Marching band grateful to play on

PHOTO BY LISA McGINTY | LMc Photography

Band director Randy Kaserman leads Dalton’s marching band onto the field at the season opener football game Aug. 28.

PHOTO GALLERY BY CHRISTINA McCUNE | DGKN

Dalton’s marching band during an after school rehearsal in August at the beginning of the season.

DALTON  They won’t be wearing their traditional uniforms. They won’t be doing intricate crossovers while they play. They certainly won’t be circling up at the end of their halftime show.

But without missing a beat, Dalton High School’s marching band members are still playing their hearts out this season. And they’re grateful for the opportunity to do so, Band Director Randy Kaserman said.

“We’re just glad to be out there playing,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant enhanced safety protocols and modifications of activities and schedules, but the young musicians can show off their hard work and provide entertainment, and a show of school spirit during home football games this fall. The sounds of fan favorites “Louie Louie,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Hello, I love you,” “I Wannna Hold Your Hand,” and “Wave the Flag” ringing out from the football stadium may help provide a feeling of normalcy and comfort to those in attendance, as well as anyone else fortunate to be within earshot.

At a recent practice, band members were spread out across the band practice field on a hot sunny late afternoon. Kaserman wore a black cloth mask over his nose and mouth as he conducted the band. Once students marched back to the school, they were dismissed according to sections and they pulled their masks over their faces before entering the building.

The marching band season certainly looks different this year without travel to away games, or gearing up to perform at the Wayne County Fair or band shows.
Out on the field, the band uses four-step spacing and there is more space between lines. Students are spread out in the auditorium during practice as well, Kaserman said. He has divided the band into quadrants so students are always marching next to the same person. The purpose of this is in the event that contact tracing is necessary.

“Those are some of the different things we have to adhere to this year in order to make this happen,” he said.

The band of about 60 student-musicians is about the same size as last year and includes a large number of seniors.

“They’re super helpful, fantastic,” he said. “I can’t say enough good things about these kids. They’ve been so cooperative and very receptive.”

Kaserman noted that for the first time in his more than 20 years as a band director, he won’t be able to bring the band into a circle for a brief celebration after their halftime show. Traditionally, Kaserman leads the students off the field after they perform at halftime. He shuts it down for a “par-ade rest” and then he offers a short congratulatory speech. The entire band makes a tight circle around him and they do a victory chant or cheer.

“We can’t do that this year,” he said. But at rehearsal last week he told his musicians he is open to suggestions if they have an idea of something different they would like to do where they can keep their distance from one another.

“We definitely have to think outside the box this year to make it work,” he said.

Kaserman said he is grateful for any opportunities the marching band has this year.

“I think everybody – including myself – has just always taken it for granted,” he said. “You know: it’s fall – it’s football – it’s marching band season. Here we go – it’s going to be fun. All of a sudden something happens like last spring you start to realize, hey all these things I just take for granted to happen in the fall they might not or they’re going to have to look different.”

The marching band played Friday at Parents’ Night at the beginning of the season-opening football game against Waynedale before a downpour caused a weather delay.
Band members won’t wear their traditional uniforms this season because of storage, changing and cleaning. Also, the band has ordered custom-made bell covers to place on the instruments for an added barrier of safety.

“We’re just thankful that we can make alterations to still allow for this to happen,” he said. “It’s more inconvenient for everybody to have to do things this way, but it’s better than the alternative – not being able to march at all.”

New this year, fans of 1960s music might recognize some tunes from The Doors, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.

“It’s a show I’ve had on the back burner and I’ve been thinking about doing for a long time,” Kaserman said. “They’ve done some of the songs individually but never altogether. We’ll combine all of these songs together and do a 1960s show and it will be fun.”

As always, Kaserman said, he is appreciative to the community and administration for their support.

“Especially in a year like this because now more than ever it’s important for these kids to have that support and that encouragement,” he said. “They need the social aspect of being in band. They need the sense of normalcy to be able to do something that they’re used to doing and they love doing again. The fact that they and the community are being cooperative with the measures we have to take to social distance and they’re just continuing to support us through these tough times, that speaks volumes. That’s what’s great about this community – Dalton and Kidron – supporting the school district like they do.”

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