Georgia’s Redcoat Band has a lot to figure out before Georgia football’s home opener against Auburn on Oct. 3. With student attendance, including the band, limited to around 3,200 people due to COVID-19, a key logistical challenge left for the Redcoats is deciding who among the band’s more than 400 members will attend which of Georgia’s four home football games this fall.
“I just hope we have a roster by [the Auburn game],” senior mellophone player and co-director of the Derbies Pep Band Jennifer Aplin said. “Because there’s so many aspects that go into making the roster.”
In a routine end-of-summer survey that allows Redcoat members to give information such as uniform size, acting Redcoat Band director Brett Bawcum asked members to list 10 bandmates with whom they’d have frequent contact this semester.
Senior trombonist and Redcoat captain Davis Clark said each game’s roster of around 100-130 Redcoats will be based partly on that information as well as which game members requested to attend. The difficulty has been dividing spots based on who lives together, who has seniority and who has a leadership position while still giving everyone an opportunity to perform.
“Roommates should be able to … stand closer together in the stands,” Clark said. “So, we’re trying to think of ways to do that safely and make it evident to the public that that’s what we’re doing.”
Coronavirus safety has guided the Redcoat’s activity since the semester began. Because band directors can only learn of possible COVID-19 positivity through UGA’s voluntary DawgCheck program, the Redcoats have yet to hold a full-ensemble rehearsal.
Clark said they expected to have every member present for practice last Tuesday, but Bawcum canceled at the last minute after someone expressed concern about potential exposure among bandmates.
“That’s the story this whole semester so far,” Clark said. “It’s just regrouping constantly and adjusting, trying to work on the fly.”
Aside from a few limited in-person meetings among instrument groups, section leaders have conducted nearly every practice via Zoom. Aplin said leadership has a basic guideline for what to cover during their remote sectionals, but each has a different way of running their session.
For Aplin, that means adding ice breakers to build band chemistry while online. Clark runs his sectionals by playing a recording of the music being practiced, displaying the sheet music and guiding band members with his cursor.
“It’s really just us listening to the music, just trying to figure out what it sounds like,” senior trumpeter Myles Jones said. “And then, on our own, playing along and figuring out where our parts fall in.”
Clark said the format gives new members a sense of playing with the full band, but as they’re all muted while practicing via Zoom, it’s been difficult for leadership to get a sense of their progress with the setlist.
To help the freshmen Redcoats, who missed the usual pre-semester band camp and got to know their sections through emails and group chats, band leaders organized a freshman-only, in-person practice last Friday.
“[Some freshmen] said, ‘We finally feel like part of the band. We had chills. We finally get this experience,’” Aplin said. “And usually they get it the first week of August when the whole band plays together the first time.”
With members still learning and game rosters still pending, the Redcoats are navigating coronavirus curves as they go. Their first performance, conducted and performed solely from the stands of Sanford Stadium, arrives in 19 days.
“We [seniors] know it’s not the ideal situation,” Clark said. “We’re sad that our last season is going to be taken away like this … but we’re just trying to make the best of what we’re getting.”