By CINDY CROSBY
The Colleton County High School Band of Blue will not participate in the upcoming competitive marching season for the 2020-21 season, due to concerns over the growing spread of COVID-19. The South Carolina Band Directors Association informed its members throughout the state Friday July 17 that the 2020 upper state, lower state and state championship contests will not be held due to the pandemic.
In an announcement last week, Band of Blue Director Tom Finigan said, “After consultation with Colleton County school officials and all of our band directors and staff, and with the safety of our students as our greatest concern, The Band of Blue has made the difficult decision that we will not participate in a competitive marching band season this fall. Concerns of the growing spread of COVID-19 and the uncertainty associated with how (or if) marching competitions would be held this fall led us to this decision. Most bands in South Carolina have chosen to not be competitive this year. Some bands have chosen to forgo band camp and some bands will not exist. We want to give you the best experience that we can safely provide for our band members. We will have marching band to support our community and school. Making music again is the most important thing.”
The South Carolina Band Directors Association (SCBDA) issued a press release on July 17 saying: “Within the last two weeks, we have kept a close watch on the daily DHEC reports as well as continued to gather information from other states, associations, and South Carolina band programs on their competitive plans for the fall of 2020.
“It is with great disappointment that we announce that the 2020 SCBDA Marching Band Championships (Upper/Lower Prelims, State Finals, 5A Festival/Championships) are canceled. The health and well-being of our students, spectators, and directors are of the utmost importance and with the information before us at this point, we see no viable and safe option to make these events happen. While we recognize that the marching band activity is an integral part of each high school band program in South Carolina, we feel that suspending the 2020 events is the responsible and safe thing to do at this point.
“Please know that we are continuing to look at possible virtual options and will present those options to the membership in accordance with our by-laws if we deem a virtual format as a viable and feasible option. Please also know that this does not mean that marching band cannot or should not happen at your school. We encourage each director to make decisions about your marching band experience this fall with your school and community needs in mind.”
Contests typically begin in late September and continue on throughout the fall, culminating with the state finals. SCBDA President Chaz Paxton cautioned that schools will have important decisions to make in regards to following through with their own contests, if any schools opt to do so.
“There are a couple of things they’re going to have to take into consideration — No. 1 is their district policy on allowing those events to happen, and No. 2 is how many bands are going to be competitive and come to their events and make them profitable for them,” said Paxton, who is also the band director at D.W. Daniel High in Pickens.
The 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A upper state and lower state contests were scheduled for Oct. 24, with those state finals to be held Oct. 31. The 5A prelims and state finals would have taken place Nov. 7 at Irmo High.
The contests typically involve about 10,000 students performing, with 20,000 to 25,000 spectators in attendance, according to Paxton.
“The main emphasis was the safety of students, the safety of directors and the safety of spectators. We didn’t feel like we could move forward with those events while mitigating all of the risk that could potentially be involved with hosting those events,” Paxton said. “They’re pretty massive events, and for us to be able to put those events on it takes a lot of planning.”
The decision was made now, in part, so that directors would know before pushing forward and planning their competitive shows.
“We wanted our directors to be able to make decisions on what their marching band seasons were going to look like. If their competitive season depended on SCBDA happening, they may take another direction,” Paxton said.
“We just felt like with the information that we have right now and what things look like and the predictions that DHEC is coming out with, we just felt like we needed to make a decision now before school starts.”
It is unknown if there will be other marching band contests in the state this fall. Those decisions will be made by individual schools and school districts, not by a committee.