maintaining social distancing guidelines, the band performed at three locations on Dec. 12.
Band Director Trey Harris said the idea for the pop-up or impromptu concerts came after the school division allowed student athletes, band members, and others to begin after school practices.
“We wanted to give our kids an opportunity to see each other, play their instruments and just be back ‘home’ in the band room,” he said. “We quickly realized that the students were hungry to perform, not just practice.
“We knew that having an in-house concert was not possible, so we began to think about what was possible in the community where we could play at outside venues where it was safe for the students and audience,” he said.
With help from Monica Hatchett, director of communications for Henry County Public Schools, “some great local businesses and partners” agreed to provide a venue, Harris said, adding the band performed at Chick-fil-A, Stanleytown Health and Rehab, and Belk.
Harris said the students worked at home together “to learn the songs because of our limited practice time together.”
Since practice has resumed, Harris said it has remained at only two days per week, and even then, it is held in small groups to limit exposure to the coronavirus.
“We are required to practice with masks at a 6- to- 10-foot distance at all times, so we have had limited space,” Harris said. “Each group has one hour to work together to read and learn the songs. Each practice has been limited to an hour, with a 15-minute window of cleaning before the next group arrives for practice.”
That lack of practice has affected instruction in a measurable way, he added.
“Playing an instrument is a physical and mental process,” Harris said. “We won’t really know how big the effect is until we get them all back together. The last full band activity was nine months ago, on March 6, 2019. We typically don’t go nine days without practice, much less nine months. More importantly, we miss being together as a band. We miss our family.”
When preparing for the pop-up concerts, 20 to 25 students crammed in “a wide selection of winter holiday music” to wow the small crowds that gathered to listen, he said.
“The kids are ecstatic,” Harris said. “I could see the gleam in their eyes when we started talking about ‘public performances.’ Being in the band is a performing art. It isn’t always about winning, but more importantly, about showing your talents when you get the opportunity. That is what they love to do.”
As the band continues to get back in sync, Harris said he isn’t looking at competitions, even though the band would have entered the year as defending champions.
“We can only focus on getting better for the opportunities that the future may hold for our students and being ready when that time comes,” he said. “We have learned through COVID that you better perform your best every day, because tomorrow’s performance is never guaranteed.”