The marching band will record fight songs, performances for Pac-12 games

Sun Devil Marching Band will begin rehearsals and record performances to be played during sports games after the Pac-12's decision to not include fans

Before the the fall semester began, Sun Devil Marching Band leaders decided to keep rehearsals online until the Pac-12 released an update on the Conference's sporting events.

In September, the Pac-12 CEO Group announced the Conference would resume football, basketball and winter sports seasons beginning as soon as Nov. 6 with restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including the absence of fans. That includes the marching band. 

James Hudson, director of athletic bands, said the marching band plans to pre-record performances that may be played during future sporting events.

Though the band, spirit squad and cheerleaders are not allowed in the stands as they usually would be during sporting events, they plan on pre-recording performances that would usually be performed during an in-person game such as the national anthem, drum line cadences and ASU’s alma mater.

“It gives us a project, which is exciting,” Hudson said. “We have some direction and (something) to work towards… I think it’s important that we give our students an opportunity to perform, whether it’s virtual or live.”

In addition to recording traditional songs, the marching band's leadership is thinking about incorporating new arrangements for a potential halftime show. Though they are planning to rehearse and record these performances, Hudson said the band leaders are keeping in mind the evolving state of COVID-19. 

“I was (in) a Zoom meeting with the Pac-12 band directions and one of them said that they had heard that planning for COVID was like building a sandcastle,” Hudson said. “You could build the most beautiful sandcastle that you could possibly build and then leave it on the beach to go home and come back to see it the next day but the tide (has come) in and washed it all away.”

On Oct. 2, the band held its first optional, in-person rehearsal, practicing movements for performances. For now, the band will not be practicing music in-person until the protective equipment for their instruments and members comes in. 

Drum major Gina Sleeper, senior art studies and environmental design student, said members who participated in the rehearsal were required to follow social distancing guidelines by maintaining a six-feet distance from others and wear masks the entire time.

“I think that our band is doing a great job making sure that safety is the number one priority. I know around the country, some bands started with in-person rehearsals, and I think it was the right call that our director made to start online completely," Sleeper said. “I’m very confident in this program’s ability to succeed with these precautionary measures.”

Normally, the band would rehearse weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to learn a new field show performance and music.

With ASU’s social distancing guidelines, the band holds its meetings on Zoom with its more than 300 members only practicing basic performing techniques, listening to guest speakers and participating in bonding activities within sections.

Sleeper said she and the two other drum majors have been collaborating with each other and staff leadership so "people aren’t bored out of their minds." 

“Keeping that sense of community is one of the most important functions we have as a leadership team and honestly (with) Zoom and the online format, that’s been one of our greatest challenges,” Sleeper said.

As the semester continues, Sleeper has noticed some members of the band are not as engaged as they were in the beginning — turning cameras off and not paying attention.

I think everyone’s just sick of the Zoom format,” Sleeper said.

Before COVID-19 restrictions, band members were able to meet and bond as a large group in-person. Now section leaders organize bonding activities during their usual Friday rehearsal times as a way for new and returning members to get to know each other, Hudson said.

Trumpet section leader Logan Frandsen, sophomore music learning and teaching major, said despite moving to an online format, leaders are doing all they can to maintain a sense of friendship while keeping their members safe.

“We consider our marching band a giant family,” Frandsen said. “It’s hard to take something that is supposed to be in person and bring it online. I believe we’ve done a good job in doing what we can and keeping out members safe while doing it.”

Though she does not expect performances to return as they were before the pandemic, Sleeper said the marching band will continue to maintain their traditions and are using this unique situation to improve their program. 

“It’s this huge family, in our case, of over 300 people (who) all have a passion for music, a passion for performance, a passion for the school and having school pride,” Sleeper said. “It’s really just an opportunity for like-minded people, hard working people and passionate people to get together and do what they love with one another.” 

Reach the reporter at and follow @kristencasti11o on Twitter. 

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