The centennial season for the Carolina Band has been anything but normal. With reduced practices and COVID-19 game day restrictions, the experience entertaining Gamecock fans lately has changed.
“Instead of having the full 300, 350 band all in one area four or five days a week and in the stadium on Saturdays, the band is split into two: the 2001 Band and the Cocky Band,” Jay Overbay, a third-year visual communications student, said.
In the fall, the band performed at every home game in Williams-Brice Stadium and, in normal years, would have also traveled for all of the football team’s away games. Due to COVID-19 attendance restrictions and social distancing requirements, the band had to support the team from home during road games this past season.
After practicing twice each week in the fall, the band has scaled back to one indoor practice each week, which is limited to just under an hour due to COVID-19 regulations. This semester, the band is returning with a smaller group of around 100 members for men’s soccer home games instead of the usual home basketball games.
“Everyone is pretty passionate about it, so we only have to practice once a week and then just come together and have a good time on the weekend,” second-year biology student Kaitlyn Dirr said.
She also detailed the band's setlist for the upcoming games, noting the tunes would have a lot of energy.
“We’re playing the basketball band repertoire," Dirr said. "It’s a lot more upbeat; we still play a lot of the same pregame songs and USC songs that everyone knows."
In the fall, the 2001 Band and Cocky Band practiced on alternating days and split duties playing at home football games, with one band playing the first half of the game and the other playing during the second half.
“It’s actually kind of a weird experience. When we’re coming into the stadium for the second half, you almost feel like you’re doing something wrong because for three years, I’m so used to showing up at Gamecock Park, doing all the pregame activities and all that fun stuff," Ryan Krywinski, a fourth-year music education student, said.
Dirr said her experience during the fall compared to previous semesters wasn't negative.
“It’s really different. It’s a good kind of different," Dirr said. "I think we’ve really made the best of what we’ve been handed.”
Overbay, Krywinski and Dirr said the protocols enacted by the band for this semester have resulted in positive outcomes and negative COVID-19 tests.
“It’s not ideal, but in terms of, we still get to do Carolina Band in the fall — I don’t know many other bands that can do that, that are doing that,” Krywinski said.
In addition to reducing the size of the band, band members are required to be six feet apart whether they are marching, practicing or performing, and in the fall, they had to be outside while rehearsing.
“I think [the directors have] definitely done all that they can to prevent any major spread," Overbay said. “Every single time we’re with the band, a part of the band, we’re in masks."
In addition to the mask requirement, band members playing wind instruments use covers to reduce the spread.
“Bell-front brass instruments produce aerosols, and so we have bell covers on those instruments," Dirr said. "And they’ve been proven scientifically to cut down on the amount of aerosols that we are producing with our instruments."