How UNO’s Maverick Marching Band has adapted to practicing and performing in a pandemic


Zach Gilbert

Senior tenor saxophone player Patty Gadea strikes a pose with her fellow saxophone players on UNO’s Caniglia Field. Photo courtesy of Patty Gadea.

While every organization and institution has struggled to adapt to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, UNO’s Maverick Marching Band has faced its own unique complications as it attempted to comply with the constraints of the “new normal.”

At the start of every marching band season, all members are required to attend an in-person “marching band camp,” in which they meet with their sections and learn the rules and routines for the coming year. Naturally, this did not take place this summer.

“This year, the ‘in-person’ portion of marching band camp was cancelled, so instead, we had an optional ‘virtual’ band camp,” senior tenor saxophone player and social media chair Patty Gadea said.

As a part of this “virtual” band camp, Dr. Joshua Kearney, the Director of Athletic Bands, asked all members of the Maverick Marching Band in leadership positions to record instructional videos. These videos highlighted the techniques that would normally be taught face-to-face, and they were made available for incoming members to access at any time so that they could learn at their own pace and reference back to the directions whenever needed.

“Aside from these instructional videos, Dr. K really emphasized the social aspect of this ‘virtual’ band camp as well,” Gadea said. “Throughout the week, from August 17 to August 21, we would regularly have Zoom meetings both as a whole band and in breakout rooms with our individual sections, and this was a great way to go over questions and get to know one another.”

For the regular band season, Dr. Kearney gave all members the option to either participate virtually or in-person, socially distanced. Members who participated virtually would regularly upload practice videos to a folder on Box created by Dr. Kearney, and in-person participants would practice outdoors on the UNO soccer field while being required to wear masks at all times.

“These masks could not be normal masks, as they needed a slit in them to allow us to play our instruments,” Gadea said. “Some people sewed their own masks with flaps, while others just made a little slit on a regular medical mask.”

The decision on masks was based on a national, ongoing study about marching bands across the state, and Dr. Kearney readily adhered to these recommendations.

Furthermore, in-person participants were required to have “bell coverings” for their instruments, because, as band members blow air into their instruments, spit would commonly spray out. These bell coverings were provided by UNO free of charge.

In terms of show construction, Dr. Kearney additionally went as far as assuring that in-person participants would always be at least 10 feet apart when performing. During breaks at in-person practice, social distancing was strictly monitored.

For virtual participants, “performing” looked quite different. Like they did with their practice videos, they would send video recordings of their performance ahead of time, to be compiled with other recordings by Dr. Kearney.

Moreover, in response to all these adjustments and accommodations, Dr. Kearney significantly reduced the normal participation fee from $45 to an affordable $15.

“This $15 also still included our marching band t-shirt, which is worn at performances, as well as two bell coverings per student,” Gadea said.

For former band members who were initially skeptical of returning to participate, such as Gadea, Dr. Kearney’s many modifications put worries at ease.

“My father is a very high-risk individual, so even though this was going to be my senior year and I wanted to have the chance to march with my friends I’d made over the past four years, I didn’t want to risk my dad’s health,” Gadea said. “Luckily, thanks to Dr. K’s hard work and his implementation of a virtual alternative to in-person practices and performances, he made it so that I had a chance to still participate and feel included in an activity I love.”