The Montrose High School Marching Band

The Montrose High School Marching Band performing its show ‘Pledges and Promises’ during the halftime show Aug. 31, 2018. 

Colorado Bandmasters Association (CBA) announced on July 7 that they have canceled the 2020 marching band competition season. This includes clinics and contests, as well as the CBA Regional and CBA State competitions. Friendship Cup marching events will also be canceled.

“It was determined that the only option that ensures the health and safety of students, directors, band staff, event workers and judges is cancellation,” explained CBA in a statement. “As sad as the cancellation of the marching band season feels to each of us it certainly is not a death knell for instrumental music. This will provide an opportunity for all of us to seek new ideas, activities, instructional processes that will enhance the growth of instrumental music education. Students making music together has always been the goal of CBA whether that is achieved through concert band, jazz band, small ensembles or marching band.”

Some of the primary concerns involved in the cancellation were travel, crowds and spectators, and the congestion that often accompanies marching band competitions at the gates and while groups are “on deck” to perform. Many bands on the Western Slope travel by school bus to competitions, some of which require an overnight stay.

The Montrose High School Marching Band regularly competes in CBA competitions. In 2019, the band placed first at the Colorado West Regional for Class 4A and would have gone on to state, which was canceled due to inclement weather. Olathe High School also placed fifth in CBA State Semifinals for Class 1A.

While CBA events are canceled, there is still a possibility for marching bands to perform in community showcase events and sports halftimes. Those are up to the school districts themselves and CHSAA’s regulations. Until then, Crabtree said that he had heard from other band directors that they were finding ways to safely participate in camps and rehearsals.

“That’ll be up to each district to still connect with each other under their own guidelines,” Crabtree said. “It’ll still, from what I’m hearing from other directors, be able to have bands, just with a different look. It’s going to allow band directors and bands to think outside the box and hopefully create art and music in a different way than we have in the past. Our goal is still going to be to find ways to enrich the students in any way that we can, even without a competitive season. It’s just going to send us down a different path to challenge and teach students.”

Throughout the pandemic, Crabtree said that music education programs will need the support of the community. Restrictions on shared materials will require the purchase of more equipment in addition to the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitizing materials that schools already face.

“A constant challenge for instrumental music is always financial support. That’s the best way the bands can get support right now,” Crabtree said. “With restrictions put on the programs, students aren’t allowed to share things like music stands or instruments anymore, even through the day. ...We’re going to have to purchase more equipment, PPE for everybody, sanitation equipment. That obviously has to come from somewhere.” He also said that once bands are allowed to perform, the community’s presence and support at those events can be highly empowering for the students.

While the competition season will not be taking place this year, CBA encourages high school music programs to continue to encourage the pursuit and exploration of instrumental music.

“Bands have always been a part of communities, especially in Western Colorado,” Crabtree said. “We are still a part of the communities, just with a different look. We’ll be back and stronger than ever.”

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