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Guest Contributor: How COVID-19 Changed Band Camp

This month’s edition of the ASO Education Blog was crafted by Dwight Caddell, the band director at Hueytown High School. He joins us to share his experiences of adapting band camp, football season, and his classroom to COVID-19.

We have made it to 2021! As we enter this new year, we look forward to what is yet to come, but we also take the time to reflect on the previous year. 2020 will be a year that will be talked about for generations to come. The entire world lived through a rare and extraordinary year. 

The Hueytown High School band program was affected, along with every other band program, by the COVID-19 pandemic. It all began Friday, March 13, 2020, as my colleagues, students, and I left the school under the assumption that we would return two weeks later. Those two weeks subsequently stretched into five months. 

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After months of a great uncertainty, the Hueytown band was able to start preparing for the 2020 football season. In a normal year the band would hold all day band camp for two weeks leading into the start of the school year. This year’s camp was something most schools have never done before. The 2020 band camp was only one week long from 8 in the morning until noon. At the time, the only thing we knew for certain was the exact start of football season. 

The band staff had to be extremely aware of social distancing and other recommended guidelines from the Alabama Department of Public Health. Band rehearsals were held almost completely outside, unless for occasional rain. The number of times myself and the rest of the staff said “masks up” or “make sure that you’re socially distancing” must have invaded our students’ dreams at night. The band was fortunate as a group to have almost no COVID-19 related issues. 

Even though the group did not have to deal with many COVID-related issues, that does not mean that COVID-19 was not having an effect on the lives of individuals. Unfortunately, COVID-19 came right to my doorstep the day my mother informed me that my youngest brother Daniel had tested positive for the disease. As a director you are in the midst of the busiest time of the school year and now you have to add serious worry to your daily life. Every text message notification or phone call was nerve-wracking. I would be on pins and needles waiting on any news while at the same time standing in front of my students having rehearsal as we prepared for the upcoming football season.

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Sadly, after many days of worry during camp and getting to the first official day for teachers to report, my brother passed away Monday, August 25th. My life and the lives of my parents and my other brother will never be the same after that day. My life and job still continued to go on after this day. You have to deal with the grief of losing a close family member, but you know that you and your students still have to prepare for upcoming performances. Thankfully, the assistant directors Andrew Bullard, Andrew Poe, and color guard instructor Aiesha Pretlow were all there to help make sure the band continued towards its performance goals. 

The football season and the school year were still unlike any other Hueytown High School has ever experienced. The vast majority of our students chose the remote learning option and are still remote. Hueytown High School approximately sees a little under one third of the student population in the traditional setting. This fact has made it more challenging this year to teach the band and to find a sense of continuity for the group and the students. On top of the schooling options, our football team and other teams had to deal with the effects of the pandemic. As a result, the band had one performance in the first five weeks of the football season and five performances total in our 12-week football season.

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What I’ve taken away the most from living through this pandemic is the resilience and dedication of everyone, especially the students and their parents. In addition to game and rehearsals cancellations and other school-related adjustments, the students and their families are also personally dealing with the effects of COVID-19. Hueytown High School and its community have not been immune to the issues surrounding the pandemic. Students and parents have also lost loved ones, have themselves dealt with COVID-19 diagnoses, and are emotionally dealing with everything that comes with being in a pandemic. 

No matter how good or bad your situation is during the pandemic, I hope that you find the time to appreciate the fact that you made it through such a challenging and different year. Even through the challenges of this school year, the loss of a brother and two aunts, and personally being diagnosed in December with COVID-19, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to keep teaching and hopefully inspiring Hueytown High School students. No matter what life may throw at you, here’s to you having a joyous and successful 2021!

Are you a music educator in the state of Alabama that would like to share your experience? Inquire about being featured in our Education Blog by emailing Maria Wilson, ASO Education Initiatives Manager, at mwilson@alabamasymphony.org 

by Dwight Caddell, Band Director at Hueytown High School
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